[Disclosure: A review copy was provided for the contents of this article]
There were only two games I had planned to purchase brand new this fall, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch and Ride 3 for PC. Lo and behold the PR sent us a review copy for the console version of the game, so I was able to play both versions of the game since I pre-ordered Ride 3 for PC, and I can safely say that the game is definitely the Gran Turismo of motorcycle racing games… on PC.
Make no mistake about it that Ride 3 is very playable on PS4 and Xbox One, but if you’re serious about racing games the only viable option is to get it on PC since it doesn’t run locked at 30fps like the console version, doesn’t suffer from the graphical aliasing effects like the console version, doesn’t have the low environmental detail like the console version, it has better draw distance than the console version, less input lag than the console version, and the multiplayer is free, in case you care about that stuff.
Now before I get into the good parts, I’m going to start with the bad parts first, because there aren’t many, but I want to get them out of the way early. The first major flaw with the game is definitely the tutorial. It’s awful.
There are four categories representing the different bike classes in the game, with each tutorial category having a number of different tasks for players to compete. Some of these are easy, such as completing certain turns, or learning how to brake, or completing tracks within a certain time. However, other tasks require players to complete more complex maneuvers, but they don’t tell you how.
Before each task there’s a small description explaining what players are required to do, but once you get in the game you’re left to your own devices to figure out how to pull off some of these more complex moves. There are no guided examples, photos, or videos to walk you through these maneuvers or give you an example of how you’re supposed to do them. A perfect example is with the drifting and powersliding – once you get into the game you just have to fumble around to find out how to do both maneuvers. It’s the opposite of how THQ’s MotoGP series was setup where there were guided walkthrough videos and ghost demonstrations so you knew exactly how to perform certain moves. This can be seriously frustrating for newcomers to Ride, because you’re going to have to figure out most of those tasks on your own.
The good part is that the tutorials aren’t required, and you can definitely skip them (but if you don’t complete them you’ll miss out on earning a free bike in each category if you manage to nab gold trophies for each test). In fact, you’ll probably learn more from doing the very first racing events in Career Mode than you will from the actual tutorials.
Another major problem is the load times on the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game.
Milestone has consistently managed to release games year after year that have extremely long load times. My impatience for these load times is mostly to do with the fact that games obviously load much faster on my PC gaming rig, but oddly, many games also load pretty quick on the Nintendo Switch as well. When you go from playing on the Switch or PC to the PS4 or Xbox One, the load times in a game like RIDE 3 hearken back to the old days of games like Gran Turismo on the original PSX, where it would take forever to load certain menus or events.
On PC, however, the load times are much quicker. It still takes a short while to get from menus to the race track, but it’s no where near as insufferable as playing on the PS4 and Xbox One.
One other thing that bothers me a lot is that there is no music while you race. It’s disappointing coming off of other racing games, especially THQ’s original MotoGP on the OG Xbox that let you listen to custom soundtracks while you raced. Moreover, the removal of in-race music has been a deliberate choice by Milestone throughout the years for their games. If you want in-game music then you have to use the Xbox Music feature, or the PlayStation’s Spotify option, or Steam’s music option. Otherwise, the only songs that play during the course of the game are the ones in the options menu, which are varied and cool. It’s just a shame that there’s no in-game soundtrack, especially given how awesome some of the bikes and stages look.
PC Vs Console Graphics
Visually Ride 3 looks great. Certain stages are absolutely standout, such as the awesome night stage in Macau, the sprawling wide-open desert scenery in Tenefire, and the breathtaking sunsets of The Snake in California.
There are a couple of spots where the game slows down on PC on specific tracks, specifically Tenefire, during the major turns leading into the Tiede Esse. There was a bit of slowdown in those areas where the game ever-so-slightly would lose frames or stutter. I also encountered more frame-skipping in the Brands Hatch Circuit coming of turns two and three. The open areas of Garda Lake during the day time on PC also suffer from some frame skipping, which can really cramp your style. Hopefully those get patched in a future update.
On the home consoles the game’s graphics are passable; it’s nothing to write home about. They do a serviceable job. However, on PC it’s a whole other story. Ride 3 looks fantastic and the resolution clarity brings the game to another level. The crisp resolution, tessellated grass, the high-density shrubbery, the crowd animations, and the draw distance are all so much better on PC.
Truly, it’s a night and day difference between playing the game on PC and playing on home consoles. There’s no blurry jagged lines, no low-resolution shadows, and it completely removes certain artifact effects in the reflection details, which are quite pronounced on the console version of the Macau stage set at night with the water puddles on the ground. The puddles on the console version are low-resolution and suffer from some unflattering aliasing effects. The PC version has clearer puddles with high-definition world reflections in the puddles, as evident in the images below, with the PS4 version at the top and the PC version at the bottom.
