2023 is an exceptionally good year for gamer motorcycle enthusiasts. In May, we received the third installment in the TT Isle of Man series, followed by the yearly release of MotoGP in June, and now, we’re getting the most revered of all contemporary motorcycle games.
It was awaited with impatientce, as RIDE 4 launched nearly three years ago and previous games were released bianually. Does it translate to a plethora of new features and content? Well… not really. But it’s very enjoyable nonetheless.
RIDE 5 launches with only 19 bikes new to the series (with race variants in some cases), at a price of many more cool models left behind.RIDE 5, Milestone, 2023
Buzzwords without substance
- refined, very enjoyable physics;
- large roster of tracks;
- quite a long list of well modeled and described motorcycles;
- prices of bikes are reasonable again;
- evolution and minor changes in numerous systems of the game;
- notable improvements to AI…
- …but there is still more to be done;
- the game certainly doesn’t look “next-gen”;
- the career mode is too linear and lacks diversity (the latter goes to the bikes roster too);
- lack of true innovation over RIDE 4.
Milestone is trying to sell RIDE 5 to us with “innovations” such as enhanced dynamic weather, 3D clouds, AI-powered riding assistances, career mode with individualized Rivals, race creator/director mode, split-screen mode, saving during endurance races, and improved motorbike physics. It’s quite a list, but in fact, only one of these features really matters.
Clouds and weather effects are pointed out as main reasons behind leaving past-gen consoles behind and making RIDE 5 a fully next-gen game. However, it’s apparently not enough to make it truly look worthy of the term.
If you take your eyes off the road and watch the sky (to your doom), you’ll notice that it indeed looks nice. However, it doesn’t affect gameplay in any meaningful way. The wording used by Milestone can make an impression that dynamic weather and time of day is something new to the series but it actually was introduced in RIDE 4. The changes in lighting simply look more natural now.
In order to go fully “next-gen,” Milestone should think about remastering the environments of tracks, especially those available in the series since RIDE or RIDE 2, like Nurburgring/Nordschleife and Road America. It’s just baffling to call RIDE 5 a “next-gen” game when you see trees, grass, and characters that belong in the Xbox 360 era. Real-world circuits could also use laser scanning to be more accurate (e.g. Kyalami).
Tracks originating from RIDE 4 or introduced in RIDE 5 look noticeably better, but still nowhere close to “next-gen” quality.RIDE 5, Milestone, 2023
And speaking of characters… Rivals are another feature that turned out to be meaningless. Climbing up the leaderboard serves no true purpose in the career mode (it just goes down to completing one event after another in a fixed order, as usual), just like head-to-head races with aforementioned opponents.
The narrator tries to convince you that Rivals are special, have distinct personalities and so on, but all they really bring into the game are unnecessary cutscenes before races (which there’s too many of). Not to mention ugly character models that you’re forced to watch all the time…
Other “innovations” can be dealt with in one paragraph: AI-powered riding assistances – nothing ground-breaking, just a few useful additional functions (like slowing gameplay down). Race creator/director – set of options coming with virtually every racing game as standard (perhaps with the exception of creating your own logo for an event). Saving in endurance races – standard as well. Split-screen – a welcome addition but also nothing exceptional (thankfully).
RIDE 5 has a full suite of single and multiplayer modes. The latter involves competing online or on the split-screen.RIDE 5, Milestone, 2023
Physics stealing the show
And then there is finally that one thing that really changes the game. Motorcycle physics was completely revamped and it feels closer to MotoGP than ever. It means a more realistic and more enjoyable experience.
Now, the rider needs more time to transfer weight from left to right (accompanied by better animations), bikes seem heavier and need more space to make turns. On the other hand, you don’t need to worry too much about your rear wheel dancing around and trying to kill you on every corner if you ride with traction control disabled.
All these changes take some time to get used to it if you played previous RIDE games a lot but it’s worth it. Riding a motorcycle itself is a big enough thrill to last through the entire career mode, and that’s potentially dozens of hours of playing.
