The Beautiful Bikes Of Ride

The following paragraphs will be about as close to a game review as I am ever likely to get here on MisspentYouth. So as to avoid being mistaken for something legitimately useful there will be no helpfully categorised sections referring to Gameplay, Graphics or anything else starting with the letter G. Instead we’ll be looking at today’s subject through the lenses of Heart, Mind and Soul as I think these elements are underrepresented in game analysis these days, though possibly for good reason. If you’re up for this, read on…


 

collage_20150609203122943

Today I’d like to share some pictures of motorcycles that I like. It isn’t often that a blog about video games provides the opportunity to do this, so I intend to take full advantage of it. Some of them are from a website called Bike EXIF and are photos of bikes that you could potentially seek out in the real world and sit on. Others are pictures from a PS4 game I’ve been delving into this past few days and think you should know about.

Bonneville

…HEART…

The game is called Ride and at its heart is about racing and collecting motorbikes. That, from what I can gather after a dozen or so hours of playing, is pretty much all there is to it. You get a bike, you race it until you can afford to pimp it with go-faster bits or buy a different one, and you attempt to collect medals by winning races. There is a World Rankings board populated with fictional riders – presumably intended to get your competitive juices flowing – but even as your rider’s name progresses towards the top of the table it feels like helping you reach your riding potential isn’t where the game’s heart lies.

What Ride really cares about is the bikes themselves.

It waxes lyrical about the wonders of motorcycles whenever you open a new game mode. The digitally reproduced bikes appear to be 100% anatomically correct as the sun glints seductively off their spotless brake cylinders and unscratched fuel tanks. The game even interrupts its own ponderously long loading screens so that you can pan a camera around your chosen mount and bask in its glossy beauty before returning to the task at hand: folding washing while the next menu screen is assembled, pixel by pixel, by the world’s slowest PS4 faeries.

One of these yellow bikes is real and one rendered in game. Can you pick it?

You can tell a lot about Ride’s heart by the fact that it doesn’t care solely about the fully-faired litre-bikes that were the only option in the old arcade racers. There is a clear and understandable bias towards race spec machines regardless of whether they be naked, faired, classic or contemporary and I for one appreciate that I’ve had the option to play exclusively in the nude so far. I’m still referring to the naked style of motorbike of course… I generally don at a least a pair of socks when playing PS4 as our house gets pretty chilly. At some point soon I will venture into the world of faired superbikes, but as you can see from the photos so far that isn’t where my heart lies.

RIDE_20150607170516

…MIND…

Ride’s mind is sharp. It clearly draws on the experience of generations of racing simulators when serving up a control system so sensitive you need all nine magical rewinds just to make it around the track the first time you play. In this way Ride can seem a little aloof to begin with, but given time things start to make sense and your rider will spend considerably less time flipping through the air and into the fence. I won’t go into detail here about the realism settings, the creatively-challenged-but-still-faster-than-you AI riders or the wealth of bike tuning options that await you. Suffice to say there is plenty to challenge the driving/riding sim lovers out there and just enough accessibility to allow an occasional racing gamer like yours truly the chance to ride a whole lot faster than I ever have on the road and survive hundreds of spectacular crashes with nary a scratch to show for it.

Kind of like its heart, Ride’s mind is of the ‘one track’ variety. All it really thinks about is putting awesome motorcycles on a track and – in order to play you the hi-res, individually sampled exhaust sounds – racing them. Not that this is an issue, because once you make it past the killer learning curve the riding and racing side of things is good.

Finally, Ride thinks about things in a rather practical, reductionist way. Suspect human character modelling? You should be looking at the glorious bike. Copy and paste track decorations possibly borrowed from Gran Turismo 2? Not important. Loading screens that measure time in eras? Who cares – motorbikes!

You certainly can’t accuse Ride of losing its focus, because heart and mind are clearly on the same wavelength in every aspect of the game.

RIDE_20150607204448
Ride’s cut-scene eye candy. The voice-over guy was audibly drooling into his mic at this point. Five bikes. FIVE!!

…SOUL…

Now this is where things get a little tricky. I have spent enough time with Ride to be finishing on the podium regularly and to have a small garage full of tricked out bikes. I’ve competed in track days, drag races and headline events. I may not be at the top of my artificial World Ranking board yet but I’m well on my way and have a little artificial trophy cabinet full of little artificial trophies that confirm my burgeoning artificial greatness. Yet for all this quality time spent with Ride, I can’t say that I’ve uncovered much in the way of a soul. There are lots of games out there that reveal a special something; that powerful charm that encompasses and fuses heart and mind in a way that makes you remember fondly for years to come. Ride certainly possesses great qualities – motorcycles and the racing of motorcycles primarily – but unlike other games I’ve discovered recently (e.g. Dragon Age: Inquisition) it all seems a bit constrained.

Ride as whole feels a lot like one of its faceless AI riders that stay glued to the optimum racing line marker regardless of what is happening around them. They are focused and they get their job done, but their importance ends there. I’ve heard a lot about how Bungie are working hard to enliven and flesh out the Destiny universe through lore videos and DLC updates. In a similar way, Ride has debuted with highly functional and enjoyable core elements, but I would love for it to get a soul-patch that fixes a few of the little things and allows its latent charm to shine through.

In the meantime there is plenty more washing to fold, so I might turn on some load screens and do something useful…

collage_20150614144304906

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s