PC, PS5, Xbox Series X
August 24, 2023
RIDE 5 is the latest offering from Milestone S.R.L, one of the leading and longest-established racing game developers in the world. Founded in Milan all the way back in 1996 their franchise stable also includes the MotoGP series, MXGP, and Monster Energy Super Cross – The Official Video game. So, when it comes to bikes, I guess they know what they are doing, then?
Back in 2020 I had the pain and pleasure of spending time with the last game in this series, the aptly named RIDE 4. Generally, you will find me screaming around on four wheels, so at the time I found the adjustment to a motorbike simulator incredibly painful, but boy did it pay off in the end and I (eventually) fell in love with RIDE. For me, RIDE 4 was one of the best lookers on the scene, so running into this series again years later, I was keen to see what had changed and what had stayed the same.
Right from the get-go, RIDE 5 just feels premium; Gran Turismo 7 level premium and that is a compliment rarely bestowed. As soon as the game starts, it’s clear that these developers love bikes just as much as Polyphony Digital loves cars. We are talking cinematic cut scenes, atmospheric music and voiceovers that inject a touch of anticipation before we even take our first ride on the wild side.
Speaking of riding on the wild side, even though through pain and suffering I had become quick in the last game, it didn’t take long to realise that whatever magic I had managed to conjure up back in the day had long gone. For a good little while I was downright dangerous on the track, I could barely ride in a straight line and even fell off my bike a couple of times trying to get going again after an accident or ten.
Whilst this may not be a problem for more experienced two-wheel aficionados out there, the rest of us normals had best be prepared for a rough start. I noticed that the mandatory license-style challenges from the last game have gone, which is good on the one hand because I almost broke my controller in rage (I sent it flying) last time around. But on the other hand, it means I was chucked in the deep end and racing from the jump.
With any racing game I play, the first thing I do is turn off all the driver assists, but with RIDE 5, unless you really know what you are doing, I wouldn’t recommend it. Even with a bit of a helping hand though, assuming you usually drive cars, the adjustment required to be fast here is rough. The good news though is once again, a little patience and a little practise makes all the difference. Once I learned how to ride all over again the racing is as intense and enjoyable as some of the best games I have played.
There is something special about the feeling of this game when you are really flying, something about RIDE 5 that I cannot quite put my finger on. You just need to get the hang of the right track, learn how to be one with your chosen bike and then the game just transforms. The next minute I was screaming through, snaking turn after turn, dancing on the edge of physics, cutting up the track like a razor blade – it really is a thrill unlike any other. People do this in real life, by the way, the nutters.
RIDE 5 also features dynamic time of day, weather and a brand new sky system. The new Dynamic Weather System calculates real-time track and air temperatures, simulating realistic weather changes and adds an element of unpredictability to races. In practice, this means there are some stunning visuals and vista’s on offer.
Too bad I was usually going too fast to truly soak it in, because a lapse in concentration, taking a split second to smell the roses, under race conditions will (and did, on multiple occasions) equal certain failure. But none-the-less, RIDE 5 has us covered with 44 real and fictional tracks to test our metal. An admirable mix between traditional circuits like Oulton Park, Silverstone and Road America, coupled with some stunning (and dangerous) open road racing via courses like the stunning Kanto Temples track (Japan – try the full course for a treat), Ulster GP (Northern Ireland), and the Southern 100 (Great Britain). Although all of the tracks look pretty, some of them are more stunning than others.
The center of the game, as is usual in this genre is the career mode. This has been refreshed since RIDE 4, also featuring a narrator to introduce the over 200 playable events. These range from championships to single races as well as one-on-one battles and time attacks. Pretty standard fare here; you work your way through, earn money, use it to upgrade and/or buy better bikes as you go. Learning curve aside, this is a good way to start off on less powerful bikes and make your way through to being the fastest rider in the world. My ‘pro’ tip from last time still holds strong: Go with slick tires and new brakes early to help you out on the track.
Aside from career, you can set up your own races or ride around the tracks solo. Should you choose to head out on your own, you can use pretty much any of the 270 real motorbikes from the 20 official manufacturers on offer. This is actually a rare twist in a genre that too often makes you earn your way rather than letting you just play.
I think the thing I enjoy most about RIDE 5 is just choosing a bike, choosing a track, and riding around by myself. No pressure to try to nail every corner perfectly, I don’t feel like I need to ride lightning and live on the limit of life and death. For me, taking the time to just enjoy the different bikes and see how they ride (and how fast they are), enjoy the courses, and soak in the scenery is what riding means to me.
All vehicular games fall within a spectrum between full arcade, simulator-ish and full sim. Sure, depending on your assists you can change the feel of the game, RIDE 5 feels like it naturally falls toward the full sim side of the spectrum. The tricky thing is, for sim titles to really get the best from them you need the peripheral to match.
For cars, you get a steering wheel and pedal setup, planes you can get expensive flight controllers, but there isn’t a real option for bikes. This is a shame because I feel that this game is built with that level of detail in mind, it’s all there – but I doubt any of us will truly be able to take advantage of it.
- Riding the lightning feels awesome (once you get the hang of it)
- Stunning visuals and a great selection of courses
- Comprehensive selection of bikes to test your skills on
- Learning curve is still brutal
- Limited appeal; you have to be committed
- No (affordable) peripherals to truly take advantage of the detail on offer
RIDE 5 sets the bar for motorbike simulation on a console in the same way that Gran Turismo 7 does for cars. In my view, GT7 is this game’s nearest neighbour, and that is good company. The level of detail present here is admirable, not just in the high-quality visuals for the bikes and environments but also in the detail, the little things like the handling, the options available to tweak your experience and the like. It’s clear a significant amount of effort, care and love has gone into RIDE 5 – this is not everybody’s cup of tea by a long shot, but this is an impressive title nonetheless.