Additionally, the clear difference between the game running at 30fps and 60fps not only changes the complexion of the game’s smoothness but also the input latency and how well each of the bikes control. It’s a complete night and day difference between how each bike handles and how you adjust their handling on PC compared to the consoles. The limitation on the frame-rate makes you feel like you’re literally playing a completely different game.
You can really feel the bike, its weight, and how the mass shifts from side to side in each turn on PC thanks to a much higher fidelity of frames per second. This also ties into how you feel out each turn, how you adjust to preemptive braking, and how you accelerate out of the apex.
For reference, what took me five hours to complete on the PS4 version of the game I was able to complete in just two on the PC version.
Now even though the PS4 doesn’t hold a candle to the capabilities of PC graphics, Ride 3 still has some amazing vistas and a solid art direction that brings some of the locations and bikes to life in some impressive ways that will make you nod in appreciation, even while playing on console hardware that feels older than a decrepit dementia patient in hospice.
Controls Are A DualShock Winner
The only benefit PS4 gamers have over the PC and Xbox One version (but only slightly) is that the DualShock 4 has the best rumble feedback coming in and out of the turns and going over the undulating unevenness of the tracks. There’s a real responsiveness to each bump and grind that adds a tactile sensation to make you feel the visceral heart of the race.
Now if you have a Steam Controller you will garner the benefit of feeling more nuanced rumble effects in the game, much more so than the DualShock 4 or the Xbox One controller, but the placement of the analog stick being so close to the face buttons on the Steam Controller makes it difficult to get a comfortable grip on the controller. The bumpers and triggers also feel like they provide less responsive dampening than the Xbox One and DualShock 4, even with the option to customize them.
Now if you have an Xbox One Elite Controller the spacing of the buttons and the trigger dampening are pitch perfect. The controller feels weighty and responsive to the way the bikes handle, and it’s almost like a match made in heaven. The only issue is that the rumble feedback on the Xbox One Elite Controller was extremely weak compared to the Steam Controller and the DualShock 4. Also the paddles at the bottom of the controller proved to get in the way more often than not, causing me to downshift at times when I didn’t intend to.
My personal recommendation would be to play the game on PC with a DualShock 4, this way you get the best of both worlds.
Before you get into the career mode, there’s an option to customize your rider’s name, what country they hail from, their gender, and their outfits. It’s a lot more expansive than I thought it would be, including allowing gamers to choose the riding style of their rider, such as how they take turns, whether they put their foot down during sharp corners, and the position of how they tuck their elbows and knees when getting low to the asphalt.
The career mode itself features nine tiers, but two of them aren’t really part of the core career, since one is for the tutorial mode and the other is for the DLC. It’s a very, very hard career mode if you play with the difficulty on medium or hard, the AI is unforgiving, the bikes have physics that require specific mastery and the tracks have to be learned and memorized if you want to perfect the turns, capturing the essence of hardships and attention-groping difficulty much like the old Gran Turismo games.
As far as length is concerned, you’ll invest about 30 hours into Ride 3 before you get to the halfway point. This goes to show you just how much content Ride 3 has. I’ll admit, I haven’t conquered the game yet because I had to start over and play the PC version from the beginning, but I’m about a third of way to where I left off on the PS4 version of the game, and I’m still a long ways off from the finish line.
The career mode is designed with a streamlined setup so that you can very easily and very conveniently get started. Once you select your starting bike you’re eligible to participate in one of the amateur events.
So the way it works is that the career mode not only has nine tiers but each event is categorized as a motorcycle racing magazine with a special theme. This ranges from two-stroke only races, to Japanese-only motorbikes, to classic races featuring bikes from the 1960s and 1970s, to races based around specific tracks or styles, including road races, MotoGP tracks, even drag races across the Salt Flats or Route 66.
The career mode keeps the challenges varied and unique. You’ll also race across 30 different tracks and their variations, which brings the total to about 50. They slowly escalate the difficulty and variety as you progress throughout the career mode, so it doesn’t feel like you’re doing the same tracks too often, too much. I do like that they switch it up as well with the night tracks and the weather, so that even if you are good at a certain track during the day, all of that changes when you’re racing during a downpour where visibility and traction become prime factors for winning the race.
