So, here’s the thing, I was ready to sack off and stop playing RIDE 4 pretty quickly after launching.
If there’s one thing I really can’t stand, it’s when a game forces you to go through a mandatory, unskippable practice session before it unlocks all of the content.
What’s worse is how precise and accurate you have to be while taking on the game’s initial admission test. The slightest skirt outside the lines and the track you may have just started instantly gets scratched off and doesn’t count. So you have to run your way around it and then try again, hoping it’ll pan out better next time.
There is absolutely no margin for error and for what’s effectively a ‘warm-up’ for the game is no fun at all and leaves a sour first impression. Early on RIDE 4 already feels like a super-hardcore Trials Evolution with the amount of restarts I’m putting in.
But yes, that opening section took me a lot longer than I would have liked. All so I can actually get the content I’m playing the game for. Developers, please, if you have to do this, at least be a bit like FIFA where you can skip the match/circuit in question, yeah?
Anyway, once the content gets going, there’s a lot to digest. In the menus, you can select your bike and track, choose the weather conditions, the lighting, and also the kinds of riding aids you might want.
There’s choices for multiplayer, of course, endurance racing and time trials. Most importantly of all, there’s a RIDE 4 Career Mode, which is probably where I spent the chunk of my time for this piece.
First off, you need to choose your league where you want to make your debut, starting at the Regionals, working through the World League, and into the Final Leagues.
The Career tasks you with earning licenses before tackling the elite cups and trophies. It’s a nice gradual runthrough, facing increasingly difficult challenges as you go. And I guess this is where having some experience with the Admission test may have helped you prepare for what’s to come. Though I can’t say I learned as much as I scraped through with a bit of dumb luck.
Cycling proper though, feels really silky smooth as you take corners, speed up, slow down and keep a proper handle of your craft. RIDE 4 is one of the best feeling motorbike racers on the circuit. Milestone know what works and have had time to hone their craft. The controls feel responsive, the balance is tight, and it looks great. With them at the helm, you genuinely feel like the next generation of motor racers is going to be incredible indeed.
The weather effects really add to the atmosphere – grey skies, drizzly rain – while also impacting the gameplay. The bikes shine beautifully – their paintwork stunning to behold at times – and the environments look divine.
After each race, you earn more credits to spend on customisables and upgrades, as well as earn experience to level up your rider. You can also gain model affinity and constructor affinity with your chosen bike, which really lends itself to the ideal of sticking with what you’re most comfortable with and maxing it out.
Of course, the real action comes when you’re racing against others, doing all you can to avoid collisions, trying to avoid penalties. The game never really stutters or slows down despite the butter-smooth action on screen, and the game constantly demands your attention else you’ll quickly find yourself on the losing end of things.
But being honest here, RIDE 4 is not for beginners. Milestone absolutely refuse to hold your hand and a big part of that is down to the penalty system. It’s unfairly harsh – brutal, at times. For some gamers, it’s probably going to result in broken controllers. And as hard as it may be to hear, this will not be for everyone.
But if you do give the game time, master the handling, learn the courses, time your brakes, and have a bit of patience, RIDE 4 will reward you with its crisp visuals, sharp responsiveness, and chunky content.
Light bounces off the courses marvellously, and when I saw some of the bikes up close, I could feel my mouth water. The more time I put into RIDE 4, the more I enjoyed it, even if I never forgave it for its ridiculously harsh introduction.
Being a newcomer to the series, I like what I’ve seen here, but hope that Milestone can be a little more forgiving next time around and make the game a little easier to fall in love with. I wanted to fall head over heels for RIDE 4, but instead I had to be content with settling for a middle ground.
+ Absolutely striking visuals
+ Bike handling can be sublime
+ Good chunk of content
– A really steep learning curve
– Penalty system is infuriatingly harsh
– Forcing you to complete an assessment test to unlock content is a no-no
RIDE 4 is now available on PC, PS4, and XO
Code kindly provided by Koch Media
Tested on Xbox One