Now that the weather is improving and the days are getting longer, I’ve been able to get on the bike and back onto the trails. My lack of fitness and fear of breaking bones keeps me from attempting anything too crazy, but that doesn’t mean that the temptation isn’t there to just go white knuckle and send it down a mountain. Helping me stay out of a cast, Riders Republic gives players access to a number of insanely satisfying extreme sports and sets you loose in an impressive open world with a huge number of events to take part in. This trail isn’t without its bumps, but you’ll be having so much fun that you’ll likely ride straight through them.
There are five main disciplines within Riders Republic: bike racing, bike tricks, snow racing, snow tricks and air-based events. Each sport is distinct and, while the controls remain similar throughout, they each feel unique and incredibly fun.
If you’ve played Steep, you’ll feel right at home with the snow sports. Skiing and snowboarding both rely on momentum and challenge the player to pick the right lines down the slope to maximise speed. Bikes, whether they be road or mountain, demand precision, as you’ll often be bombing down a trail with twists and turns thrown at you at a moment’s notice. The air offerings, split between wingsuits and jetpacks, provide the most uneven sporting choice, but if barrelling through valleys and narrowly avoiding tall pines is the worst of it, you know that you’re having a blast.
It might look tranquil, but this trail is a tough one
No matter the sport, you’re able to switch between first and third-person at any time. All of the sports feel responsive and exciting, but if you’re wanting to experience a real sense of speed, first-person is the way to go. The pace is high no matter your camera choice, but hearing your rider’s breathing, seeing the environment zoom past you and feeling that boost of speed when you sprint makes for one of the most adrenaline-pumping moments that I’ve had in gaming.
Racing events are simple, checkpoint-to-checkpoint affairs that have you jostling for first place against a number of AI or player-controlled opponents. Either by smashing into a tree during an enduro bike event or eating a mouthful of snow while snowboarding, you’ll inevitably fall on your face. To lessen the blow, a rewind feature allows you to get back in the action, though missing a checkpoint can be frustratingly easy in certain races where they’re hard to spot.
Trick events have you worrying less about who gets to the finish line first and more about who gets there in the coolest fashion. The game features two main control schemes, Racer and Trickster. The Racer options ties rotation to the face buttons and gives the player some assists when it comes to landing, making pulling off stunts a bit more accessible. Once you’ve got a handle on that though, Trickster is the way to go. Ditching the training wheels and switching from the face buttons to the right stick for rotation, the Trickster control method gives you more creative freedom and also nabs you a higher score for ditching the assists. Either way you play, I’m glad that there are plenty of options available, so anyone can jump in and feel like a trick-landing badarse regardless of ability.
I’ll land this…right?
Each sport has its own career that you’ll earn XP towards. Every race you participate in will grant you XP towards that specific sport, as well as Stars that go towards your overall level. Each event will also have a number of sub-objectives to complete that’ll earn you more Stars. These added challenges add an extra little layer of replayability to each race, even if they’re nothing ground-breaking. Each sport having its own career not only gives you a bucket load to do, but it also provides a lot of freedom and choice. Really digging snow trick events? Well, focus on those, get some sick gear and work your way through it.
Throughout each career you’ll unlock a number of marquee events, leading to one big final race. Though these races don’t actually feel that different to every other one, many of them are based on real-world events like Redbull Rampage, so extreme sports fans will get a kick out of taking part in them.
Between events, you’re free to explore the game’s absolutely massive map. From snowy peaks and lush forests to rocky desserts and bustling towns, the variety on offer here is staggering. Size and scope are impressive enough, but the fact that none of that space is filler is unbelievable. No matter where you are on the giant map there’s something to jump off, ski down, ride through or grind on. Best of all, you can do all of those things whenever you please, as you’re able to switch between all of the sports at will. I tell you what, jumping off a mountain in a wingsuit, switching to skis halfway and then finishing the trip with a bash on a mountain bike is one hell of a good time, one that I needed to catch my breath from when I made it to the base. You’re given all the tools to have a good time and the freedom to enjoy them however you want.
The map is enormous and the views are pretty stellar
In addition to standard races, a number of other activities can be found across the map that shake up the formula and provide laughs, a challenge, or sometimes both. Shackdaddy events progressively become available during the course of the game and have you riding often insane vehicles called Funkies. These range from an old jet engine strapped to your back, a pizza delivery bike, a surfboard and plenty more that you should discover for yourself. The events themselves are a mixed bag, with the rocket bike race being a particular chore, but using them in the open world is hilariously fun.
If you’re having a great time alone, you’ll have an even better time with friends. In a party of up to six, you can explore, race and generally screw about to your heart’s content. Obviously taking part in events is great, but just traversing the world and discovering lines of your own is just as fun, if not more so. And, if your mate finds a great spot but you’re on the other side of the map, don’t fret as you can teleport to them with the press of a button. The one social element that I could do without is the tether that links you to your nearby party members. Sure, it’s handy for keeping tabs on where your friends are among the dozens of other riders, but damn does it get in the way.
An exercise bike and a paper airplane are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Funkies
Speaking of other riders, it would be rude not to mention one of the game’s most highly anticipated events, the Mass Races. These chaotic point-to-point sprints see up to 64 players all racing against each other at the same time in a multi-discipline event. Popping up every hour, these races feel like they inject a bit of Fall Guys into proceedings. Undeniably fun in the silliest way possible, these races are as much about luck and having better gear as they are about actual skill. I never entered one feeling as though I would win, but I honestly don’t mind, as they’re more of a spectacle than a sport. I will say though, the game does struggle every now and then during these races, particularly at the beginning when everyone is all bunched together.
With so many riders flying around the map, you’ll no doubt want to stand out, and while cosmetics and customisation is present, it’s not all that well implemented. Sure, you can spend in-game money earned through sponsorships and races to buy some clothing items, but the coolest and most lucrative gear is only purchasable with real-world cash and it’s stupidly expensive. That’s if you can make it to the storefront. While the gameplay is freeing, the UI is more than a little confusing. Not only that, but the game is dead set on telling you about every new feature before you go anywhere in the menus. Worst of all, a lot of this is told to you by some of the most annoying stereotype NPCs around. Having everything explained to me by these bodaciously gnarly radicals made me want to take a snowboard to the head.
Right where I belong
Above anything else, Riders Republic is fun and it knows it. The game’s huge, varied open world is the perfect playground for each of the distinct extreme sports and experimenting with everything on offer will keep you coming back time and time again. Though the disciplines aren’t all runaway hits, the sheer amount of content here means that you can focus on what you do enjoy and never feel short-changed. Whether hitting the slopes with friends or on your own, Riders Republic is a fantastic, adrenaline-filled experience that will leave you with a big, stupid smile on your face.
Reviewed on PS5 // Review copy supplied by publisher
- Ubisoft Annecy/Ubisoft Milan
- PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / PC
- October 28, 2021