It’s obvious that the developers at Milestone S.r.l have a deep passion for motorcycles of all types. Ride 2 attempts to be a very thorough love letter to the two wheeled machines with details galore.
All the large motorcycle manufacturers (BMW, Ducati, Kawasaki) are presents with tons of bikes to choose from, customize and gawk at. The physics of racing give a heightened version of what easing into a tight corner might be like. Things get so meticulous that you can even adjust the angle of your riders bike leans, arm extensions, and so forth.
The risk of focusing on the minutiae is the chance that gameplay might get overlooked or overshadowed. Ride 2 luckily does put a lot of thought and effort into the racing sections of the game. Once again there are a lot of nuances with the racing options (physics settings, adjustable brakes, optimal riding trails) which means that any individual player can tinker until they find the balance they like.
Unfortunately there are two main areas that hold the game back from going full throttle. The first is the poor explanation of the mechanics and settings within the game’s sprawling menus. The second is the feeling of déjà vu that starts to creep up after a number of hours of playing. Neither of these issues are deal breakers but they do stand out the more you play.
While Ride 2 is mainly a racing game, there are a few other ‘genres’ hidden within. The ability to mod your bike and your attire make this a character customization heaven for those who spend more time on their protagonist than the actual quest.
The modifications to the motorcycles also noticeably affect your racing abilities. With a number of skills to increase, the title can quickly become a meta-game of stats management.
However, there are limits to the bikes (and parts) you can use for certain races and trials. Adding better equipment ups your motorcycle’s PP and there are PP caps for most modes. I found that I generally bought the best bike I could afford, entered a race, didn’t place in the top three, used my winnings to soup up my ride, and repeat.
While it was nice to revisit tracks and demolish my competition, I felt I was only “improving” through buying equipment — literal pay-to-win. The difficulty in Ride 2 is hard to pin down. There are five different difficulty settings and then a number of other options (like the ability to have a highlighted path to show you where to start into a turn) that further alter the challenge.
There’s also the super addictive rewind option. This isn’t just for replays as you can literally go back and fix your (many) mistakes. It’s easy to add a few minutes to a race by giving into your inner perfectionist and nail that sharp corner. I honestly rarely turned this feature off since I felt it was the only way to learn the mechanics in lieu of a comprehensive tutorial.
Ride 2 adopts a ‘figure it out yourself’ mentality pretty early on. The first race you enter gives an overview of the different controls and that’s about it for guidance. There are pop-ups from time to time to explain the different modes but these are pretty boilerplate and really, really don’t get into the nitty gritty of the numerous options in all the menus.
This would all be well and good for a simplistic arcade race game but this is the complete opposite of that style. There are two buttons for two separate types of brakes, there’s a button for leaning with turns, you can go into manual gearing. Even when not set to ‘realistic’, the physics are precise and unforgiving.
This is definitely a game that takes a lot of hours to master, like Gran Turismo. And while there’s plenty of details to get lost in as you play more and more, the issues with tracking difficulty and skill that I outlined above makes progression still feel like a chore.
I know I’ve improved in my hours of playing but I just don’t know by how much. The mechanics of turns are still shrouded in mystery and I find myself still fiddling with different buttons (two brakes, lean in, acceleration) to try and pull off the most effective cornering.
I played around with the different gameplay settings in the beginning but it just got confusing mixing their vague effects together. Some of them made me better one race but then bumped me down a number of spots the next time. I guess the real way to learn things is to use the mixed blessing that is the rewind feature. There were times that I felt grinding the same stretch over and over was actually making me better… mostly.
Speaking of the grind and improving, the push to get better bikes and equipment can get frustrating. As I said before, you usually have to upgrade your bike to make any headway in races. This means earning credits by challenging the computer or other players for first place or taking part in time trials.
There are plenty of tracks to choose from and, while a few do really stand out design wise, I found selecting the shortest route and constantly repeating laps for a better time was the best way to earn money. I was experimental with how I played the game at the beginning but the grinding really did take away my urge to explore the different bikes and modes.
