Ridge Racer Unbounded • Page 2

Crash course. 

The cars have been designed well to that effect. They have the boisterous naiveté of a child's crayon sketch of a car, lending the garage a playful robustness that's handy when you're throwing the cars at the scenery every second.

More importantly, they're squat, powerful wedges that feel like they've got a purpose - only, in this particular game, that purpose is smashing through concrete. By their very childlike design they urge you to hurl them at the nearest solid object.

Their handling's also more tactile and more physical than you'd expect of a Ridge Racer game. Drifts are teased out with a dedicated button, and once commenced their momentum is tricky to keep in check. Three flavours of car are available in the early bulid; one that's heavy on traction and maintains a sensible line while cornering, one that's a happy middle ground and another, extreme car that's best driven sideways.

It's when manhandling a car at impossible angles that one of those fleeting glimpses of the brand that's been awkwardly stamped on Unbounded shines through. The drifting's one link to the series, and Joonas Laakso, Unbounded's producer, suggests there are many more.

"We tried to incorporate as much as we can, but nothing is direct," says Joonas, a self-confessed Ridge Racer fan who screamed with excitement when he realised he'd be working on such a beloved franchise. "Basically, we took what we know about Ridge Racer - Namco didn't come to us and say 'you need this and this and this' - and we tried to incorporate as much as we possibly can."

"But all of that has been reinterpreted. We had to have drifting, but what are we going to do with that? Ridge Racer drifting doesn't play nice with real world physics, so what are we going to do? That forced us to come up with something new, which I welcomed."

It's new, yes, and Bugbear constantly reminds us that this isn't Ridge Racer 8 but rather a novel offshoot. It's hard to hide a suspicion that Unbounded is a Bugbear game first and a Ridge Racer one second, and that the iconic name was slapped on in an attempt to leverage some of the long-running series' appeal. It's a suspicion that Joonas doesn't quite dispel, though he does put up a convincing argument that Unbounded's doing enough to justify its name.

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There's a neat sense of humour running through the game: statues of the city's founder, William Shatter, are scattered around. Strike off his bonce and there's a headshot bonus to be had.

"Namco came to us," he confirms. "But was there a Ridge Racer before there was any sort of car game? I can't say. Obviously there are Bugbear genes in there, and some of the technology there are bits and pieces from FlatOut. We're 11 years old, so there's legacy there. We were working on a car game, but it was not like it was FlatOut 3 and we decided to make it Ridge Racer. All the cars and tracks have been purpose-built for this game."

It's those Bugbear genes that still shine brightest in Unbounded's strange genetic makeup - though that's no bad thing. It's brash, boisterous and, true to the FlatOut games, punishingly difficult, though there are some choice pickings from Ridge Racer in its presentation and style. And the inspiration runs much, much deeper too.

"I've a completely different mind-set for Unbounded," says Joonas. "In the FlatOut games you were mostly avoiding failure, and now we're trying to reward you for what you do, which is a polar opposite thing in terms of game design principles. In that sense, it's going to feel very different."

Different it most definitely is. It's not Ridge Racer in the traditional sense, but it is a smart, slick and well-produced arcade racer with an unbridled sense of fun - and that's enough to ensure that Unbounded can take on the Ridge Racer mantle with pride.

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About the author

Martin Robinson

Martin Robinson

Features and Reviews Editor

Martin is Eurogamer's features and reviews editor. He has a Gradius 2 arcade board and likes to play racing games with special boots and gloves on.

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