It's a good thing we don't remember pain, otherwise no woman would bear more than one child and the Jackass gang would stop letting people kick them in the junk. As much as I love combat-heavy racing games, I always forget about how painfully cheap they can be at times. It's not just Mario Kart's blue shell, but really any game where you get taken down seconds before winning a race. That's the kind of pain that should make me never want to play racing game again. Like I said, it's a good thing I have a short memory when it comes to pain.
Ridge Racer Unbounded offers all of the same frustrating problems that you get with Need for Speed, Burnout and every other rough and tumble racing games. You'll get fragged without warning, forced to replay races over and over to get first and deal with a computer AI that seems determined to make you regret spending that sixty dollars. And yet, despite all of these problems, Bugbear's newest arcade-style racer scratches an important itch.
First things first: Unbounded is not your typical Ridge Racer game. It doesn't look like Ridge Racer, it doesn't control like Ridge Racer and it most certainly doesn't sound like Ridge Racer. Instead this is something more akin to Burnout, Split/Second and recent Need for Speed games. Don't let the radical departure scare you off, because Unbounded has enough compelling ideas to make you completely forget about Namco's past failures at updating the Ridge Racer name.
Much like Burnout and Bugbear's own Flat Out series, Unbounded is all about running the competition off the road, finding hidden shortcuts and generally being a jerk driver. You can frag other cars, blow-up overturned tanker trucks, crash through buildings and just about anything else you can think of to come in first. All along the way you earn points, which go towards unlocking cars, race tracks and even other parts of Shatter Bay.
The gimmick here is the way the city crumbles around you. The power meter is more than just another name for a nitro boost; it will allow you to interact with the city in ways that can give you the upper hand. Once the power meter is full, players will be able to find hidden paths by literally busting through the walls of buildings, stadiums, malls and more. You create your own path, all while everybody else is forced to take the long way around these destructible environments.
The power meter also allows players to blow-up well-placed obstacles, making it even harder for your opponents to catch up. And even if you don't have your power meter completely full, there are still all sorts of medians and pillars to crash through. In fact, half of the fun of Unbounded is seeing all of the pieces of debris fly through the air as you crash through brick walls as you take an especially harrowing corner. In most racing games you would be able to bounce off of these walls, but not here. The level of destruction makes for a great first impression.
Once you get over seeing the environments crumble at your car's power, you'll notice the creative heads-up display. Instead of simply popping up text telling you how many laps are left or how far behind first place you are, Unbounded seems to project those figures onto the walls and buildings. This may not sound like much, but it gives the game a great sense of style. Even when the game is plowing familiar ground, it's these little touches that set it apart.
Racing is split into a few different varieties, all of which you've already seen in one form or another. The basic race is called Domination and features all of the building crashing and tanker explosions that you've heard about. On the other hand, the Shindo races have you driving fast cars with only a boost meter, forcing you to avoid shortcuts and all-out combat.
From the explosive tankers to the destructible environments, Shatter Bay makes a great first impression. Franchise loyalists may be turned off by this brand new direction, but anybody who loves Burnout will have a blast playing through Ridge Racer Unbounded. It's not without a few problems, but Namco's newest racer packs enough content to make up for any imperfection!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!