This plays into Ride 2’s biggest sin: it can get boring. To its credit, I was pretty entertained for most of my trip down the motorcycle rabbit hole, but the repetition eventually got to me.
There are definitely a lot of things to keep you distracted like daily and weekly challenges, tournaments, seasonal events, invitationals, new bikes to win and unlock. Unfortunately these expansive modes seem like window dressing as the core gameplay stays mostly the same: race, try to understand the controls and physics, get more credits, buy better bikes, and do it all over again.
The more interesting parts of the game came with mixing up the formula a little. The addition of rain with it’s slippery controls made for some entertaining runs. There were also a few tracks turned into pylon obstacle courses which became a fun struggle to capture gold.
The Multiplayer in Ride 2 unfortunately contained some of the staleness from the single player. The lack of lower level matches didn’t help this either. You can select the power that the motorcycles can go up to and when you’re first starting out, you’re pretty low on the totem pole. It seemed like everyone had incredibly souped up bikes and a lot of people stayed away from the lower end races.
When I did find a lobby, the experiences were quite smooth for an online game. Granted, a lot of the runs were filled with more AI than human players, but I was impressed with the lack of lag or issues.
The one thing that did slow things down was loading times. While they’re consistent in single player, the multiplayer somehow made them even worse. There’s about 3 screens that you have to sit through while the match is prepared and each time you race the whole process starts up again.
This was frustrating when I finally did find a match and then had to wait forever for it to start. And on a few select instances, a few of my opponents would drop out and I’d lose all that progress.
Ride 2 might become lackluster at times but it still looks gorgeous. The motorcycles are the stars here and it’s obvious that a lot of work was put into getting them down right to the last detail. You can see the reflections of the chrome and the individual links on the chains.
While you’re waiting for a race to start or browsing your current garage collection, the camera will swoop all over showing off every inch of the motorcycle. Unfortunately the character models don’t get the same level of love as the bikes.
They don’t look bad and you can customize the attire of your rider, but all the humans end up looking the same. From the cheering and waving from members of the crowd to the awkward wipe-outs, the movements of these characters are pretty stiff as well. Then again, they aren’t the stars of the Ride 2.
Environments are nicely varied with racetracks, forests, vistas, and mountains. The backgrounds generally look very nice with buildings in particular standing out as impressive. Of course, zipping by the scenery make it difficult to appreciate them and it doesn’t do enough to cut down on the repetition of some of the races.
The sound design makes the game feel ‘classy’ for lack of a better word. The music tracks are appropriate and energetic without being too showy. The sound effects capture the feeling of soaring down an empty roadway nicely. There’s even a well-spoken female voice that introduces new features and challenges and acts as the closest thing you get to a guide in this game. Of course, to make things even more spiffy, she’s British.
So this love letter to motorcycle culture ends up being really exciting from the first read through, and even the second and third. But the more time you spend with it, the more you see how the homage contains too much sparkly, surface level stuff. The bikes are pretty and they’re complicated under the hood, but they can be used so many ways.
And it takes a lot of monotonous grinding to get to the higher level bikes and even then you have to earn even more credits to improve them enough so you can start to win races.
This would’ve been more exciting a process for me if the controls and various gameplay toggles were explained properly and I felt a sense of progression. Unfortunately, the learn-by-trial often left me confused as if I was actually playing the ‘right way’.
For motorcycle enthusiasts, Ride 2 is a perfect fit. It’s got a lot of details packed in there that only those who know their hogs will appreciate. Fans of complex racing games like Gran Turismo will probably appreciate the complexity and realism of the controls of the game but will probably be a little disappointed with the limits of the content.
For people such as myself who fall in the middle, the title acts as a nice distraction to pick up and play everyone once in awhile. The racing element is bogged down with all the minutiae and it’s hard to get really into everything without becoming frustrated. Too much detail in the wrong area can cause even the nicest ride to become bumpy and unpleasant.