As you complete events in the career mode and as you get good enough to score gold trophies, you’ll be rewarded with a free bike in addition to earning credits. This is similar to earning certain achievements in Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport and being rewarded with a cool new car. And much like Forza, the credits you earn are based on how high you set the difficulty, ranging from the AI difficulty percentage to whether or not you turn on the rewind function. The harder you make it, the more credits you earn and the more bikes you’ll be able to purchase and unlock. The thing is here is that nearly each new bike you earn will gain you eligibility for racing in the events of a higher tier magazine once you unlock that tier. It’s a great way to streamline your progress so you never get stuck, or mistakenly sell a bike and find yourself jammed (which could sometimes happen in the older Gran Turismo or Forza games). Here, you can’t sell bikes you are gifted, but you can sell bikes you purchase, even after you upgrade and customize them.
Customizing upgrades becomes a necessary component in Ride 3. The visual aspect of the feature isn’t quite as deep as Forza Motorsport, but it does offer some light appearance modifications, such as changing the mirrors, the brake and clutch levers, the clamps, grips, and the plate and turn signals. From a body modification standpoint the options are rather limited. However, they do make up for it with the livery editor, which is almost but not quite as expansive as the one from Forza Motorsport 2.
You can also tweak the components and parts on the bikes, including the engine components, such as the electronic control unit, the air filter, the head porting, pistons, rods, and even the crankshaft balancing. You don’t get to modify or tweak the settings in the same was as you can in games like Need For Speed Shift 2, but you do get to modify the ride height, the shocks and dampeners, the steering, brake grips, and the gearbox settings, all of which play a huge role in the outcome of a race. For some races how you tweak the settings will determine if you win or lose and in what position you come in.
It’s definitely one of those games where you need to pay attention to how you setup the bike so it feels comfortable on the track. You can also save your settings for specific bikes for specific tracks. My only issue is that if you save a setting and then buy new parts for the bike and then load the old setting before you bought the parts, it will go back to those settings with the old parts. This means that if you want to re-apply the new parts you have to completely exit out of the race, re-apply the parts, go back into the race and then save the settings again. It would have been nice if in the options menu to load the bike settings you could set it back to the default before you loaded the settings, this way you don’t have to go through the lengthy task of exiting the menu back to the bike customization screen and make all the changes there again.
Regardless of my qualms with the loading screens, the overall selection of bikes in Ride 3 is beyond impressive. The game sports 300 different bikes to unlock and customize – some are more customizable than others, though. For instance you can’t really do much upgrading to the bikes from the 1960s and 1970s – and the way the career mode progresses you’re constantly unlocking new bikes and experiencing different ways to ride the various styles of bikes, which range from Supercross to MotoGP to Sports bikes to Street bikes.
The varied selection means that bike aficionados will always have something new to look forward to and either unlock or purchase from the in-game dealership. This ranges from some of the most conservative bikes to some of the most outlandish bikes. Each one also controls differently and has its own engine sound, so it requires adjusting to each machine and how each machine rides on a track.
For instance, some of the 4-stroke bikes get off to a hot start if you hold down the accelerator, which causes them to pop a wheelie. Now you can change the difficulty settings to force the bikes from popping wheelies, but it gives you a good idea of how much torque these bikes can wield.
The physics for each bike vary wildly, and you’ll find that you’ll need to pamper some bikes more than others during turns, during braking, coming out of the apex, or even when colliding with other bikes. I also love the way you can ram into another bike from the side and see them wibble and wobble as they attempt to regain their balance. It really helps with making the bikes feel weighty.
Beyond the career mode and the quick race feature, there’s also a weekly challenge mode that you can partake in, where each week you have a specific race and a track you must complete under certain conditions.
If you want to test your mettle against a global audience you can do so with the online multiplayer mode. Unfortunately there is no offline split-screen mode, which is a major bummer.
The multiplayer options include public and private matches where you can vote on the tracks and bike class you want to race with. If you don’t have a bike in a specific class you can have one loaned to you from the dealer for that race. You can move up in the ranks or earn some credits, but multiplayer isn’t particularly Ride 3’s strong suit given how limited the options are, especially when it comes to hosting matches, which only consists of being able to choose if AI will be in the match, whether it’s a championship or single race, and whether the physics are assisted or not.
The strength of Ride 3 is definitely in the career mode, the bike options, the bike physics, the graphics on the PC version, and the high amounts of replayability and racing depth; it reminds me of DiRT Showdown in terms of how engrossing it can be. I don’t regret pre-ordering the game on PC at all (even though I know that pre-ordering is against the law of the gaming land) and if you have a PC that meets the minimum or recommended requirements I would definitely suggest that for Ride 3 you…