If you ask me whether RIDE 5 is worth buying or not, I’d say (as usual): it depends. If you played all previous games in the series, and still can’t get enough after the last installment, then the answer must be positive. It’s the RIDE you know and love, just more refined than the last time around.
But wait, there’s more. Somehow Milestone “forgot” to properly announce improvements to artificial intelligence that are almost as important as the revamped physics. AI opponents are notably better than in RIDE 4. They no longer tend to take corners perfectly even on low difficulty levels and slow down on straights to let you catch up. Their overall speed seems more balanced and “reasonable”. It’s a nice surprise.
If you can’t catch up with opponents you can upgrade your bike, just like in previous games (or simply lower AI difficulty and turn on some assistances).RIDE 5, Milestone, 2023
However, there is still work to be done here. You can set aggressiveness of rivals but it doesn’t change much; AI rarely is aware of your presence in their line and usually just bumps on you, leading to possible crashes (thankfully, you can easily rewind time to avoid an accident, or even turn collisions off). They also behave unwisely during endurance races, e.g. pitting right before the finish line.
Relativity of richness
I mentioned that career mode can last dozens of hours. However, even with excellent physics it may prove difficult to beat the entire thing on one go. That’s because events in the career mode lack diversity. All you do is race against time (time attack) or compete with the AI in single, endurance or head-to-head races.
Milestone listened to players’ complaints about the licenses in RIDE 4, so track days and track tests are gone. Also drag racing from RIDE 3 is still missing. What’s worse, progression is very linear. You need to complete 10 events (more than 30 races) in strict order before you unlock side challenges that let you finally choose what and where to ride.
Thankfully, the track roster saves the day. There are 73 tracks in 36 environments so at least you’re going to see a sizeable part of the world (even if some places aren’t very pretty). I just wish there were fewer professional circuits and more riding on roads in picturesque locations, just like in the first RIDE games.
For some reason proximity indicators for opponents are gone since RIDE 4. They’d be useful to know when someone is going to ram you.RIDE 5, Milestone, 2023
Lack of diversity extends to the motorcycle roster as well. While 233 machines at launch is a respectable number, it’s hard to miss the fact that the list is dominated by sports bikes and their racing counterparts (even more than it was in RIDE 4). There are only a few naked bikes left, and maxienduro and supermoto categories, featured in previous games, have vanished completely.
We’ve also lost such manufacturers as Harley-Davidson, Husqvarna, and Moto Guzzi. However, knowing Milestone’s policy, they may return post-launch as DLC or FLC content (perhaps alongside three missing tracks: Imatra, Macau, or Philip Island – at least we’ve got five new locations in return, including Le Mans Bugatti Circuit, Autopolis, and Sonoma).
What’s more important though, all bikes are much easier to obtain than they were in RIDE 4. It seems that Milestone is no longer trying to encourage players to use microtransactions by boosting prices of machines. The detailed models and descriptions of motorcycles deserve praise as well.
In the shadow of RIDE 3
The spirit of Gran Turismo can be still felt at least in descriptions and showcases of motorcycles. It’s almost like an interactive encyclopedia.RIDE 5, Milestone, 2023
I know that there is unproportional amount of criticism in this review when compared to the relatively high score. That’s because all complaints cannot overshadow one factor to rule them all, namely the the fun factor. And collecting, upgrading and racing numerous motorcycles across a multitude of tracks is just that. Pure fun.
However, if you ask me whether RIDE 5 is worth buying or not, I’d say (as usual): it depends. If you played all previous games in the series, and still can’t get enough after the last installment, then the answer must be positive. It’s the RIDE you know and love, just more refined than the last time around.
Things are different if you’re new to motorcycle racing though. In that case, I’d recommend you get RIDE 3 first. It’s a pinnacle in the series development in my opinion, with the biggest and most varied roster of machines, more diverse range of tracks and game modes, as well as a very interesting design of career mode, taking you on a stylish journey across the fascinating world of bikes.
If we could only get the content and designs from RIDE 3 again, combined with physics, weather, and some new tracks from RIDE 5, it could be an ultimate motorcycle game of all times!
Christopher Mysiak | Gamepressure.com