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Riders Republic

Platform(s): Google Stadia, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Racing
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Annecy
Release Date: Oct. 28, 2021

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PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'Riders Republic'

by Cody Medellin on Aug. 25, 2021 @ 8:00 a.m. PDT

Riders Republic invites players to an exhilarating social playground, where they can experience the thrill of extreme sports in an open and densely populated world.

Pre-order Riders Republic

Like many of Ubisoft's recent games, Steep was a slow burn of a hit. After its experience with Shaun White Skateboarding and Shaun White Snowboarding, Steep was a completely different affair that focused on different types of vehicles and open mountains. Until the X-Games expansions hit, there was less emphasis on events and more emphasis on exploration and finding your own routes. Based on the initial trailers, Riders Republic seems like Steep's louder cousin, but after spending some time with the closed beta, it's something way different.

The opening race gives a hint of its inspiration with an interactive montage that lets players take control of the game's major modes of transportation. You start with a downhill mountain bike race by following loads of other people as they race down a steep winding trail, trying to hit all of the checkpoints. Occasionally, you'll encounter ramps where you can catch big air and pull off some tricks. You eventually trade your bike for a snowboard or some skis and do the same thing on snow instead of dirt and paved roads. This transitions again into you wearing a rocket pack and flying through the air and hitting more checkpoints before landing in the camp of Riders Republic, which acts as the hub world for major events and other options.


After a few cut scenes that place you as the hopeful protege of an extreme sports legend, you take on a career in these three disciplines. For the beta, this means that all of the bike events are races, and all of the ski/snowboard events are trick sessions, but there is the promise that the full game will also feature tricks and regular races for those vehicles. Meanwhile, all of the jetpack events are simply races.

While the events follow traditional rules so the goal is to reach the top spot, it isn't necessarily the main objective. That honor is bestowed on the star system, where finishing an event yields stars, and events also reward bonus stars for completing side objectives, like hitting a specific score or pulling off a specific trick. Those stars act as your keys to accessing more events in the world, while XP unlocks new vehicles.

What throws you for a loop are the controls, and while there is an option to make things more like Steep, the default scheme is akin to a racing game, as the triggers are used for accelerating and braking. Depending on the control scheme, the face buttons or right analog stick can be responsible for tricks, while the trigger used for gas is also responsible for grabs. Perhaps the most interesting part of the controls is the inclusion of a rewind button to return to certain points in the race if you mess up. Since this is a mostly online experience, the action doesn't pull back every opposing racer with you during the rewind, but you can use it to bring yourself back on track if you miss a checkpoint or a good turn. For the jetpacks and bikes, this works fine since it follows the default controls for most car racing games, but it feels strange to see this applied to skis and snowboards.

 


Put all of this together, and you have The Crew 2 with a Forza Horizon influence due to the party atmosphere and hub world for some activities and options. The open world is an amalgamation of real-world locales stitched together, and while you can fast-travel between events, you'll be tempted to travel normally to uncover the secrets and picture spots on the map. It works well on the PC so far thanks to minimal load times and the sheer diversity of the landscapes.

Beyond the career events and open-world exploration, there are a few modes specifically intended for online play. Free for All hits up multiple event disciplines, but the beta is locked to bike tricks, and Tricks Battle is more team-based in specific trick arenas. The craziest mode of all is Mass Races, which plays much like the hourly Forzathon events, to keep up the Forza Horizon comparisons. Up to 64 people scramble to enter, and once the race begins, the mass of players speeds toward the end. You may start with skis, but that can change to a jetpack or rocket-powered bike along the way. It is an absolutely chaotic experience and one of the game's hallmarks, but it can also be frustrating since missing a checkpoint, bailing once, or accidentally activating the rewind feature puts players in a position to not make a comeback. You'll still get some stars, but Mass Races mode is meant for those who won't get frustrated by constant losses.

As it stands, your anticipation for Riders Republic is going to depend on your expectations. Those hoping for a more relaxed version of Steep with some non-snow events are going to be disappointed at the focus on something louder and somewhat more traditional. Those looking for a less diesel-powered version of The Crew 2 will appreciate the variety. With less than two months to go before the game's retail release, here's hoping the final product works well from the get-go.



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