This past week I was able to attend a press event held by Bandai Namco in San Francisco to see several of the publisher’s upcoming games for 2015. Making my way between the various stations for the dozen or so titles on hand, my attention was grabbed by one game in particular: Ride.
Ride is developed by Milestone, an Italian studio based out of Milan, that is famous for its series of games based on the MotoGP motorcycle racing license. While the MotoGP games are quite successful, the studio has decided to create its very first original IP that doesn’t have a direct license associations to it. By this virtue of freedom, it has given Milestone the freedom in their development to increase the game’s scope and create a game that entails every aspect of the biking culture.
Changing to this new approach of freedom has led to a game that can boast a bevy of two-wheeler content that will make any motorcycle enthusiast salivate. Ride includes 114 authentic motorcycles from 14 manufacturers, ranging from brands like Suzuki to Ducati. That huge list goes across four types of available rides for players to choose from: naked bikes, the most basic entry level rides; supersports; superbikes and historic bikes, iconic vehicles from earlier times.
Customization plays a huge factor into this long list of real motorcycles that players have at their tips. “This is like a Forza for motorcycles,” said David Bonacci, Brand Manager at Bandai Namco, as he walked me through the game. It’s comparison that is hard to argue with as users can earn new parts and make all sorts of tweaks and changes to make their ride exactly as desired. Need more torque? No problem. The best part is that most of these customizations can be made with authentic parts, as Milestone has secured the rights to use the names of special brake components and other components that will surely make even the biggest motorheads smile from ear-to-ear.
After fully fleshing out a bike users can expect the usual circuits and grandstand style racing that they have grown accustomed to, but Ride also gives the freedom to enjoy new avenues to nourish the need for speed. Outdoor tracks are making their debut with locations like the foothills of Sierra Nevada and the countryside of Britain, with meticulously detailed cities from across the United States and Europe as options as well.
All of this is wrapped up in a package that places new emphasis on online multiplayer and social interaction. While you can compete with up to 12 people online simultaneously, the real draw here is “moto clubs.” Moto clubs are essentially Ride’s version of clans that can compete in virtual events worldwide that players host. For these clan competitions, Milestone has added a new “ghosting” feature that will track and remember club members past performances and create a ‘ghost’ version of that player to compete in events even when they are not available.
I was able to play a short three lap race on the brand new Sierra Nevada map on a Suzuki GSX R1000 superbike – one of the Ride’s higher tier motorcycles. Bonacci warned me that this particular bike could be “a little bit swirly,” as it is meant to be a vehicle that players earn after mastering naked bikes and supersports. I soon learned his meaning as I tragically crashed on my first turn.
After a little adjustment, I was capable of not crashing at every turn and was making my way around the desert hills in no time, albeit very slowly. Ride tends heavily toward simulation, so moving my rider’s weight on the cycle mattered when making quick turns and stalling my Suzuki was a real possibility. Going full throttle on the bike before the race starts like Mario Kart leads to embarrassing results like flipping my rider over the handle bars. Even more complications can be added if I were to be using a manual ride instead of one that was automatic.
To help with easing players into this more hardcore style of racing, Milestone has included a convenient replay feature for the game. At any point during the race I could simply press a button to rewind the game and choose a spot where I desired to start again. This let me undo terrible crashes and learn from my mistakes to get gradually better as I played, an excellent learning tool to make me better for competing online in moto club events and other challenge game modes.
The whole experience made Ride feel very much like a Gran Turismo equivalent for motorcycle lovers. Some wonky bugs aside, like disappearing riders, and slightly underwhelming graphics compared to the class of new car games like Driveclub were my only qualms in my brief hands-on with the game. I never knew Ride was a game that I’d want and has left me wondering where this seemingly wonderful motorcycle sim has been all this time that I’ve been playing video games.
Ride is expected to launch sometime in the spring of 2015, with a digital release on PS3, Xbox 360 and Steam for PC with physical copies available for PS4 and Xbox One.