Since it was founded in 2016, Raceward Studios has specialised in bike games. Now part of the new Nacon Milan division and made up of more than 55 people, Raceward’s first foray into bike games was RiMS Racing, an uncompromising bike simulation with state-of-the-art physics.
Now, with KT Racing working on Test Drive Unlimited Solar Crown, the TT Isle of Man series has been handed over to Raceward. With a new team at the helm, Raceward is taking TT Isle of Man in a surprising new direction in Ride on the Edge 3.
RacingGames was invited to Nacon Milan for a hands-on preview with an early build of TT Isle of Man – Ride on the Edge 3.
Open Roads changes everything
Ride on the Edge 3’s new standout feature is Open Roads, allowing you to freely ride around the Isle of Man. Although Ride on the Edge 2 also featured free roaming, it was a standalone mode connecting fictional tracks set in Ireland.
In Ride on the Edge 3, the open world is seamlessly integrated into the career mode. It's a surprising an ambitious addition that totally transforms the experience.
“Our approach for TT3 is to make the island a protagonist,” explained Fabio Respighi, Head of Design. “We thought it’s messy to have circuits outside the island – we want players to feel like they are part of the real-life event.”
Raceward worked with the local government to recreate 200km of open roads based on real Isle of Man locations – a process that took around a year and a half.
“When we told them about our new approach to make the island a protagonist in the game, they were very happy because at the same time they are making the same approach in the real event. In the next year they are approaching the event in a more social way.”
“We started analysing the real map of the island to identify suitable roads for motorbike racing, because not all roads are like Snaefall. We made some adjustments for a gameplay purpose because some roads aren’t suitable for a race."
"But only very little changes – they’re not laser scanned but very close to the real roads on the island. If you go to the TT you will know how to drive around the island thanks to our open roads.”
With no landmarks or challenges to complete, Ride on the Edge 2’s free roam mode felt redundant. In contrast, as you explore the winding mountain roads and narrow streets in Ride on the Edge 3, the map is filled with points of interest, activities, and challenges to discover.
Outside of career season events, you can take on optional face-off and time attack challenges, visit the inspection bay to refuel or upgrade your bike, or set up custom events. These optional challenges need to be discovered on the map before you can enter them, encouraging exploration.
Completing events or challenges earns experience points to increase your online ranking in leaderboards as well as points to upgrade components. Just about every component can be upgraded in the service area including the engine, chassis, tyres, transmission, brakes, suspension, shock absorber, and fuel tank.
Conversely, career events can be started at any time – you can start and finish a season without ever exploring the map. There’s plenty of customisability too as time and weather effects can also be adjusted on the fly.
Within the island, Raceward has created eight race circuits including the full Snaefall Mountain Course. Every circuit can be raced in full or split into sections for a total of 32 tracks.
In addition, you can also race on the historic St. Johns and Clypse circuits as well as the iconic Laxey road. As you explore, you’ll also learn about the Tourist Trophy’s illustrious history in free roam. “Our mission is to teach players about the island, the tourist trophy, and the riders of the tourist trophy,” said Respighi.
Open worlds in racing games are nothing new, but it’s a fresh approach for bike racing games. With no traffic roaming the streets, the environment felt empty at times, but this non-linear structure helps make Ride on the Edge 3 accessible to newcomers. It’s effectively a training ground for the main Tourist Trophy event preparing you to tackle the terrifying Snaefall Mountain Course.
Tackling the TT
In the career, you have to qualify before you’re allowed to take on the terrifying Tourist Trophy. At over 37 miles long, it’s one of the most dangerous and demanding road races in the world.
Ride on the Edge 2’s fully laser-scanned Snaefall Mountain course returns in the third game, updated with new textures and a darker, moodier art direction.
On PS5, there was some noticeable scenery pop-in and occasional slowdown. Since the build we played is a work-in-progress, there’s still time for Raceward to add more polish before release.
