Ridge Racer Unbounded Preview (PS3)

Things aren't looking great for arcade racing games at the moment. Disney closed the Split/Second studio, we all know what happened to Blur and Bizarre Creations... look at the racing genre at the moment, and it's easy to see where the focus is right now. Still, kudos to Namco Bandai for trying to assume the mantle, and what better franchise to do it with Ridge Racer. Say hello to Ridge Racer: Unbounded.

Apart from trying to win, the only other thing you can do is try to destroy the other cars...
Make no mistake though, this isn't the Ridge Racer you're used to. It's been five years since Ridge Racer 7, so in many ways this is a reboot. It's possible that the IP is simply being tacked on top of a generic arcade racer, but however way you see it, this is a new game with some new ideas. Well, not-so-old ideas anyway. The core gameplay is still very much the same, and very simple - You have to race along the rack, using drifting and slip-streaming to gain speed and to fill the power bar, which you can use to ram cars or objects to create shortcuts.

There's not a lot to the game itself, going by the build we've seen so far - they are only showing one track and it's a fairly basic one. It does show off the potential diversity of the levels, and how manic is can be. The best thing about the game so far is how they've almost fully integrated the HUD elements into the environment. Stats, like score and placing etc... are stylishly blended onto walls and background elements as you sore by, and the only elements that remains is the power bar, which is a nice touch we thought.
That's either a stylistic HUD, or those graffiti artists have gone HD...
Handling though is nothing special - there's a long way to go in terms of tweaking and optimisation, and we think the drifting itself could do with some tweaking, but there's not a lot to say here at this early stage. What we will say is that this is very much an arcade game - whilst your car does have 'health' and can get visual damage, the performance of the car never dwindles. Also, you can smash through just about anything, although this will interrupt acceleration. If you're used to DiRT or GT, or at the very least never played Split/Second, you may find this all a bit jarring and... simplistic.

There is also a content creation system as well - with players having the ability to create their own tracks and maps. Using an 8X8 grid, you can place a maximum of 64 blocks down into the space to create your own tack. These blocks are pre-made pieces of track or 'pieces' and while there will be a wide variety, you will not be able to change their basic composition. If a piece as a bridge in it, you cannot alter the length or height of that bridge, and so forth. It's more like creating a track out of the old scalelectrix pieces, as opposed to TrackMania levels of creation. Still, there should be a wide enough variety for you.

Features like short-cuts can also be placed into custom tracks, with each block having a pre-made shortcut feature ( although we don't imagine every block will have a shortcut). The developers are thinking about creating your own shortcuts or blocks, but for the moment you can only use what they give you. Extra blocks for DLC is something they are looking into though. This will all feed into the social hub that's also going to be a part of the game. In this place you can see what your friends are up, and browse and download the latest created tracks.
Do you mind? I'm driving here

Honestly, it's still early days for Unbounded. This games not coming out till next year, and there's painfully little on show right now - we wouldn't be surprised if it slipped. It's going to take something extra special to succeed where others have failed, but then Call of Duty is testament to the power of a name, so who knows. We'll definitely want to go hands on again later down the line with a more complete build, so stay tuned. Ridge Racer: Unbounded is due out on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and for the first time PC, in March 2012.

Most Anticipated Feature: Since we've seen so little of the game, we're going to reserve comment for the time being.

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