Riders Republic Review | Free to Ride

Riders Republic Review

Back in college, I had a phase where I would watch extreme sports videos on YouTube, mainly ones where someone on a mountain bike would take dangerously narrow paths down steep hills, but I also dabbled in watching high-velocity downhill races that left me wondering how it must feel to be going so fast knowing that at any moment the smallest bump could change everything. Well, thanks to Riders Republic, I can now confidently say that it would be a total adrenaline rush. And thanks to my sane sensibilities, this is as close as I will get to the recreating videos I used to watch.

Riders Republic is a massive multiplayer extreme sports playground that lets you travel by land, air, mud, and snow across its sizeable map which consists of various national parks smashed together. The game does have a career mode, though, much like in Forza Horizon and Need for Speed, it's mainly there just to motivate you to complete some races. On that note, I think a comparison with Forza Horizon is very appropriate here because I honestly haven't had this much fun in a non-action adventure game since Forza Horizon 4. Riders Republic wants you to have fun and explore while dozens of other players zoom and crash past you. This is one of the best games that the genre has seen in years and there's enough variety in the game to keep players entertained for hours on end.

Riders Republic and the Freedom of Play

This is due in large part to the gameplay and the freedom that Riders Republic gives to the player. You will need to play through the opening few tutorial races before you have all the main equipment unlocked but after that the game lets you navigate the map however you see fit. Though the controls aren't the most intuitive, they never really stopped me from playing, and there are three different control types available, with the third that Steep players will be familiar with, so mastering the playstyle that's right for you will take some time. As I played Riders Republic, I would often find myself drifting away from the objective to just ride my bike through the countryside, and, unlike other games where going off the road would usually be followed by a crash, I will gladly ride my bike off the edge of a cliff and start plummeting towards the ground until at the very last second I switch to a squirrel suit and glide through the air, just feet from the ground. Again, these are things I would never do in real life, but thanks to the first-person view, I get close to the fun without the risk to personal health.

If you do decide to focus on the career mode, you will have to complete smaller races scattered throughout the map to prove your worth until you qualify for an event. Your goal is to get invited to a boss event where you can really prove yourself as a rider. The races tracks are well crafted and at times they can feel near impossible, but that only makes it more satisfying when you do cross the finish line. The game has Need for Speed 2015 style writing with characters that try to sound cool to an awkward degree. Luckily, they mostly become background noise as you continue to play. Riders Republic does have a fast travel system that lets you load near any race on the map. The keyword there is near. When you choose a race marker and fast travel to it, you will spawn into the map within a 5000-meter radius. This means you still have to ride to the objective as you won't spawn right on top of it. And on the way from where you drop to the objective, there are a ton of items to distract you like lookout points to visit and collectibles to pick up. The game also has an intuitive waypoint marker system that lets you set a waypoint marker on the map without stopping the gameplay. If you're riding in a certain direction, the compass on the top of the screen will show anything interesting on the map in front of you and with a simple click of the L3, you can set it as your destination.

Riders Republic Gameplay

Then there's the topic of the massive multiplayer aspect of Riders Republic. Yes, as you race around in the game you will see dozens of other players around you. And yes, these are actually other players. However, that doesn't mean they are all playing at that very moment. Riders Republic uses player ghosts to populate its game world, meaning that there will always be people riding around the map with you. This is smart not just because the blend of real players and player ghosts makes the whole experience feel more collaborative, but it also ensures that queue times for races are short. Other than mass races, which are events that pop up throughout the day that pit 64 players against each other in races, regular races in solo start immediately and the game fills the track with ghosts of players who are at a similar level to you. And if you do want to team up with friends or play online, the game is cross-platform so players across all consoles can play together.

In any game of this size and scale, some bugs are to be expected and Riders Republic is no exception. However, my only real gripe with the game is some muddy visuals and texture pop-in that are most noticeable when flying around the map in a rocketwing. I played the game on the PlayStation 5 and despite that infrequent graphical hiccup, like the VHS rewind filter that appears when you rewind your character in the game staying on the screen even after you are out of the rewind mode, the game looked good. There is something to be said about riding in the game during certain times of the day, like when the sun is just about to go down and the golden hour light fills the map with an orange glow. While it may not make you want to stop and stare as you race past trees and rocks and foliage it won't ever take you out of the experience.

The sound design overall is spot on with no specific sound effects that drew me out of the game. I am not an expert on bikes and snowboards, but there was nothing in Riders Republic that made me second guess the sound I just heard. The game does have a radio that plays music while you ride but I found it better to turn off the radio and play my own playlists from Spotify. From bike races with music by Doja Cat to shredding down the slopes with the score of Dune by Hans Zimmer, I could endlessly ride around the map without getting bored. This isn't to say the in-game music is bad, and the radio does play some catchy songs, but I found the power of the aux being in my hands made for an even better experience.

Riders Republic is Steep but Better

With all that said, I do have one caveat to make. I was a big fan of Steep and for a period of two weeks in 2018 I played a ton of Ubisoft's previous open-world sports game. However, I stopped playing the game due to repetitive gameplay and lack of content. Riders Republic already counters the first point with an even wider selection of equipment to use which will make it take longer for the gameplay loop to get old. Then there's the point about the lack of content. As of now, Ubisoft plans to have a lot of post-launch content with the Year One roadmap showing quite a lot of cool DLC drops. And not all of it is locked behind the Year One Pass with free updates also planned throughout. This all sounds promising, and timely delivery of content paired with community-created races, can help the game have some longevity, but continued support for the game from Ubisoft as it enters its first season and onward is essential in keeping the game alive. Based on the positive remarks of nerds who review games on the internet (like me) on my timeline to the fans who are already passionate about the game, there is a strong community forming around Riders Republic and, with good care, it can thrive for many years to come.

If you are reconsidering your previous stance on the game after reading all my thoughts, I want you to know that Riders Republic is not for everyone and if you're not someone who enjoys this genre of games, then don't force yourself to play it. My friend and team member, Austin, played Riders Republic for a few hours during the Trial Week prior to launch and in the same amount of time for me to fall in love with the game, he said he found himself getting bored. And I don't think any number of on-the-fly switching of equipment can change his mind on that. However, as a fan of Steep and Forza Horizon, I think Riders Republic is a great game that remains engaging, not because of a well-crafted narrative, but thanks to freedom of play that puts your fate in your own hands. If you still want to pick up Riders Republic then I'll have you know that the game is out now on PlayStation 4 (with free upgrade to next-gen), PlayStation 5, Xbox One (with free upgrade to next-gen), Xbox Series X|S, PC via Ubisoft Store and Epic Games Store, and Stadia. I'll see you on the mountainside soon. A big thanks to Ubisoft for providing a review code for the PlayStation 5.

Riders Republic | 7 | Good

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