First things first: you’re terrible at riding high-speed motorbikes. If you weren’t aware of that fact before, Ride 4 will make damn sure you know it within the first five seconds of jumping in the saddle.
The skill level required to enter into this game is so exceptionally high that you may give up before you even finish the basic licensing requirements. What’s beyond that daunting entry point is a tough experience that will test your patience and endurance. Ride 4 is the Gran Turismo for fans of going incredibly fast on two wheels.
This year has been another busy one for developers Milestone SRL, having already released MotoGP 20. The two games draw immediate comparisons in that both are sim racers and both take themselves very seriously, although there are some significant differences between the two. The level of customisation within both games is high, however where MotoGP 20 guides you through the experience of making vehicle changes, Ride 4 leaves the adjustments to your individual understanding. Changing up gear ratios or adjusting suspension is always helpful, but for casual players of these games without the technical know-how, it can be a daunting experience that could seriously muck up your day if you get the settings wrong.
“Ride 4 is the Gran Turismo for fans of going incredibly fast on two wheels.”
One significant improvement in Ride 4 is the overall look and feel of the on-track experience. Tracks, and their scenic backgrounds, are much more enclosed and have a genuine lived-in feel, making it easier on the eyes. Bikes also look more polished than in both Ride 3 and MotoGP 20, although there are a few drawbacks. While the static parts all look good, some of the little movement animations in the game don’t fit quite right. Tyres, especially on the back-chain points, spin like they’re skipping rotations trying to catch up with themselves. They look like they’re caught between going forwards and backwards at the same time. Likewise, your rider’s fingers or hands grabbing at the levers don’t quite make it all the way. Sometimes the fingers go through the levers, other times they skip it entirely. They are little annoyances that represent a small part of the game, but once you’ve seen them, you just can’t look away.
When it comes to sim racing experiences, the margins for error are often slim or non-existent. In Ride 4 they’re razor thin and clear as day. Track limits are the tarmac, the rumble strips and that’s it. One pixel of dirt, grass or outer markers brushing the outside of one pixel of rubber will have times scrubbed, and entire time attack challenges cancelled. One of the in-game settings allows you to turn down the off-road penalty, but even then the dirt road is not one to mess with as you’ll lose traction, time and the ability to accelerate beyond a snail’s pace as you turn your oil tanker slowly back to the track boundaries.
Then we come to collision physics. Boy are they something! Opponents will attack corners with kamikaze-like precision, diving in late, turning deep and using your tyres like they’re bumper bowling at a kids’ birthday party. Not only will this give them a massive speed boost out of the corner, but in turn it will catapult you into the safety barrier for the 50th time in the three lap race. Frustration barely covers the emotions you experience when this happens. The excellent news here is that you can also exploit this quirk of physics, meaning you can fight your way back into contention from almost any position on the track.
Once again the lack of any kind of tutorial, introduction or personality impacts the presentation of Ride 4. Given that it’s leaning heavily into the racing sim experience, that could be forgiven. It’s very much in Gran Turismo style, earning your license by demonstrating your competency at riding without once ever telling you how. Although each challenge just to get your basic “racing license” is difficult in the extreme and you’ll be riding faster than you dare to make even the basic pass mark, let alone make progress on the bonus levels. Ride 4 won’t explain how to brake or corner correctly, link together a series of corners, or achieve specific goals in the challenges. It expects that eventually you’ll work it out on your own, or crash trying. Ride 4 has torn off the training wheels and melted them down for spare parts.
As a massive plus there are over 250 licensed bike models from 22 manufacturers. This means that if it goes exceptionally fast, and costs more than your house, it’s probably in here. You’ll earn the right to buy new bikes by performing well at the various challenges and races set out for you. You’ll earn experience points as well for riding a specific manufacturer, eventually making you more effective on their bikes. For those with preferences for different machines this is a big boost. However, there are so many other awesome machines, it would be a shame not to try them all.
Ride 4 is a pure riding experience which drops the keys to a bunch of very different superbikes on the floor of the garage and walks away. It’s perhaps that lack of personality, and the exceptionally high skill level required, that feeds into the sim rider experience and absolutely achieves its purpose. Spending the time to develop into a more competent rider will reward you with harder challenges and more powerful bikes. There’s always another test around the corner – if you’re bold enough to take it at top speed.
Ride 4 is available October 8 on PS4 and Xbox One.