If you are an adrenaline junkie, the chances are you own a powerful two-wheeled machine. Anyone that has ridden a bike will know the thrill of hammering down a motorway and linking turns through winding bends. There is nothing quite like it, and many games have tried and failed to replicate that amazing feeling. Ride 4 by developers and publishers’ Milestone is the latest title to chance their hand at this challenging sport category. Will they get it right and have every petrol head in the land playing their creation, or will it crash and burn, never to be spoken about again?
The developers claim they bring the challenge of realism to a whole new level. This is a bold claim, and something that I wanted to explore as soon as it finished installing. You open with an incredible cinematic that shows off the game engine, and teases you with some footage of the level of details that you will experience. My first impressions were of awe and amazement! Ride 4 looks incredible and sounds exciting. The detail of the bikes and the tracks is unbelievably accurate, and I couldn’t wait to jump in and see what the bikes could do.
Hold your horses, you need to walk before you can run.
As much as diving into the action is what every biker will want to do, a tutorial is mandatory to make it to the main menu. This allows you to walk before you can run, and the fundamentals of the bikes are loosely explained. Once you complete the objective, you are free to do as you wish, though the game will throw you straight into career mode.
As you’d expect, the career portion forms the main concept and the backbone of the gameplay. You begin as an amateur rider in the regional leagues; European, Asian or American leagues are available. One may be chosen to start, and this will impact your choice of bikes. Once you have achieved all you can at this standard, you move to a World league where you must choose between; Superbikes and Endurance. Lastly, you will risk it all in the Final League. Each has a limitation of bikes, engine power, and races. You will compete in league events and exhibition, where success will earn points and credits.
Money, money, money!
As you’d expect, it’s all about the money you earn, and the fame from winning. Winning gets you noticed by manufacturers, and increases your affiliation with a brand and type of bike. As your levels increases, your ability to use that brand or bike improves drastically. Think of it as a mechanical skill tree, the more you work on it, the better you get. The greater the victories, the more money you earn, and cash means a new powerful mean machine. As long as you have the money, you can buy any bike within your league status. Bikers will drool at the choices available, and no expense has been spared in making these machines look fantastic.
So, you blast through the ranks, buy new bikes, and earn more credits than you could ever spend, but you need to be unique. Ride 4 has this covered off with an incredible custom tool for every piece of equipment you are going to be using. Buy the hog that you’ve always wanted and turn it into your dream ride. Any colour, detail, or logo can be strewn across the bodywork. Your leathers, helmet and more can be customised to make you stand out from the crowd. It was a great addition, and I made some brilliant and amusing designs. Other gamers uploaded creations can be used if you have no imagination, and some of them should be used in real life.
This is much more than just a career game!
As with most sports titles, it’s not all about the detailed main story. Solo races and online play make up the rest of the action. When you pick the race option you can select between; single race, endurance and time trial. Each has their own set of rules that can be adjusted to suit your needs. Online play allows for private or public lobbies, and though I spent little time here, I found it easy to access races, and the community is thriving with many rooms available.
Like most racing games, this one has a brutal learning curve. The bike handles exceptionally well, it’s responsive to touch, and its realistic with its use of engine braking. It handles exactly as you’d hope that it would. You can’t throw yourself into bends hoping to hold on for dear life. You must control your speed, hit the correct lines and lean at the right moment. It’s a fine art mastering it, and the developers have implemented riding aids to break you in gently. It was exceptionally frustrating to begin with; I wanted to be competitive, but I could just about keep the bike on the track. Time, patience and understanding are required to become a champion.
It’s a thing of beauty!
I’ve alluded to the graphical details already, but this is a game of stunning beauty. Everything about it is polished within an inch of its life. The machines are every bit the replica of the real world models, as are the tracks you race upon. The weather fronts that flow in and out of the action, add drama and detail to the occasion. The use of light and shadow adds remarkable depth to every aspect of the game. The list goes on, but Milestone has lived up to its statement about realism.
Everyone knows bikes are exciting. Ear piercing sounds resonate through your brain when one is started, and this is captured perfectly. As you speed up through the gears, the shrill sound blasts into your headphones and you become one with your machine. It drives your heart rate up and sends adrenaline pumping around your body. The only thing it misses is the boring sounds, and as a biker I needed these to add to the realism. The occasional squeal of brakes, or the slap of the gears, engines skipping a beat, or pedals thwacking back to their position. It was all missing! These are minor things, but I desperately needed them to make it complete.
Weather, tyre wear and track conditions.
External factors compound the aforementioned difficulties. The weather fronts are realistic and make riding treacherous. Racing style will impact tyre wear, and track conditions vary across a race day. Every element impacted the already challenging controls and keeps you thinking throughout. If you cannot master all these small but important layers, then you will spend most of the time sliding across the gravel traps. It’s the most challenging sports game that I’ve covered ever, and must be given time to be appreciated.
If you give this title, the time it deserves, then you will find a fulfilling and fun game that will eat away at your time. Once you know what you are doing, the online mode is great. There is nothing better than competing with talented online gamers. The offline career play is where 90% of your time will be spent, and you will happily ride multiple events consecutively simply to buy yourself a new toy to play with. Alongside all this gameplay you will find a challenging achievement list, so there’s plenty to keep you going.
Realism and difficulty in equal measures.
An outstanding racing game should challenge you, and Ride 4 does more than that. You will scream with joy and rage as you experience the highs and lows of riding on 2 wheels. This is not a title that you will be able to pick up and compete in over night. You must invest many hours in understanding the finer points before you excel. The effort is well rewarded, as you are treated to the most realistic biking game ever. Do I recommend it? Absolutely! If you love an adrenaline boost, racing, or bikes, then buy this game here! Put on your leathers, customise your bike, and set out to become the champion of the world.