Advocate for Sega. Fan of the 90s.
Xbox One, PC,
October 8, 2020
RIDE 4 claims to be the ultimate racing experience for 2-wheel lovers, featuring hundreds of bikes across decades of racing, loads of tracks and customisation options, all replicated to the finest detail with the most advanced technologies. “Sounds good! Sign me up!” I thought to myself. I’ve played motorbike games before, such as Manx TT on my Saturn and Road Rash for the Megadrive. Sure, it’s been a while but I thought I would be slicing corners like a razor blade in no time.
I like a good ride as much as the next person, but with this one I got far more than I bargained for. RIDE 4 has defeated me on so many levels. There has been anger and frustration, a controller was thrown, foul language spoken and to be honest I genuinely felt hate for this game – for a little while. Then somewhere along a frankly stunning country road in Northern Ireland, something clicked within me and I finally got it. Suddenly, I couldn’t put RIDE 4 down and despite all it has put me through, I have to admit. I love it.
How can riding a motorbike in a video game be so difficult I hear you ask? To be fair, there are far more experienced riders out there in the world than me, and maybe those people will be able to easily pick up and play. But for those of us that are new to the genre or this series, my god is there a steep learning curve. It is hard to explain, but when I first started out it felt like the bikes were these heavy swinging pendulums, almost unplayable. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t take corners properly no matter what I did or how fast or slow I went. This is even with (pretty much) all of the assists on.
Career mode is the core of this game, starting off in the European, Asian or American league and making your way through the ranks into international competitions and endurance races. Before you get on to the track though, like many other sim titles, it’s time to get a license. I don’t know if you have felt the frustration of a Gran Turismo license test, but this takes it to another level. The time attack challenges are the devils work, they are without a doubt some of the most frustrating experiences I have ever had in a video game… in my life.
The idea is simple in theory, make it around a section of a track, and later the entire track within a certain time limit. Sounds straight forward enough, but there is a twist. If you get even a fraction of one of your tires off the track, even in sections with seemingly innocent curbs and it is an instant fail, end of session and time to start again. Couple this with the fact that at this point you barely know how to ride the damn thing and you’ll quickly find yourself almost hitting the apex, but course correct so as not to be disqualified. This results in loss of control, flying across the track and touching the outside line and it is “game over, start again”.
There is no real quick restart, RIDE 4 loads the menu then reloads the challenge again. Your initial attempts are only going to last a few seconds before you fail, and this becomes really really infuriating pretty quickly, which is where the controller went on its own ride. After you finally master the first corner/section after multiple fails and restarts, it’s time for the same trial and error with the remainder of the track. There are about 6 of these to start off with, and it took me over 2 hours of blood sweat and tears to make it through. My worst memories are actually making it to the end of the lap and realising I was less than a second over the target time… these are the things of nightmares.
It didn’t have to be like this, this experience could have been made much more palatable if it would let you at least make it round the course so you can familiarise yourself with it rather than constantly restarting you from scratch. In the main game, surely it could just disqualify your lap time and then you can just keep going around until you finally reach the target.
The sad thing is, if I weren’t reviewing the game (I had no choice, I had to obtain a licence) there is a very high chance I would have rage quit it and popped RIDE 4 on the shelf to gather dust. That would have been a shame because trust me, it does get better.
Once you have survived your first circle of hell, its time to go racing. By now you will have enough cash to pick up a basic bike or two. This means getting out on the track with the AI, which is another, initially frustrating experience. The thing is that obviously, on a bike, if you collide with a racer the outcome is inevitable. This is going to happen a lot; they tend to just run over you in corners for some reason. It doesn’t help that some of the initial tracks are quite narrow, one has an almost 180 degree hairpin plus throw in some blind corners on tracks you aren’t familiar with and again… where is the practice?
If you have survived the so-far painful process of going racing and bought some bikes. You can start customising and modifying your ride. I definitely suggest buying some slick tires, better brakes and if you afford it an engine upgrade as the first thing you do. RIDE 4 also has impressive options to customise your bike and your riding gear to your liking with loads of real world brands. A nice touch, but definitely go practical in the first instance, spend your cash on tuning up your ride then go for the looks. That said, there’s nothing wrong with looking amazing in last place.
So, its pretty obvious that this game will take some effort and determination to make it through the early stages. It is not all bad news though; one of the few bones RIDE 4 throws you is a handy rewind feature so when (not if, because you will) you come off your bike or when you take a bad turn, just rewind and keep going.
It does kind of ruin the flow of the game though, because you will be using it pretty much every corner for a while. Each corner ends up being crash/rewind for a couple of laps/hours. I found even on the easiest settings the AI was still much faster than I was. So with all of that in mind, by now you might be wondering at which point does this game start to become fun?
What you wouldn’t have realised is that through all of the pain, suffering and anguish, RIDE 4 had actually been teaching you a lesson. You were improving all the time. There will be a point where you need a break from the grind and punishment that is career and head to single race to check out the other tracks, you can even borrow bikes you don’t own to take out for a ride. Aside from the usual race tracks such as Monza and Imola, there are some treats such as Virginia Raceway (which is GORGEOUS) and some street courses. It was at this point, flying around some amazing locations by myself, at my own pace that it was revealed that I had actually become pretty good… and it was fun. I realised RIDE 4 had snuck up on me and I was all of a sudden hooked.
I have tried to come up with an answer as to how that happened. How was it that a game I genuinely had loathed for hours suddenly turned me on? My theory is that my improvement was so gradual, so painful and so frustrating that I had not noticed that I could actually ride these things. When I took the other racers out of it, when it was just me and the game, I realised what it was really about. It’s about enjoying the ride. You don’t have to be perfect, just go at your own pace. It turns out riding these bikes is a totally unique and special experience, you can almost feel weight of the bike shifting from left to right through curves as fast as you dare go. Experience the momentum of the bike, the sheer speed of these suicide machines. Open them up on a long straight and it is quite terrifying.
Not only was I now having fun but I noticed how incredibly beautiful this game really is. Standout tracks for me are Northwest 200 (Northern Island) which takes you over pristine coastline cliffs, through a small town, out through lush green country roads and back again. Kanto (Japan) features a dense forest with overhanging trees, gorgeous temples and mountain roads. Macau (in… Macau) takes you through past skyscrapers, tearing through the back alleys then up into the outskirts of town and back. Even running on a stock Xbox One, this is the most stunning looking racing game I have ever played. All of the tracks have variable time of day settings and there is variable weather in race modes. The attention to detail is astonishing and the cities and houses are as near photo realistic as I have ever experienced in a video game.
So when I sum up RIDE 4, it has been a hell of a wild ride, to say the least. This game has tested me in every way. I hated this game for hours, trying to get to grips with it was an absolutely tear my hair out throw my controller experience. But it taught me a lesson, all of that trauma paid off when the gameplay clicked and suddenly it just opened up to me and all was forgiven. Now as I wind my way around some of my favourite courses, be it either racing or for leisure, I am glad I stuck it out. RIDE 4 is an impressively detailed game, a unique experience and a great ride after all.
RIDE 4 is a wild ride, the learning curve was brutal for me but I am so glad I stuck with it. The pay-off for all of the painful learning is the ability to enjoy an impressively made game. Featuring a comprehensive list of motorcycles and some of most varied and stunning locations I have ever had the pleasure of playing in a video game. I think the initial difficulty may turn off some gamers and that is such a shame because once you finally achieve some manner of competence the game transforms into a truly memorable experience. I definitely recommend RIDE 4, but just heed my words: first impressions are not what they seem. Push through the adversity and you will find one of the memorable racing experiences of the year.