One man who knows the Tourist Trophy better than most is real-life TT rider Davey Todd. Racing for Honda since 2018, Todd used the first Ride on the Edge game as a training tool to learn the challenging course. “I played it so much that I was second on the world leaderboard just before the TT in 2018. It helped me learn the course well,” he said.
While the visual changes are minor, Ride on the Edge 3’s physics engine has been rebuilt from RiMS Racing. Unlike in Ride on the Edge 2, rider assists like traction control, ABS, engine brake and anti-wheelie system can be adjusted in-game by tapping the d-pad, allowing you to create your own custom difficulty level.
Compared to RIMS Racing, Respighi tells us Ride on the Edge 3's physics are less complex and more user-friendly. But even with all assists on, taming these superbikes is very tricky – especially if you primarily play car racing games.
“The problem is that many players think like a car. They need to understand that a motorbike is different. For example, when you are turning in a car you can brake without a problem. But on a motorbike, if you are leaning and you brake or shift, you’ll fall.“
Admittedly, we had countless crashes while riding around the island. The superbikes feel heavier than the last game, but the intuitive controls mean you learn from mistakes.
Whenever we crashed, it was always our own fault for approaching a corner too fast, hitting a curb, or applying the throttle or brakes too liberally. “It’s all about being smooth on the controls – it’s the same in real life,” Todd explains.
“You lean, brake, and accelerate smoothly. If you do everything like a switch, you crash - that’s also what happens in real life. If you’ve got a good feel for a bike in real life, it slides a little bit. If you’re quick enough, you can catch it and correct it.”
Raceward worked with Todd to make the physics true-to-life for enthusiasts, yet approachable for casual gamers. “Within five minutes of playing Ride on the Edge 3, I crashed twice and had a massive grin on my face. The developers asked ‘why are you smiling you keep crashing?’ I said ‘honestly, that is impressive.’”
“Both times it’s exactly right why I should crash: once because I accelerated too hard and it would slide out, and I went into a corner too fast and held the brake while leaning. That’s exactly what should happen. Often in games, you can do things you can’t in real life, but I think this is so much closer to the real thing in realistic mode.”
As you hurtle past the scenery at 200 mph, the sense of speed is superb. Our only gripe is that Ride on the Edge 2's loud wind noise as your speed increased is noticeably quieter. Engines sound more visceral with prominent exhaust pops, and you can also race with optional in-game music when exploring the Isle of Man, unlike the last game.
When Ride on the Edge 2 launches on 11 May, it will only include riders and liveries from the 2022 championship. This is because the 2023 TT starts a few weeks after the game launches. With nine former TT winners returning for the 2023 season, Ride on the Edge 3 will receive a free update on 23 September adding the 2023 roster of riders and liveries.
No plans for VR support
Sadly, one thing Ride on the Edge 3 won’t have is VR support for PC or PSVR 2. Gran Turismo 7 set new standards for VR racing on PSVR2, but VR bike racing games remain a rarity. While experiencing the TT in VR sounds exhilarating, VR is harder to adapt to bike racing than car racing.
When driving a car, you’re sat in a fixed position in-game and in real life. Racing with a steering wheel peripheral also tricks your brain into thinking you’re moving for maximum immersion.
That’s harder to achieve on a motorbike because the rider moves with the bike. If you're sat down in real life but moving in the game, the disconnect increases the risk of motion sickness.
There’s a lot of demand for VR support in Ride on the Edge 3, and while it was considered, Respighi thinks we need a dedicated bike controller that simulates the rider’s movement before bike games make the jump to VR.
“Even if you lock the camera, the movement of the bike is completely different to a car. This is a problem for motion sickness so it’s not as easy to implement,” he said. “We hope someone can make a motion simulator.”
With redesigned physics, new accessibility options, and an expansive open world, Ride on the Edge 3 is shaping up to be the biggest shakeup to the TT Isle of Man series yet and one of the best surprises of the year.
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