Ride 4 is one of those racing games you see from time to time that, if you’re not a fan of the specific sport, can be both intriguing and intimidating. I am one of those players. I’ve personally never been into motor sports outside of a lazy weekend falling asleep in front of a Formula 1 race on TV, and I have even less experience with motorbikes. As a newcomer to this genre, I will be objectively going through what I thought works well for this game and what I didn’t like as a casual gamer. Let’s dive into Ride 4 Review
Brief History of the Series
Italian developers Milestone srl, who has previously seen fair success with such franchises as World Rally Championship and MotorGP, launched the first Ride game back in 2015 with some average to good reviews which was enough to make the sequels Ride 2 in 2017 and Ride 3 in 2018. The level of realism and quality shown within the franchise has gone a long way in securing the series to be dubbed one of the top options in motorcycle racing games for enthusiasts.
The series has been praised for giving the player the opportunity to enjoy the use of some real, top-tier and (most importantly) recognisable branded models such as Ducati and Triumph. The tracks featured in the series have also been recreated from real locations that many fans of the sport will recognise and enjoy speeding around on. What has been an exciting development for the series is that Ride 4 has officially partnered with Yamaha which solidifies and justifies its presence in the racing game genre and explains why you start with a Yamaha bike when you boot up the game!
As is typical for sporting games, Ride 4 features a career mode that puts the player in the role of an aspiring professional rider. What differs well from previous entries in the series is that this time it features non-linear and dynamic progression. The journey begins with a choice of which region you wish to take part in, but only after completing a driving registration test.
For me, this first test was painful to endure. For one thing, there was no starting tutorial that explained the controls or the task at hand and this led to at least half an hour of aimless driving around, numerous crashes and confusion as to the rules of the test. Eventually though, after finding the controls guide and many more attempts, I was able to move on and select my region. From here, the player’s choices influence progression and each person will get a different experience based on this.
A nice touch to the game is how it will propose new races and challenges depending on the choices made. For example, if you show some dedication towards a particular manufacturer such as Honda, then Honda may contact you to test their bikes or join races as their official rider!
After a bit of research into the Ride series, this career mode is much more structured than previous entries. As stated above, you will work your way through one of three continental leagues, along with some other events that can pop up, which will lead you to the World League, where the bulk of the game is featured. The choices you make here really do affect your end goals as you are presented with the biggest decision so far… will you enter the World Superbike League and pursue glory or will you take on the mighty challenge of the World Endurance League? You only get to choose one, which is a smart idea as it encourages players to replay the game, make different choices and have a whole new experience!
To be blatantly honest, I am absolutely terrible at racing games, besides some extremely dated Star Wars titles, so I have barely scratched the surface of the career mode. I cannot for the life of me do any better than eleventh in each race! Being unfamiliar with the sport, I have no clue of the rules or riding techniques, so I will focus more on the look of the game as well as how well it plays and to navigate.
Players can jump straight into the career mode, but if they wish, they can jump into one of two major game types – a standard race and an endurance race. Now the standard race is exactly as you would expect of it. You have a set number of racers and laps on a track and the first one to make it to the finish line wins. The endurance mode on the other hand, is a brand new racing discipline that’s introduced to the franchise, bringing with it a whole new category of bikes and a new way of thinking. Strategy becomes a fundamental ingredient of these races as you will need to plan pit stop breaks to replace worn out tyres and refuel, all while staying ahead of the competition… I must say, this brings a whole level of realism which heightens the excitement!
These endurance races are also based solely on time, rather than the number of laps, and can last from 20 minutes to a full 24 hours! This is where another key attribute comes into play and coincidentally, it’s another brand new feature… for the first time in the series, the game features a complete dynamic system for lighting and weather conditions! This means a race can start with a beautiful sunrise and end in the pouring rain at night.
Now when I tried the same race but with two different weather conditions, I felt like this affected how the bike handled. I’m not sure if this is just my imagination playing tricks on me or if Milestone has actually gone deep into the physics of how a wet road can make the back end of a motorbike spin out, but it certainly feels like the latter and with the end of this current gen and looking into the next one, it would be expected.
With all the physics talk out of the way, I have to say the way the game feels to play is something players will need to get used to. I’m speaking as a novice to this genre once again – veteran players may well pick these controls up with ease. It’s an evolution. I began the game despising the controls. I didn’t feel like the controls felt natural or even worked as no matter how hard I slammed on the brakes, I was constantly off track or overshooting the turn. They are extremely unforgiving to new players.
