I didn’t expect a whole lot from Unbounded as the last couple of Ridge Racer titles left me with a bad impression. The most recent disappointment was Ridge Racer for the PS Vita. The game felt incomplete and lacked of content, which really damaged the series for me. However, upon playing Unbounded for the PlayStation 3, I felt as if my faith in the Ridge Racer series might have been restored. While the series still has a way to go, Ridge Racer: Unbounded shows a bright future for the Ridge Racer series.
One huge thing that I found awkward with Unbounded was the lack of feedback of what exactly the game was trying to be. With Gran Turismo, the game was specifically designed as a simulator and with Need for Speed, this is a series that has always been set-up as an arcade racer. With Unbounded, while yes it was an arcade racer, the fact that it felt so different made it hard for me to get into at first. If there’s one racing game on the market that Unbouned could be compared to then it’s Burnout: paradise, though minus the free roam option. The game features a vast amount of destruction, which at first I didn’t quiet enjoy. It felt like it was something that was just tacked on and used to add more cinema to the game, however as time went on I began to slowly fall in love with this feature.
While it’s not as robust as Burnout Paradise when it comes to destruction, I have to admit it’s still fun driving around towns and blowing small sections of it up. The visuals are actually surprisingly well done, and never once was there an issue with the frame-rate during these sequences. Watching buildings collapse and cars catching on fire is all enjoyable, especially when they slow down at certain moments to add more of a cinematic effect. This felt like a way of rewarding the player for their actions, which I’ll explain later on, but for now, I’ll discuss controls and mechanics.
I’m not to familiar with the Ridge Racer series, but if casual is the norm for the series then this is what Unbounded follows. Not saying that it’s a bad thing as this allows easy accessibility for anyone, but for those who are looking for something a bit more challenging I don’t see Unbounded being a title for you as you’ll most likely breeze right through it. Anyway I can’t argue that there was anything wrong with the controls aside from drifting, which could have been better explained or tweaked as many times I found myself spinning out, but otherwise the controls felt pretty satisfying and easy to learn. One thing about the gameplay that fans would appreciate is the “Power” feature.
Think of it as your boost or NOS system. Basically you are rewarded for the way you drive. Actions such as driving fast, tailing another driver, causing damage, and drifting all reward you with some points to fill up the power meter. Once this meter is filled there are many different actions that can be taken. Either you can use your Power as a boost to catch up or gain more distance between other racers, or you can use it as a way to destroy structures and “FRAG” other racers. When your Power meter is full, on-screen aids will appear and indicate which structures can be destroyed. Destroying structures will allow you to create useful shortcuts that can be used to your advantage later on in the races. To “FRAG” another racer, all you have to do is use your Power right behind them and it will instantly destroy the other vehicle (though they’ll re-spawn) . Typically when I play racing games where I can destroy other vehicles I don’t really use it to my advantage, yet the developers behind Unbounded have created a system where it’s actually enjoyable to do so and doesn’t feel like you’ll be penalized for actions that would normally be considered bad. In fact here I felt like the more damage I caused the better the outcome. It’s a great way to feel rewarded for causing enough chaos, which in a sense falls into the plot of the story.
The plot to the game isn’t really much to go on. Before you even start the game there’s a small sequence that will fill you in on the back story of rival gangs fighting for dominance in Shatter Bay. Your main role is to take control over districts found throughout Shatter Bay until you reach the final level. I wouldn’t call it much of a story, but it is a racing title and the main focus is gameplay. Either way, the career will take you through a complete 30 ranks and through the five game-modes that are currently available.
Aside from your basic racing mode, time attacks, and drift mode, Unbounded introduces a different type of mode that I have never seen in a racing genre. The mode is called FRAG mode, and like I described FRAG previously, this mode will require you to destroy specific amounts of vehicles. This is by far my favorite game-mode available in the game as it’s a nice break from your normal racing mode, and honestly it’s just plain fun driving in a huge monster vehicle causing havoc all across town.
So aside from career and a multiplayer mode, Unbounded also offers one more little surprise that I wished more games supported. The game implements a full custom track editor that allows you to edit and create your own race tracks. You can do a huge amount of track editing here, though you are limited with a budget meter AKA the usage meter. Otherwise you’re free to add whatever you earned from campaign mode, and after your done editing your track you can share your “Cities” as they’re called, with anyone around the world. Though I haven’t spent to much time with this feature, since I’m not really into creating my own content, the fact that there’s nearly an endless amount of tracks available means that this game can strive on for a very long time and has a huge amount of replay value added to it.
I have to say Unbounded surprised me in more ways then expected. While in a sense it isn’t that huge of a title compared to the big dogs, Unbounded is still overall a great game and should be welcomed into the racing community. With great visuals, stable online system, and a user generated content feature, Ridge Racer: Unbounded has somewhat restored my faith in the Ridge Racer series. I only hope that this means that Ridge Racer will continue to improve from here on out.
For more information on how we review games check out our criteria here. A copy of this title was provided to The Paranoid Gamer by the publisher for review purposes. If you have any questions about this game the reviewer will be able to answer them in the comment section.