I’ve always thought of Milestone’s RIDE series as essentially Gran Turismo with bikes. Some hands-on time with the upcoming RIDE 4 hasn’t changed my mind.
Set for release on PS4, Xbox One and PC this October, Milestone is seemingly going all-out with RIDE 4. Its bikes are being made from the ground up with higher quality assets; in fact, 97% of its models have been created from scratch using 3D scanning data. What that basically means is that you can expect about four times the detail as seen in RIDE 3. And then there are the tracks. A serious effort has been made to ensure that they’re as realistic as can be too – drone and laser scanning has been employed for that.
The result is that RIDE 4 looks absolutely stunning – at least it has done for me playing on PC at max settings. How good it will look on current-gen consoles remains to be seen, but on PC it’s a clear step up; it looks next-gen. And so it should probably come as no surprise that RIDE 4 is also releasing on PS5 and Xbox Series S|X at a later date, where it will target 4K 60fps with additional graphical bells and whistles over the current gen version, and up to 20 players in multiplayer. Though trust me: if you’ve only ever played a console version of RIDE, the upgrade to 60fps is enough to impress.
Enough about visuals and performance though, because they’re only a small part of what makes a new entry in a series. What about new content and features, you’re probably wondering? Well, how about a new suit livery editor, so you can not only customise what your bike looks like in more detail than ever, but also your rider? And that’s not all; 10 new tracks are featured, an Endurance mode has been added, complete with pit stops, and there’s a new dynamic lighting system that sits alongside a dynamic weather system. The latter of which is perhaps the most exciting, as not only does it allow for some brilliant sights as you race around the game’s wonderfully created tracks, it also keeps you on your toes.
To top it all off, the game’s career mode now has a new structure that aims to mirror a rider’s career more accurately. After creating and naming their very own avatar, players will start at the bottom, competing in regional competitions with pretty standard bikes. Once they’ve proven their worth they’ll find themselves competing at a professional level, taking on racers from around the world using bikes designed for racing. Ultimately, you’ll have to specialise for the highest level of competition. With RIDE 4, Milestone wants players to feel like they have a choice; that their career is their own – and on paper it sounds like it might just do that.
I say ‘on paper’ because I haven’t been able to go hands-on with the career just yet. What I have been able to do, however, is take my pick of over 100 bikes and take them for a quick race, time trial or endurance event on over 25 tracks. And it’s been a pleasure. Well, once I got used to the handling, anyway. As someone that plays a lot of racing games of the four-wheeled variety, it always takes me time to adjust to racing on just two; there are simply more things to consider. But I’m happy to say that RIDE 4 makes it as easy as can be to adjust thanks to its dependable handling and physics.
After multiple practice laps I was flying around tracks such as Laguna Seca and Suzuka on the back on numerous Harley-Davidsons and Kawasakis. I was impressed with how responsive everything was, and how authentic the action felt, especially when using any of the game’s first-person cameras that get you closer to the action. The helmet cam in particular is impressive, really making you feel like you’re there. You get all the thrills of riding a superbike without the danger, and that’s a win-win to me.
RIDE 4, like any bike racing game, is initially a prickly beast; a game that’s all too happy to throw you off your bike or leave you at the back of the pack because you’re simply not good enough. Put in the time and effort to learn when to brake and lean in, however, and you’ll find a racing experience that’s as rewarding as the best out there; especially once you start raking in the money and can afford yet more bikes to add to your collection. And then there’s the audio and visuals. From the little details on your bike that you wouldn’t normally notice, to the swooshing sounds as you pick up some real speed, RIDE 4 goes that extra step to make things feel real. And it’s appreciated.
As ever, RIDE 4 won’t be for everyone when it launches later this year on current gen consoles and PC, and early next year on next-gen consoles, but for those who have a fondness for bikes it’s looking like it will be a must have. Once again it’s going to have a spectacular range of bikes and tracks, but they’re going to look better than ever. Throw in new features like dynamic lighting and weather, and you have a game that feels more alive while keeping you on your toes. The only real question mark in my eyes right now is the career; there’s nothing to suggest that it won’t be as engrossing as previous RIDE careers, but having not been hands-on with it it’s still an unknown. I’m excited to find out though.
RIDE 4 launches on PS4, Xbox One and PC on 8th October. A PS5 and Xbox Series S|X release will follow on 21st January, 2021