Riders Republic review: A rebirth for extreme sports games
Riders Republic: Specs
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Amazon Luna, Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Release Date: October 28, 2021
Genre: Sports action/simulation
Riders Republic is a fresh entry in the extreme sports genre of video games. Once a dominant force in the gaming landscape, the genre has been largely neglected over the past decade as a glut of online shooters and open-world action games have flooded the market.
In that regard, Riders Republic feels like a welcome throwback. It’s the type of game you might have expected to see on the PS2. However, it contains more than enough modern gameplay sensibilities to play like a current-generation title.
The game is a spiritual sequel to Ubisoft’s 2016 snowboarding title Steep, and it takes its predecessor’s formula and runs with it. Riders Republic adds more than additional things to do, but a welcome level of customization that is almost unmatched in the genre.
There are some blemishes, most of which only become apparent the more you play, but even when the grind borders on tedious Riders Republic continues to win you over because it nails the core fundamentals. Read on for our full Riders Republic review.
Riders Republic review: Gameplay
Variety is the name of the game in Riders Republic. While most games in the genre focus on a single extreme sport, Riders Republic gives you the chance to ride mountain bikes, snowboards, skis, wingsuits, and even rocket-powered jetpacks.
The bikes are definitely the most fun option at your disposal. There’s something about furiously peddling down a dusty trail picking up enough speed to outrace a car that never gets old. The default controls are remarkably easy to pick up as well, within minutes you’ll be drifting around tight turns and pulling off double backflips.
Using either a snowboard or a pair of skis feels understandably similar. These methods of transport are primarily useful when you want to pull off over-the-top tricks and grinds. Carving powder is fun, but you don’t feel as vulnerable traveling at breakneck speeds as you do on a bike frame — which makes the snow sports feel a lot less exciting.
The wingsuits ignore the laws of physics in the name of fun. By holding a button you are able to essentially halt and restart your momentum. This makes wingsuits feel extremely arcadey, and often behave in annoyingly unpredictable ways. The rocket-powered wingsuits don’t have the same issue but are instead just dull to control. Boredom is not something you should feel while using a jetpack.
At any point, you can instantly switch to a first-person mode with a button press. While you’ll likely opt to play the majority of the Riders Republic in third-person, first-person is a fun novelty. Bunny-hopping off a cliff on a BMX and riding down the almost steer incline in first-person is extremely exhilarating and might just knot your stomach.
Riders Republic deserves credit for how customizable its controls are. Initially, you choose between two control schemes: racer and trickster. There’s also a preset that mimics the layout of Steep. You can further tweak settings such as how much assistance the game gives you when landing tricks or whether you want to automatically snap to grind rails.
These settings can be quickly adjusted in the menus if you’re finding things too challenging or too easy. I started with the game auto-adjusting my landings to prevent frequent bails, but after a few hours, I was confident enough to control things manually. This sense of progression felt extremely rewarding.
Riders Republic review: Career mode
Riders Republic throws you into a massive open world that mashes together seven real-world American national parks including Bryce Canyon, Yosemite Valley and Zion. Within just a few hours of play, your world map will be dotted with dozens of points of interest, events and collectibles.
Before you can begin exploring you’re forced to complete the game’s frustratingly restrictive tutorial. Thankfully it only takes around an hour to finish, but it feels endless. It does walk you through the basics, but you’re kept on an annoyingly tight leash. Please don’t judge Riders Republic based on its opening hour.
The game’s career mode offers five different paths: Bike race, bike tricks, snow race, snow tricks, and air events. They’re all fairly self-explanatory, and as you progress through each you’ll unlock “big events” that really challenge you to prove your proficiency in each discipline.
The problem is career events are extremely repetitive. Take the snow trick career, for example, each event is merely another course for you to pull off grabs, grinds and flips in the hopes of earning a high score. Thankfully, you can switch between career modes at will, which does elevate some of the repetition. I made a policy of never doing more than two events in the same career path consecutively to prevent burnout.
Fortunately, it’s not all races and trick events. There are side events outside of the career paths that feature more whacky objectives. One asks you to deliver pizzas within a time limit, while another straps you to a rocket-powered bike. These challenges are a real highlight, and I wish there were more of them to mix things up between the gut of samey competitions.
Progression in Riders Republic is primarily tied to collecting stars, which you’ll earn for just about everything. While stars are perhaps awarded a little too often, you’re never forced to complete activities you don’t enjoy. Instead, you can pick and choose what you focus on.
If you get bored of the career mode grind, you’re free to aimlessly cruise the world looking for hidden collectibles or special relics, which unlock novelty vehicles like a surfboard. There’s even a Zen Mode which drops you on the map without any objectives and lets you ride around the world taking in the (frequently gorgeous) sites.
Riders Republic review: Online modes
Riders Republic is a very socially-connected game. There are a wealth of ways to play with and against other players. The best of which is the much-touted Mass Races.
These chaotic online events pit up to 64 players against each other in a single race. The results are utter carnage as you bounce into each other and jostle for a place on the podium. Ultra-competitive players may find them frustrating, but if you’re willing to play for fun, you’ll find them a hoot.
It’s rather baffling that you can’t play Mass Races whenever you want. You have to wait for the game to put out a call altering you that one is about to start. This happens frequently enough that you’ll not have to wait long, but why you can’t just matchmake on demand is a real mystery.
Another enjoyable multiplayer mode is Trick Battle. This team mode requires you to land tricks on specific objects in order to take control of them and score points. It’s a lot more fun than a standard trick competition, but there isn’t a huge amount of variety in the mode.
As you’d expect you can also compete in standard races and trick events online, plus you can roam the world with friends if you start to feel a little lonely out in the republic.
Riders Republic: Visuals and sound
I played Riders Republic on PS5 and found its massive open-world a real sight to behold. It’s an extremely geographically diverse location, offering everything from snowy peaks to desert canyons. You’ll often be riding around too fast to take in the sights, but when you pause for a moment the beautiful scenery will definitely catch your eye.
Some clipping and animation issues prevent the game from being as beautiful in motion. It’s not uncommon to get stuck on a large rock or a cluster of trees, but your unlimited-use rewind ability can get you out of a jam in a pinch — though I did have to restart some race events as my competition had already sped past by the time I was unstuck.
Unfortunately, Riders Republic isn’t so easy on the ears. Occasionally you’ll be forced to suffer through NPC’s spouting cringe-inducing dialogue that would have been outdated even in the early 2000s. There’s also a custom soundtrack filled with licensed songs, but Riders Republic is best when listening to your own music. I spend much of my time playing with the audio muted and a favorite podcast playing, which I found far preferable.
Riders Republic review: Verdict
Riders Republic’s combination of a massive open world that you can explore at will and strong gameplay variety is a compelling one. The career mode can become a tad repetitive as you progress deeper, but the game never punishes you for switching gears and doing something else when tedium creeps in.
Developer Ubisoft Annecy has confirmed that more content is coming, and with such a promising foundation already in place, Riders Republic could be built into something really special. They don’t really make games like Riders Republic anymore, but I’m thrilled that Ubisoft has.
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