At this year’s Play Expo in Manchester, Power Up Gaming managed to sneak in a couple of ride-alongs with two different motorbike racers that will be going head-to-head this year. One was the arcade-inspired Moto Racer 4, while the other was more of a Gran-Turismo-on-two-wheels sort of affair. That game is Ride 2, a racing simulation that offers a wealth of content for bike tinkerers and serious motorheads alike.
Just looking at the feature list for Ride 2 can give you the same heady sensation of huffing petrol fumes in an enthusiast’s workshop. Ride 2 features 174 motorcycles, including 16 modifiable models, and by the time developer Milestone have finished their DLC plans, the game is likely to include more than 230 bikes; an astonishing feat. You can customise a selection of these bikes with over 1200 different parts; and, in addition to that, there are 30 circuits to choose from, featuring real locations such as Donnington. Ride 2 claims to be the most complete bike racing game ever, and with these credentials, it’s a claim that’s difficult to argue against.
For my playthrough, just setting up a Quick Race provided me with the evidence that Ride 2 can be a very in-depth experience. The customisation options for bike selections and specific parts were right there on the menu screen before starting the race, but for the purposes of playing the game on the show floor, I opted for the first bike that was available.
On the track, it’s plain to see that Ride 2 strives for realism. As a result, the action isn’t as frenetic as many bike racing games are, but it does require a certain level of skill to stick to the track. The game displays the optimal racing line on-screen, with blue sections denoting where it is okay to accelerate, and red sections where you really ought to be braking. As a quality of life feature, this gives the uninitiated an opportunity to get used to the handling, while perhaps even veterans may find this useful when they’re trying out a new bike or customisation set-up. Either way, with this prompt clearly visible to players, it didn’t take long for me to get to the grips with the controls, and, considering the AI was set to the lowest difficulty, build up a healthy lead. Undoubtedly, with the racing line turned off and the difficulty cranked up, this would be a much tougher game, but it’s testament to the developers that they’ve taken time to add these features to help beginners find their feet.
In a typically Gran Turismo style, the AI racers appear to stick to their pre-programmed routes and very rarely deviate. However, a couple of times in my playthrough (possibly due to me power-sliding right into the pack), many of the riders were wiped out in horrific collisions on particularly sharp bends. It was rather exciting to see these kinds of pile-ups occurring, especially when trying to purposefully ride straight over the heads of poor, unseated riders in a moment of perverse pleasure. As realistic as the game is, it is still a game, and all the riders find themselves back on their bikes and unscathed in a matter of seconds. It’s probably a step too far to expect the developers to model realistic injuries, operations and extensive physio sessions for months afterwards.
Still, the experience comes across as very authentic. Ride 2 might seem a little dry for those looking for high-octane thrills, especially as the sensation of speed isn’t particularly evident. You can’t even pop a wheelie, or if you can, it isn’t as easy as simply holding back on the left stick. There isn’t a need for such frivolities in Ride 2, and the racing experience is almost free from distractions. This is as down-to-Earth as video games get, giving a sense of maturity to the proceedings.
The physics engine seems to be particularly impressive, as riders can and will come flying off their machines with an errant bump. Rumble strips on the apex of a bend seem to offer more friction, pulling you around corners when you’re in danger of drifting, while momentum can send you flying off-course if you mistime your movement through a chicane. Rider animations also add a layer of realism to the game, even if they all look like identical robots fresh off of a production line. All in all, bikes and riders behave how you would expect, and it would be interesting to try out some of the customisation options to get a feel for how much variance there really is.
The circuits are also astoundingly huge. The track that I tried out was a one-lap race that made the Nürburgring feel like a hula hoop. Closing in on my twelfth minute with no finishing line in sight, I had to abandon my race for fear of an angry uprising from the queues forming behind me at the booth. It’s likely that not all circuits will be on this scale, but it’s worth noting for those who may be looking for longer, more involved endurance races.
Boasting online and local multiplayer, Ride 2 certainly seems to be a robust package. If the simulation is as strong as it first appears, there should be plenty of room to tune up your perfect ride. If that’s what you’ve been waiting for, Ride 2 proves that you don’t have to take your leathers off to have a good time.