Riders Republic is as if Ubisoft wondered, “what will happen if we take a strand of DNA from each of Trials, Steep and The Crew, and mix it together in a petri dish?”
The result is, more or less, exactly what you’d expect. That is to say: a huge sandbox packed with adrenaline-fuelled events, multiplayer modes, enthusiastic narrators, a pretty decent soundtrack and some rather nice looking visuals. Oh, and it’s fun to play too. All in all, not a bad science experiment, then.
Riders Republic focuses on three sports: mountain biking, skiing (or snowboarding), and wingsuit-gliding. There are some variations of the three chucked in for good measure, too, most often versions that also include a bit of rocket power. Careening down the side of a mountain on a rocket-powered bicycle is quite the thrill, let me tell you – especially if you’re brave enough to play in first person mode. If your TV is big enough (or you’re sat close enough to it), it really does get the adrenaline pumping.
Fun is the order of the day in Riders Republic. This is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it doesn’t want you to take it seriously, either. With a huge map at your fingertips, outside of an introductory section, you’re given free rein of where to go and what events to do. You can dip in and out of all three disciplines if you want, or you can stick to your favourites. To get the most out of the game, though, you’ll eventually want to master each of biking, skiing and wingsuiting. But you’ll undoubtedly have your favourites.
Biking is perhaps my favourite; there’s something exhilarating about whizzing down a hill at blistering speeds. The visual effects of the wind zipping past you are fantastic; Riders Republic does a great job of capturing the feeling of motion. That’s true in all disciplines, but I like feeling in control, and behind the handlebars of a bicycle feel a little safer than being strapped to a snowboard or fastened into a wingsuit.
Events come mostly in two flavours: there are straight races, where your goal is to simply finish first, and there are score-building challenges. For the latter, on a bike or on skis or a snowboard, you’ll need to pull off various tricks to build up your score. With two control schemes to choose from, it’s up to you whether you favour button combinations or stick movements to pull off gnarly tricks. You can also choose whether or not to have assisted landing; with it turned on, you’ll miss out on extra score, but it’s much easier to land after racking up a high score.
There’s no real story to Riders Republic, outside of a few cutscenes designed to add a bit of flavour and personality. Since it’s up to you what events you focus on, it’s ultimately your story. As you play, you’ll earn stars – there’s one up for grabs every time you simply finish an event, but more can be earned by completing various challenges within those events. Maybe you’ll need to come in first on a higher difficulty, for example, or maybe you’ll need to pull off a particular skill. However you choose to earn them, racking up stars is really your only aim in Riders Republic.
As your star total increases, more opportunities in the game open up. You’ll need so many before you can even take on wingsuit events, for example. And as your total goes up, you’ll unlock new sponsors, which bring about new challenges of their own. You can have up to three sponsors at one time, and each one will offer you daily objectives to complete, which will earn you various bonuses – be it new equipment, new clothing or money to spend on new clothing.
You’ll of course earn new equipment simply by playing through Riders Republic, too. The game wastes no time in throwing better skis, snowboards and bikes at you, simply for completing events. You’ll quickly have a veritable collection of equipment at your disposal, alongside more fun items that can be used to get around the map. There’s a snowmobile, for instance, to help you travel up mountains to reach skiing and snowboarding events. And before long you’ll have a rocket-powered bicycle and a fan-powered glider at your disposal, too.
Being such a huge, open world, it’s no surprise that social elements are intricately woven into Riders Republic‘s fabric. While you can tackle everything by yourself and approach it as a solely single-player game if you want, it’s designed to be a social experience. As such, you can easily invite friends to play with you, going head-to-head with them in every event while still earning overall progression. There are plenty of multiplayer events you can jump into, the highlight being the hourly Mass Race.
Mass Races see up to 64 players compete in the same event; essentially Riders Republic‘s answer to the Battle Royale phenomenon. As you’d imagine with so many people at the start line, these events are messy and chaotic, but they’re fun. They play out over three rounds, and you’ll typically switch disciplines a couple of times each round. Seeing so many people pushing to get to the front of the pack is always exhilarating; make just one mistake though, and you’ll quickly find yourself right at the back. Still, it’s the taking part that counts; I consider any position in the top 50% a win when it comes to Mass Races.
As you’d expect from a modern Ubisoft game, Riders Republic looks fantastic. It’s let down by its cutscenes which, on PS5 at least, play at a lower resolution than the rest of the game. But when it comes to the action, the world around you looks wonderful, making even the most arduous of events a pleasure to compete in. Looking out over a valley from the top of a snow-covered mountain is nothing if not awe-inspiring, and in fact you’ll likely enjoy spending time in the world almost as much as competing in events. There’s a specialised Zen Mode just for that; accessible via the main menu, it disables all events and progression, simply letting you exist in the open world, taking in its sights.
If you like the idea of thrill-seeking but you’d rather do it from the comfort of your living room, Riders Republic should be right up your street. This is pure entertainment at its finest; a game that’s all about having fun, living in the moment, and not taking life seriously. Play it straight and try to win every race if you want. Or simply speed around dressed in an inflatable giraffe costume. It’s your choice, and that in itself is the beauty of Riders Republic.
Riders Republic Review – GameSpew’s Score
This review of Riders Republic is based on the PS5 version, via a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Stadia and PC.