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Game Info:

Ride 4
Developed By: Milestone S.r.l.
Published By: Milestone S.r.l.
Release Date: October 8, 2020
Available On: Windows, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One
Genre: Racing
Number of Players: 1 local; online multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone; Users Interact
MSRP: $49.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Milestone S.r.l. for sending us this game to review!

Modern racing games really are a technical marvel. The graphics are getting closer and closer to real life, as is the physics simulation. And the main players in the space, Milestone, KT Racing, Codeweavers, and no doubt several others have done such a great job over the years that the divide between a 'bad' and a 'good' racing game really comes down to priorities and gut feel for the physics rather than something obviously right or wrong. Generally I would put them in a few categories: Simulation, Arcade, and something in between - some call it 'Simcade'. The tricky part of this game is that it has the physics and strict difficulty of a simulation, but some of the limitations of an arcade-style racer.

I have a racing wheel setup (for automobile racing games, obviously), and various joysticks, but being that I review so many different games, it's hard for me to give a genre with such a high skill floor the time that it really deserves. That's what makes this game so difficult for me to review; this game's definition of 'very easy' for me is losing by less laps than other difficulties. And yet, I still find it fun! With this game's level of challenge, I expect it to offer a full simulator's worth of control options; if you want to race with a custom motorcycle seat rigged up to a joystick axis, you should be able to. And yet, this game only supports Xbox-style gamepads (and the keyboard). My first reaction was 'huh what?'

When you first launch Ride 4, you are asked to create a profile by giving your name, choosing a country/continent to get your license in, and then you are immediately dropped into a time attack course in Canada (if you choose North America as your starting point). In theory, this sounds great. But as you can see if you watch my embedded stream below, it takes me nearly an hour to beat the first qualifying level - and you can't even play the game in any other way if you can't beat this. It is far from easy - and it's strict. If you cross the white line, or touch the grass, you are instantly disqualified. Keep in mind that this is on the first level, that you must complete in order to even try the rest of the game - there is no 'instant action' that you can try before this point. I can only imagine how many people got stuck on this 'introductory' level, and either refunded it or returned it to the store. If you want to bring in new players, this is exactly a lesson in what not to do. If you want to see frustration in action, again, please refer to my video first impressions below.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Great graphics; excellent physics; an incredible amount of variety on both motorcycles and tracks; great sense of speed; impressive weather effects
Weak Points: Difficulty balance is not at all conducive to new players; no joystick or wheel support, only keyboard or Xbox gamepads; no split screen
Moral Warnings: None! (except for me flying towards the ground or other hard objects at high speed)

I finally did eventually get past the initial license exam, almost purely by luck. I spent over an hour on the second license test, which I found to be even more difficult - and not by a little bit, either. Thankfully, there are exhibition matches, and single races that you can unlock by this point, so at least I was able to get a peek into what other content is available, and I have to admit, it's impressive.

While my career mode has pretty much hit a dead-end before it barely even started, there are also plenty of other things to do. Career mode offers an Exhibition mode, where you can take part in a few individual races within your league. Sadly, you still have to win in order to progress past the first few choices. There is also the non-career Race mode, where you can choose a Single Race, an Endurance race, and a Time Trial. The Race mode is obvious - you race against other AI (or human, if you race online) racers and try to place first, if you can. Endurance opens up hour+ long races where you have to manage your tires, fuel, and so on as long as necessary in order to not just win, but survive. Time Trial is also what it sounds like - you choose a track, and try to beat your best time. Of course this is also the mode where crossing a white line can disqualify the lap, so good luck.

Ride 4
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 80%
Game Play - 14/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound/Music - 9/10
Stability/Polish - 4/5
Controls/Interface - 4/5

Morality Score - 98%
Violence - 9/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Despite the punishing difficulty, there is actually a lot to like. For one, the graphics are really nice - except for the rear-view mirrors. Those are oddly rendered in a much lower resolution. You can disable them; without those everything looks great! The tracks, terrain, environments - it's all great to look at, especially at the highest settings. On my 2080 Ti, I was able to run the game on maximum at 4k, though I couldn't increase the rendering resolution above 100% without a noticeable dip in the frame rate. It also works great on Linux via Steam's Proton on first glance. On the flipside, the game is quite playable (though much worse looking) on my GPD Win Max at the lowest settings, with 50% rendering resolution at the native screen resolution of 1280x800. The only bummer is the lack of analog triggers on the Win Max, but that's not the fault of the game.

The sound effects are nice as well, with various engine sounds for each bike. When I switched out bikes for different brands, I was able to tell that they sounded different - I am not enough of a gearhead to know if they sounded right, just that they were different. The physics simulation seems really good; there are definitely behaviors that seem natural based on front vs. rear brakes, hard vs. soft acceleration and braking, and so on. Leaning into turns works really well, and from what I can tell (I have not ridden a motor bike over about 25mph in real life) it seems realistic. It also seems fair, despite being difficult - if racing a motorcycle was easy in real life, it wouldn't require so much time and dedication to do well. The weather simulation looks and plays great.

Ride 4 is an interesting bird. In some ways, it's perhaps one of the best simulations out there - the physics seem extremely accurate, the graphics are quite good, and there is a ton of content - over thirty tracks, and almost two-hundred bikes from twenty-two manufacturers. That's a lot! However, I don't know how to put it other than there is a sense of cognitive dissonance between the Xbox-only controls and the hard-core simulation experience being offered. Of course the game supports gamepads, but PC simulation users expect more. That being said, if there were more generous tutorials, or some advice on how to race well - perhaps by offering some optional hand-holding on the first few levels - this game could easily be one of the best of its kind. It's interesting, because Steam reviews, as well as forum feedback, exactly reflect this. For the hard-core racing fans, it's one of the best games in recent memory. For the new or casual racers, it's far too punishing to be enjoyable. And I think that's what this game comes down to: if you are hard-core into motorcycle racing, and you don't mind the baffling gamepad only controls, then you're in for a treat. If you're more of a casual racer who wants to get into motorcycle racing, I would suggest either looking elsewhere, or preparing yourself to spend a lot of time doing the same races over and over until it 'clicks'.

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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