2020 has been a great year for fans of racing games. In March, we were treated to TT Isle of Man – Ride on the Edge 2, which offered death-defying thrills on wheels. In April, Milestone released MotoGP 20, giving us a taste of realistic, high-speed motorcycle racing. In October, Milestone returned with the RIDE 4, a bike racing experience that emulates Gran Turismo for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. If you enjoyed the license tests in Gran Turismo, you’ll find yourself in familiar territory with RIDE 4’s gameplay. It isn’t as time- consuming as the former’s tests, but Milestone offers a similar experience. RIDE 4 delivers crystal-clear visuals, challenging career modes, and improved artificial intelligence, creating one of the finest motorcycle games of the year. Even though the game begins slow, players can begin to feel how challenging the game actually is, especially for first- time players. It has the addictive effect that quality games have — you’ll easily find yourself completing lap after lap.
The first thing you’re tasked to do is creating your avatar. One improvement in RIDE 4 is that it offers a range of choices for male and female racers. There are five “faces” per gender, but we wouldn’t say the faces are that important since they’re always wearing helmets anyway. Still, we think that RIDE 4 could do better with racial diversity in its next DLC. Once you’re done customizing your character, you’ll find yourself in the Tsukuba circuit for a tutorial. If you’ve played Milestone’s other games, this is a segment you’d want to skip — unfortunately, the tutorial is unskippable.
To finish the tutorial, you have to complete a short and timed lap to help you get familiar with the game’s physics and controls. You can’t escape the tutorial until you’ve finished a fault-free circuit. This can be a bummer especially if you were expecting RIDE 4 to be a plug-and-play kind of experience. But, once the tutorial is out of the way, you’ll be amazed at how much RIDE 4 has to offer.
From there, you can begin your journey from three regions: Europe, Asia, and the United States. While the game forces you into Career Mode, you can take a quick detour to the main menu to explore what RIDE 4 has in store. It has 175 licensed bikes for you to unlock, 30 tracks with 60 different variants, 24 international circuits in Europe, Asia, and the US, unparalleled options for customization for both speed and style, and much more. You can really tell that they pulled out all of the stops for this game.
Once you’ve selected a region, you get to participate in local races, then Regional Leagues, and then the World Leagues. You can unlock bikes along the way and enjoy the wide variety of tracks, each with unique weather conditions, from sunny mornings to stormy nights. While Career Mode is undoubtedly the highlight of the game, there are other fun things to do such as time-trial races and checkpoint-based races. One annoying thing, however, is RIDE 4’s penalty system. The game immediately gives penalizes you whenever you fall off the track, cut corners, or make the slightest of mistakes. It’s particularly frustrating when the game gives you a time penalty once you return to the track.
We can’t forget to mention the RIDE 4’s brand-new Endurance Mode. These races remind us of the early days of Gran Turismo, where players could race for extremely long times. With the Endurance Mode, you have the option to race from twenty minutes to twenty-four hours. Since the game now features tire wear and fuel consumption, playing on Endurance Mode includes realistic pitstops where you can take care of your bike. You can decide when to make a pitstop and what to do while you’re at the pits, as well. This adds a realistic touch to RIDE 4 that hasn’t been seen in any of Milestone’s past racing games.
Visually, RIDE 4 is a stunning racing game. The bikes are detailed and gorgeous, the rider animations are fluid, and the physics simulations are spot-on, accurately reflecting the differences in weight, steering, etc. of each bike.
Lighting has noticeably improved from MotoGP 20. Shadows don’t look as texturized, reflections from the sun aren’t as distracting, and the change from day to night is believable. When it comes to sound design, you can tell the different classes of engines apart. The sound of engines growling dominates most of the audio during races, which improves the overall experience.
But the most impressive part is the game’s overhaul of its weather system. Weather can affect the dynamics of a race, and the visuals that come with it are both aesthetically pleasing and realistically challenging. If you start an Endurance Race with the sun beaming in the sky, and you finish it at night with lightning crackling every five seconds and rain pouring down on your rider, you’ll definitely feel the challenge that comes with the changing conditions. This new element gives a thoroughly enjoyable and genuine experience. The dynamic weather system does make a standard race ten times more difficult, but the challenge is well-received.
Milestone uses the AI called ANNA for RIDE 4. Despite producing a realistic racing experience, it still makes a few innocent mistakes, particularly with the rider’s reactions to other riders on the track. We’ve lost count of how many times other riders have slammed into us, knocking us into the corner, as if they didn’t see us. Thankfully, there’s the handy and ever-reliable rewind feature to undo whatever mistakes you, or the obnoxious AI rider, make.
Despite our issues with its sensitive penalty system and erratic artificial intelligence, RIDE 4 is still one of the best-looking racing games of the year.
The game runs smoothly on the PlayStation 4, and its physics adds an element of realness that you just can’t find elsewhere. Milestone has succeeded at bringing a Gran Turismo-like racing game for fans of motorbikes. Its controls may not be for everyone, especially not for new gamers, but its Endurance Mode offers the kind of content that hardcore bike racers would thoroughly enjoy.
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