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PlayStation 3 Review: Ridge Racer Unbounded

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Since its release in May of 2010, Blur has, hands down, been my favorite arcade racer.  Oh sure, you have people who like Split/Second better and in my heart, Nail’d has been a close second to Blur, but there’s something about the Activision release which just does it for me.  However, with the release of Ridge Racer Unbounded, Blur may have lost the top spot.

We will not delving into the specific differences here between this new Ridge Racer and traditional Ridge Racer, suffice to say that new title isn’t the same old thing (not that the same old thing is bad).  Unbounded, certainly an arcade-style title, has a whole lot of destruction going on in addition to fast speeds, beautiful cars, good drifting, and is a great deal of fun.

Well, now that you have a basic overview of what makes it awesome, I find myself a little unsure of how to discuss the specifics.  The game operates as car racing titles tend to do – you start off being able to play one race with one vehicle, complete the race, earn XP for performing certain tasks (fragging cars, drifting, destroying buildings), and consequently unlock more stuff. 

There are a whole lot of cars and levels to unlock, with seven different races in each area of Shattered Bay, the city where the game takes place.  There are also a whole lot of different race types, from straight-up win and destroy other cars to drifting contests to timed events.  Different races allow for different cars to be used, and throughout the whole thing you’re constantly earning XP and unlocking more stuff – it is a very fulfilling setup.

Unlike a Blur or other destruction-oriented racer, your only real weapon here is your car.  Perform enough tricks (getting air, drifting, drafting, destroying stuff, etc.) and you get a power boost which you can utilize to run into other cars or destroy bigger and better things.  That in turn gets you more points so you can do more damage, which in turn, well, you get it.

So, that last paragraph holds true except for the bits where it doesn’t.  Just when you’re getting the hang of things, Unbounded tosses in a race where you’re not allowed to destroy buildings or cars or anything fun like that and when you try you’re going to get yourself in hot water.  Or, as much hot water as you can get in, because the game constantly gives you new cars.  You may not win after crashing, but you certainly can still earn a lot of XP and level yourself up.

As for fragging other cars, there’s a great reason besides XP you’ll want to do that.  In Unbounded, there are some turns which are a little hard to make, and if you frag a car you get to watch it blow up in slow motion, and during that little out-of-car experience your vehicle still moves forward, even taking turns without your worrying about them.  It isn’t that the controls in general and turns in specific are as hard as all that—it really is often just a matter of jamming the accelerator and not letting go—but it’s still nice to not always have to worry.

Despite taking place in an urban setting, the courses still manage to be varied and exciting.  They come complete with shortcuts that might either be through a building or down a back alley, and everything comes at you terribly quickly.

Honestly, it’s this last thing which really is crucially important to the title.  In addition to all the courses, cars, objectives, and styles of races the game has, the sense of speed it gives off is wonderful.  You are in control of your car and what it does, but whatever you’re having it do, it does it quickly and the other cars respond quickly as well.

Ridge Racer Unbounded is a fast, frantic, freewheeling (excuse the alliteration) arcade racer.  It provides all the speed for which fans of the genre jones and just about everything else you could want. 

Well, you see, I say that and I don’t think I’m wrong, but you’re assuredly going to find folks out there in the peanut gallery who jump up and down and say “What about Motorstorm:  ApocalypseNail’dBlur? Split/Second? Any of those other arcade racers?  Okay, you get a very mediocre track editor here and traditional online options, that’s not what puts this over the top, why do you love it so?”  And that’s where I come back to my statement above about not being quite sure what else to say.  I didn’t like MotorStorm:  Apocalypse, I feel like Nail’d gets a little silly after a while.  I’ve played Unbounded until my hand has locked in a death grip around my controller (more than once).  There is something about the speed, graphics, and smoothly controlled yet out of control experience of Ridge Racer Unbounded that puts it ahead of those other titles.

Unless you’re an incredibly huge and completely dedicated fan of one of those other titles (or are all about traditional Ridge Racer), you’re going to really like Unbounded.

Ridge Racer Unbounded is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Language, Mild Violence. This game can also be found on Xbox 360.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.