Riders Republic Preview - Forza Horizon Style in Need of Some Refining

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Extreme sports games have had a special place in my heart since I was a kid. Playing SSX Tricky and Downhill Domination on PS2 with my friends are some of my favourite gaming memories.

It’s not really a surprise, then, that I’ve been excited about Riders Republic’s potential to recapture those special moments.

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Last week, we got access to the game’s closed beta and were given an extended guided tour to see exactly how Riders Republic works.

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Multiple Career Paths

Ubisoft’s new game is a huge open world sandbox, with a separate career for each extreme sport it showcases.

However, each discipline is tied into each other with similar controls. I only spent a significant amount of time with snowboarding and biking, since that’s all the beta had available, but movement, tricks, and control work the same for both.

You use the triangle and x buttons (or Xbox equivalents) for flips, or circle and square for spins, using the thumbsticks for grabs to increase difficulty.

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If you’re racing, it’s all about speed and control, and trick events are about precision and risk, and that’s the same for all disciplines.

Both snowboarding and cycling feel great too, being just weighty enough that you feel in control but agile enough that you can push speed to the limit.

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Head Over Heels, Or Vice-Versa

Nailing tricks is satisfying too. You can challenge yourself with manual landings, where you have to control rotations to avoid crashing, or leave Riders Republic to do it all for you.

Manual landings give you the chance for bonus points, though, so they’re worth learning to give you a chance against the big boys in the more challenging events.

They also make trick events more engaging, as hitting a perfect landing from a risky triple back flip makes it feel like you have a tangible effect on the outcome of the competition. On assisted landings, it’s a much more hands off experience.

The SSX and Downhill Domination fan in me does miss the over the top aspect of those games, though. As far as I could tell in the beta, there will be no handstands on you bike seat, or 15x rotations in single jumps. In terms of tricks, Riders Republic keeps its feet firmly on the ground.

Lots of Variety

With six different sports, rocket variations, and events that see them crossover, Riders Republic is shaping up to have a huge amount of variety.

It isn’t just flip after flip and downhill bike race after downhill bike race. The action is a lot more hectic than that, with loads of event types to dive into, from trick battles to more score chasing in purpose built trick parks.

It is Riders Republic’s huge open world that stands out, though. Made up of a few of the United States’ biggest national parks stitched together, it’s got rocky valleys, terrifying snow slopes, and the complex forest bike tracks of Yosemite.

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It employs the standard Ubisoft formula too - there is fog to dispel from the map, collectibles galore, and events dotted around everywhere - but it also has a party style that reminds me of Forza Horizon.

Thanks to the home base of Riders’ Peak and the hundreds of player ghosts covering the map, it really has that festival atmosphere - everyone coming together for one common goal, the thrill of extreme sports.

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World in Focus

That world design is the focus in everything you do, with each slope and every pass feeling alive, which adds a brilliant extra dimension to Riders Republic’s event.

Without the hustle and bustle around you, I’m not sure the multiplayer angle would work. It’d feel like just another extreme sports game with mass events tacked on.

What I was left questioning after four hours with Riders Republic is what exactly it’s expecting from players. Is it to just roam and see what takes your fancy? Or have a crack at each of the career paths? Or a mixture of both?

Lack of Focus & Structure

In the beta at least, the lack of structure seems like it could be daunting. While I can see myself working through the career alone, exploration and 64 player events seem to be the things I’d be drawn to play with friends.

Some of this is due to some signposting and UI elements that could be tweaked and improved to make multiplayer more seamless.

Waypoints, especially when in groups, are hard to track when at speed. Going downhill on a bike or snowboard isn’t the most precise exercise anyway, so keeping your eyes on oncoming trees is enough when you don’t have to work out what direction your waypoint is in by looking at the vague central compass.

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It’s a similar case for the Mass Event display. Notifications pop up on the right of the screen when they’re about to go live, but miss that and you’re left in no-mans land, looking for another server. Finding those isn’t very easy, and you should be able to enter these showcase event at just a press of a button or two, as long as they’re live.

Final Thoughts

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Overall though, Riders Republic is really promising. A little more refining of the multiplayer structure and signposting and we’re in for a brilliant time.

The alive, Forza Horizon festival style open world is a joy to explore thanks to the player icons that fill it and all the standard Ubisoft-y stuff you’d expect, and the extreme sports themselves are enjoyable and satisfying.

Once we can dive into everything at launch, we’ll have a better idea of whether Riders Republic will truly re-capture the magic of the likes of SSX and Downhill Domination.