However, as with many games, I started to get used to the controls and picked up some (to be honest, very basic) skills and that exhilarating rush took hold as I aced a bend I had failed on multiple occasions. What also helps is improvements to the machine your avatar is riding. This occurred to me after a few hours of racing (I’m a bit slow on the uptake), so I headed into the livery editor where you can buy new bikes or buy new parts to customise and improve the one you have. I opted for a nice exhaust (at least I think that’s what it was – I don’t know bikes!) which improved acceleration and handling, and the difference was felt immediately.
This is where the enjoyment of the game struck me as my skills started to develop alongside the bike’s improvements and I found myself smiling until I hit another rider and went flying off into a barrier.
I definitely feel Ride 4 would benefit from a tutorial section at the very beginning of the game to go over the basics of controls and also to establish the rules of the sport for newcomers. Even having this as skippable for the more seasoned player would keep everyone happy and help everyone get a good step off the ground.
The real highlight of Ride 4, in my opinion above anything else, is the look of this game. Milestone have spared no expense in making this experience look as authentic as possible to heighten the player’s immersion.
The graphics are incredible! Almost everything looks how you would expect it to look if you were there in person. The tarmac of the track is something that caught my attention. I know it sounds like the most mundane thing to be looking at, but you can see every crack, every stone, even the skid marks around the turns!
As I’ve mentioned already, the game features an all new dynamic weather system and this doesn’t just affect gameplay, it also looks fantastic. When it’s raining, the camera is wet making you feel like you’re watching it on TV and the way the water reacts to the track is almost perfect.
This level of realism doesn’t stop with the weather. Milestone have taken the time to study how objects behave with physics. This can be seen most evidently (and most often in my case) when you crash. The rider doesn’t just fall off and slide across the ground like we’re used to seeing in video games (I even recall some where the rider starts to get up before he’s come to a stop), but he will spin, bounce and fly until he slams into a barrier or the game cuts back to the track for the respawn point. These make for some spectacular visuals and some nail biting tension every time the back of the bike wobbles vicariously towards an accident.
It seems to me that Ride 4 really aims to be on top of the motor racing genre and wishes to join the ranks of the greats such as Gran Turismo and the likes with its stylised cutscenes that examine every angle of a new bike you purchase or win, or how you’re treated to a sort of casual tour of the track while the game waits for you to select that start button. This definitely feels like it could soon be a legend in the genre itself.
But this game is very much an individual experience and almost everything is highly customisable. You can purchase a bike and use it as it is, or you can get in there and create your own visual masterpiece by adding in components that enhance the bike’s performance but also look so cool (who wouldn’t think it’s cool to see the exhaust pop when changing gear), and lets not forget about the classic paint job! Introduced in the livery editor are the abilities to customise your helmet and suit too and when you’re happy with your creations, you can upload them to share with others.
If this is what Milestone can accomplish on a current gen console, I can only imagine how incredible Ride 4 will look when played on the next gen.
Audio & Music
As with any game, the experience can’t be fully appreciated without the sound. In the same fashion as the visuals, Ride 4 has done well with capturing the deep, growling rumble of a powerful engine as it revs up to high speeds. And when at these dizziness speeds, you can hear the wind whip by and the distant cheer of the spectators and you blur past. Even the terrifying sound of tyres on gravel made me grit my teeth with anxious fear as I frantically tried to get back onto the smooth tarmac!
What is a bit disappointing though, is the soundtrack. Nothing really stands out with this as it seems to be some generic, repetitive beat. I have experienced this in other racing games before, so it’s not anything that can’t be looked past, but a decent soundtrack like those seen in games such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater would have really added an extra layer to it.
The latest instalment in the Ride series really shows that Milestone are in this for longevity. Each entry in the franchise takes further steps forward and Ride 4 has added some interesting and exciting things into the mix, capturing more of the thrills of motorbike racing with a far more detailed focus on endurance racing which ties in the real world external factors of light, weather and so many other elements.
And with 14 free DLCs and 15 premium DLCs due to be released over time, there will always be plenty to do in the game – if you can get past the first few challenges that is!
Ride 4 is a beautiful game that I’m sure will just look even better on next-gen consoles and will be a big hit for motorbike racing enthusiasts and fans of racing games, but it lets itself down when attracting newcomers to the franchise. With controls that are hard to get to grips with and little explanation as to the rules and objectives, I feel that many new players will either be bored from the start or lose interest soon after.
Ride 4 is out on PS4, Xbox One and PC on 8th October 2020, and on PS5 and Xbox Series X / S on 21st January 2021.