Ride 4 Review – Enthusiast’s Dream, Newcomer’s Nightmare

Ride 4 opened a pandora’s box of a fandom I never quite expected to find. The developer, Milestone Italy, makes almost exclusively racing games, seemingly exclusively for folks who love racing. MotoGP, MXGP, and Ride are their bread and butter, and if the aforementioned fandom is to be believed, they’re doing a hell of a good job of it. 

Your humble author doesn’t love racing but rather relishes new experiences. As a result, for him, Ride 4 proves a challenging critique. As a tough-as-nails racing simulator that doesn’t give a damn if you understand it as a newbie, I found mostly frustration.

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Ride 4’s complete reliance on racing-game shorthand proved a touch bewildering considering I’d only dabbled in a Forza or Gran Turismo once or twice over my 26 years of gaming. Racing line? Check. Ride assists? Check. In-depth tutorial? Che-wait. Where is it? It’s a bold choice to assume the player understands the nuanced braking and cornering techniques inherent to two-wheeled motorsports. Alas, I did not.

So, diving into Ride 4’s career mode blind of anything resembling competence, I embarked on a series of stock racing trials. I tumbled head-over-handlebars and disqualified myself by going out of bounds innumerable times. 

The reality: three hours in, and I’m real bad at Ride 4. The assists…assisted, but didn’t engender anything resembling decency. This was a me problem. The game controlled appropriately. Turning, braking, and tumbling ass-over-teakettle all occurred in agreement with the laws of physics. The game was responsive and the bikes felt realistically heavy when turning or braking.

Yes, braking. Here’s the dirty little secret about racing games. Like Sonic the Hedgehog, the appeal may be going fast, but the skill is in knowing when and how to slow down. I didn’t. Based on research including joining a MotoGP group, asking a real life bike enthusiast, and watching a Ride 3 tutorial by a wonderful fellow somewhere in The UK, I got a little better. 

Pyrrhic Victory

The rough “idea” of successful bike racing appears to be going as fast as you can, hitting your brakes at the apex of a turn, turning the bike as close to parallel with the pavement as possible while cornering, even out, then doing that all again. As obvious as that sounds to racing game enthusiasts, I still shouted with glorious triumph upon passing the bronze medal time hours after learning this fact. Doing so opening a second license trial, a cornering heavy slalom style speed-test…and I haven’t come close to making time there yet. I’ve hit another wall.

I sampled the other modes, customized a bike, and looked at all the available in-game upgrades I’d never be good enough to equip. I participated in a few exhibition races, my first in the pouring rain I think as both a cruel joke and excuse to show off the new, admittedly pretty, weather engine. It feels like everything a dedicated player could want is here. That’s wonderful in its own way. Rare is the game that gets to ignore everyone but its most dedicated fans. Ride 4 and Kingdom Hearts III share that nature, feeling like a confusing fever dream a new player must research for hours to begin to comprehend. Ride 4 fans, I suspect, are already fans of motorsports, and want all the challenge and mechanical nuance they can handle. It appears to me, they got it.

Ride 4 Review Verdict

Ride 4‘s nuances never clicked for me. Getting better, yes. Clicking? No. The mechanics never became second-nature. I never implemented anything resembling a strategy. I was all left feet in a dancing competition remembering the next three steps. Yet, I enjoyed Ride 4 in a weird, self flagellating way. Measuring triumph half a second at a time sounds cool on a Fast and The Furious poster, but sucks when you need to shave whole seconds off your time to even dream of sniffing the tailpipe of the last place racer in a competitive race. 

Then again that’s also golf. Horrendous frustration walking hand-in-hand with the fleeting invincibility of hard-earned achievement. I love golf. Bike racing…any kind of sim racing in fact, apparently not so much.

Enthusiasts likely already know what they’re getting into, and will find much to enjoy here. The following is strong with this one. General audiences who don’t have hours to devote to simulation bike racing games, or haven’t played a lot of simulation racing games, should avoid Ride 4. The caveat being if you enjoy complex problems and challenging gameplay mechanics. If you emjoy pushing yourself past your comfort zone, and researching niche fandoms for strategies and insight. Then have at it.

Yes, it’s mostly frustrating. So is golf. So is parenthood. With 20-30 more hours of play I might get better, get that gold time trial time, and even become good at Ride 4. But that would mean missing out on that brand new thing just around the corner.

Ride 4 is available now on Xbox One for $49.99. Let us know what you think of our Ride 4 Review, and your thoughts about the game, over on the forums! Make sure to also check out some other recent reviews below:

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