Developed By: Ubisoft
Published By: Ubisoft
Platforms: PlayStation 4 & 5 / Xbox One X, Series S & X / Nintendo Switch / PC / Luna / Stadia
Reviewed On: PS5
Riders Republic is a melting pot of several adrenaline-rushed extreme sports that consist of Bikes, Snowboarding, Skis, Snowmobiles, and Wing Suits. In the Sports/Racing game genre that’s dominated predominantly by yearly-releasing conventional sports games like FIFA, NBA, UFC, Formula 1, and more, Riders Republic is a refreshing alternate scenery the genre could use.
I played the game’s generous 3-hour long trial when it was available before the launch and I was already impressed by the level of freedom I was afforded in the game. Sports games can feel restrictive sometimes because they are bound to reflect upon the reality surrounding the nature of the sport the game is made after. I was afraid Riders Republic was going to be another sports game where we spend 30 percent of our time navigating the menu and lobby and 70% on an actual match before going back to the menu and lobby for the next round. But thankfully, it isn’t.
The game has one of the most ambitious open-world landscapes with many different types of terrains that are furnished with different activities players can engage in. Be it skiing down the gorgeous snowy mountain, or racing down one of the many mountain trails on my bikes, or just enjoying the sense of liberation and thrill that wingsuit races accord, there’s always an appropriate place to do them.
The world in Riders Republic actually reminded me of the wild and mountainous areas in GTA V where I used to explore with my dirt bike, bicycles, and sometimes sports car to see how many flips I can do as I run myself off a cliff. The difference between now and then is obvious because now, Riders Republic’s open-world was designed especially for this reason; stunts and joyriding. It also helps to set the mood when the map is always filled with many other players. All of them are busy going somewhere or just doing something. There’s a real sense of calling the game Riders Republic because it does feel like that.
The best part of my gaming experience in this game is the fact that the game is so easy to play. Because, unlike conventional sports games where you need basic knowledge of the sport’s rules, team and players background and stats before you could enjoy the game, Riders Republic can be picked up and enjoyed by anyone. The game feels so casual that it is one of the sports games where I didn’t mind losing. Because the value of the experience outweighs the outcome of the race. Even if I had to restart a race, I did it because I enjoyed the course and scene.
I can switch between first and third-person views anytime I want and I’d usually run a course twice; one on each view mode and there are two good reasons why I do that. First, the game is simply beautiful. Second, the racing pace and intensity in this game are faster and higher than any other racing games I’ve played recently and I’ve played Formula 1. So, imagine the following unfold before your eyes on first-person view when you are a mountain bike, sprinting down a mountain track and letting gravity work its wonder in adding to your speed and exhilaration. You then come down to a sharp corner waiting at the end and just pull your bike into a perfect drift while watching other players slam themselves on the rock for being stingy on the brakes. ‘That was brilliant! I need to do that again.’ was a common mantra I’ve found myself reciting over my time in this game.
The controls are easy to understand and friendly to use and there are different control modes that a player can choose. Riding off a ramp and pulling your front wheel back for a flip or two is easy to do but landing it is another story. New players can opt for an auto-land mode of control where the system handles the landing, promising decent points. More advanced players can opt for manual landing where they take control of their landing angle and precision which if done properly, give more points. In a race, players can choose between racing mode or trick mode, which gives the player better control in the areas as their names suggested.
Funnily, for a game that you can see so many other players in, races in this game are mostly run solo. Unless you’ve grouped up with other players (you can form a group of up to 6 riders) in which case you can play a Versus mode against your friends. There is a Free-For-All mode where you’d matchmake against other players and duke it out with them on who is the best rider in the republic but my experience with the matchmaking hasn’t been pleasant. For a game that just came out, the matchmaking takes surprisingly long to complete. It took me over 3-5 minutes on average to get into a match. But I actually understand why, because even when a player runs solo, they are not racing against A.I per se, but they are racing against the ghost of other players who had run the course. There are multiple difficulty settings a player can choose and if I chose a higher difficulty, I’d be running against the image of players who ran the course in better times. So, in a way, the Solo experience is actually multiplayer mode but against players from different timelines and dimensions.
Over the course of my gameplay, I would swap from discipline to discipline depending on which activity is closest to where I am. The loading in Fast Travel is instantaneous on the PS5 and by clicking on an activity to fast travel to, the game would automatically pick the nearest landing point. So, when I’m lazy, I’ll just fast travel but most of the time, I’ll just switch to my Rocket Wingsuit and Superman my way to the starting point because there are some passive incentives in doing this. The game’s impressive draw-distance and beautiful world are just breathtaking, especially when I get to fly to wherever I want without the constraint of fuel and stamina on first-person mode and just take everything in.
There is a mode called Mass Race in this game where every hour, the game would announce that a massive multi-discipline race that runs over 3 courses would soon take place. It involves up to 64 players and is the highlight event in Riders Republic. When the announcement comes, I’ll just need to click on the notification and be teleported to the starting point to participate. A 64-players multi-course and discipline race is glorious but also chaotic. When the race begin, players would inevitably run or crash into each other, sending them to the back of the pack while the front liners pull ahead. I really like this mode but I find it hard to enjoy it sometimes because of how easily my run can be ruined by faults that are not mine. I feel that Ubisoft should have enabled Ghost mode here to prevent players from running into each other and just focus on their time.
The multiplayer experience in this game is okay. Up to 5 other players can join my game and here’s the fun bit, no matter how scattered we are on the map, anyone can easily teleport to the other person from a simple dial menu in-game. But I wished the icon representing my friends appear more prominently on the map because right now it isn’t. It can be hard to see where your friends are on the map especially when they are at a certain event and ask if the team wants to do it. Had the marker been more obvious, it would have been easier for us to check where they are and which event they were actually talking about.
It is evident from how simple the game’s controls are and the overall vibe the game gives out that Ubisoft wanted the players to adopt a carefree mindset in Riders Republic. They even went the extra mile to set up the carefree mood by providing what they thought is a cool theme of speech where the NPC characters use what I can only presume to be made-up lingos and slang because they rarely make any sense to me. It was fine at first but they get old very quickly and I decided to just mute any unwanted noises and let my Apple Music playlist run in the background, it is so much better than any cringey nonsense the NPC spouts out.
With all that’s been said and done, here’s my conclusion of Riders Republic.
What I really liked about this game
- Simple controls that everyone would find inviting
- Vast and beautiful open-world
- Races and stunts are top notch and fun
- Great loading time.
- Brilliant refreshment from the otherwise stale and predictable sports genre.
What I wish was better
- The lingos and slang should be normalised so that normal people can understand and relate. We are not all skater boys/girls.
- Matchmaking time needs improvement. Waiting for a game can sometimes take longer than playing a race itself.
- The havoc at the beginning of each Mass Race can be remedied by enabling Ghosting and it should.
Riders Republic perfectly nailed the basics of ‘simple but fun’ in a video game and this is an achievement worth celebrating. The game’s simple and casual gameplay and mechanism are both inviting and addictive and this came as a big surprise to me. I wasn’t expecting a game with multiple sports disciplines in it to pull it through the way this game did and this is probably one of the few (if any) Ubisoft games where its open-world setting didn’t overcomplicate itself. I might even go as far as to declare Riders Republic is the best sports/racing game I’ve played in a long time.