Polyphony Digital is best known for Gran Turismo, but it’s easy to forget when the studio made its first and only motorcycle game. That game was Tourist Trophy released way back in 2006. With Polyphony focusing on Gran Turismo, it never got the sequel it deserved. Enter RIDE.
Developed by Milestone, RIDE has come a long way since the series started in 2015. With RIDE 5, the series makes its current-gen console debut. But is it a generational leap forward for the series?
The Gran Turismo of bike games
RIDE has always aspired to be the Gran Turismo of bike games. Considering that Milestone is a much smaller studio than Polyphony Digital, that's a lofty ambition. With RIDE 5, Milestone makes a big step towards achieving that goal.
Gran Turismo's inspiration is not subtle. From the slick menus to the soothing jazz music, RIDE 5’s presentation is strikingly similar. Enter the dealership, and you’ll even find a history lesson on tyre maker Bridgestone that might as well be one of GT7’s Brand Central museums. This gives RIDE 5's presentation a level of polish not seen in previous games.
Whereas Milestone’s MotoGP and Supercross games feature competition-spec machines only, RIDE 5 ’s roster focuses on road bikes. At launch, there are more than 230 licensed motorcycles from 20 manufacturers including BMW, Ducati and KTM. DLC packs are set to increase that number to 270.
Motorcycle enthusiasts will relish the variety on offer, from the BMW M 1000 RR cover star to historic two-strokes. However, Milestone pulls the same trick as Polyphony to pad out the vehicle selection by reusing models from different model years. Even so, you won’t find a broader selection of bikes in any other game.
Take a ride
Bike games are notoriously difficult for newcomers to get to grips with. Like in real life, taming these two-wheeled warriors at high speed takes skill and practice. RIDE 5’s bikes are easier to handle than MotoGP 23 and RiMS Racing, but you’re still punished for mistakes. Hitting other riders or straying onto the grass will send your rider flying off the bike like a ragdoll.
For RIDE 5, Milestone has refined the suspension system, and the bikes behave more naturally as a result. Compared to previous games, there’s a better sense of weight distribution and less understeer when cornering. Bike physics are harder to simulate than car physics, but RIDE 5’s handling feels fluid and intuitive.
Thanks to subtle camera shake effects and wind noise, the sense of speed is excellent – it’s on par with Ride on the Edge 3. Hurtling on a Ducati superbike at 200 mph with the immersive helmet camera is harrowing.
A wealth of assists eases newcomers in, with options to adjust the simulation level assists for accelerating and braking to lower the difficulty. But as is often the case with racing assists, switching them all on makes the game practically control the bike for you. It’s worth taking the time to explore the options to find the right balance.
An opening tutorial race helps you get to grips, but there isn’t any guidance beyond that. Additional tutorials or Gran Turismo-style license tests would help players hone their skills more effectively. Luckily, you can rely on rewinds to correct mistakes.
In terms of tracks, there are 44 circuits to race on, with a mix of real and fictional tracks. Real circuits include Monza, Laguna Seca, and Suzuka. The US Sonoma Raceway road course and Japan's Autopolis also make their RIDE debuts. With underused British tracks like Snetterton, Donnington Park, and the narrow North West 200, the UK is also well represented.
With its tricky turns and tropical scenery, the new Blue Wave circuit is a clear standout. Sadly, this is the only new fictional track, with a handful of circuits returning from past RIDE games such as Kanto. This feels like a missed opportunity as Gran Turismo is renowned for its iconic fictional circuits.
A comprehensive career
RIDE 5’s redesigned career mode is a big step up from its predecessor. Split into four acts, a new Tour mode lets you experience a variety of bike classes and race types, from championships, time attacks, and single races to gruelling endurance races.
Starting with riders running to their bikes, you’ll need to monitor your fuel level and tyre wear to decide when to make a strategic pit stop in endurance. Mercifully, these extended races can now be paused and resumed – a time-saving feature that Ride on the Edge 3 sorely lacks.
On top of this, completing each act unlocks a secondary tier of events known as Limitless Challenges. These optional events have steeper difficulties but higher payouts.
With over 200 events, it’s a comprehensive career that will keep you busy for hours. It puts GT7's limited career to shame. In a nice touch, your headquarters and bike transportation gets more luxurious as you rank up. It’s a minor detail but it adds a sense of progression.
Each act is punctuated with head-to-head challenges where you duel against a rival with a distinct personality. Win the race, and you’ll win their bike. In theory, making opponents feel less like anonymous androids is a great idea, but the execution falls flat.
As you progress through the career, you’ll face ten rivals, shown in a global leaderboard tracking their rankings. Head-to-head challenges introduce your rival with an earnest narrator explaining their backstory. But with no voice acting and stiff character animations, you don’t get a sense of their personality.
You also don’t get a sense of rivalries between opponents beyond their global ranking. MotoGP 23 introduced a fictional social media where opponents react to your performance, but this hasn’t carried over to RIDE 5.
More impressive is the AI. Each rider has a unique riding style that reflects their personality. Some, for example, have no qualms about cutting you up and divebombing into a corner at the last second, while others are more passive. They also take different lines, make mistakes, and react to your track position. RIDE 5’s improved AI makes for some exciting racing in contrast to the robotic opponents in previous games.
Outside the career, a Race Creator lets you create unique scenarios with your own rules. Split-screen multiplayer also returns for the first time in RIDE 2. It’s a welcome addition when what used to be a staple racing game mode is missing in most modern titles – we’re looking at you, Forza Motorsport.
Online multiplayer is also more versatile, with crossplay support on all platforms and an upcoming Race Director mode that lets you alter the starting grid, assign penalties, and ban players.
Leaving last-gen behind
For the first time in the series, RIDE 5 is current-gen-only. Leaving the last-gen PS4 and Xbox One consoles behind was a wise decision because RIDE 5's visual fidelity is a considerable step up.
RIDE has always boasted best-in-class bike models, but the environments looked empty. That's no longer the case in RIDE 5.
With the addition of 3D volumetric clouds, skylines look more realistic and the lighting is vastly improved. Sunsets look stunning, illuminating the track with a golden glow.
RIDE 5 also borrows MotoGP 23's dynamic weather system, with changing weather conditions adding to the drama. Overall performance on PS5 is solid, maintaining a rock-solid 60 fps even with a full grid of bikes battling it out during a heavy rainstorm.
Speaking of PS5, RIDE 5 also makes excellent use of the DualSense controller. Haptic feedback lets you feel the surface of the road, the engine, and exhaust pops through the controller, and you can feel the wheels locking up under hard braking through the adaptive triggers.
With Milestone's official MotoGP and Supercross games, Raceward's Isle of Man TT series, and KT Racing taking over the MXGP series, bike racing game fans have never had it better. RIDE 5 overtakes them all and takes the crown as the best bike game in years.
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