RIDE 3 from Milestone is an ambitious revision to the developer's marquee series.
But it is the RIDE series that stands at the forefront of the lineup in an effort to be a Gran Turismo of sorts for bikes, and indeed, Milestone has saved its best effort for last.
Rebuilt in Unreal Engine 4, RIDE 3 is a dedicated simulation offering for the hardcore, if not niche audience.
RIDE 3 isn't friendly to newcomers, and the tutorials don't do much to offer help. The game plops players down into a race without so much as a prompt on initial boot up.
There are tutorials as they stand alongside other core modes, but while they seem expansive at face value, they aren't much more than segmented splices of events to work on a certain mechanic—but without guidance from a voiceover or prompts.
In short, this is not a pick-up-and-play game. This doesn't mean it isn't fun, but Milestone treats any and all players like seasoned veterans here for the third entry in the series. For those newcomers, experimentation and getting a feel for how things play will take some time.
The sense of speed is great here, and trying to earn separation from the pack is a thrill. But turning feels far too floaty at times, leaving the player guessing as to how bend navigation works without coming to a full stop.
As expected, this leads to some oftentimes hilarious crashes—as hilarious as sending a bike flying over the rails and into the woods or otherwise can be.
Unreal Engine 4 works its magic here, though crashes can be spotty, with sometimes a small tweak sending a player flying, while other times rumbling off the track doesn't cause any problems.
Randomness is a part of racing, but leaning too much into it for the sake of realism can backfire. This happens at the starting line, too, where there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to who pulls away at the starting gun.
Spotty turns and what seems like a dice roll on crashes are only so apparent because of the blue-line guidance on the track and the presence of assists, two features common in most racing sims these days.
The blue line can feel misleading as it doesn't change in color while a player brakes but it results in a wreck anyway.
Luckily for players—and especially new players—the genre-staple known as a rewind system is here as well. At any point, players can cue a rewind of up to 10 seconds or so and fix the errors or collisions with other drivers.
Once a player gets up and running effectively within the game's systems, the sense of speed and joy that comes from skillfully flowing through the curvaceous bends and sprinting straightways on tracks makes for a great time.
Coming to terms with some of the flaws and randomness adds a bit of charm, too, once over the barrier for entry.
Graphics and Presentation
It's not hard to see all of Milestone's graphical time went into the bikes and bikes only.
And the bikes look amazing, each with their own distinctive true-to-life detail. It's not hard to appreciate the time that went into each, especially when propping them up in a photo mode and snapping some shots. They look just as good in motion.
But overall, this is a game that looks better in screens than when it's in motion.
Of course, this means taking eyes off the bikes. During a race, all non-night events (those look brilliant) look bland, with off-track textures and background events looking blocky at best. While these tracks are recreated faithfully and will please the hardcore players, it's a little weird the off-track portion struggles so much coming from the immersive stadiums and crowds of something like Monster Energy Supercross.
Driver models themselves are blocky as well and have some hair-texture issues. Offering up character customization away from the racing itself only shined a brighter light on some of the lacking aspects here.
These small issues aren't a dealbreaker and are understandable from a studio that isn't pumping out a Forza offering every year. Ditto for the lack of cutscenes and voiceovers, which leaves players to focus on the excellent sound design coming from the bikes themselves, which while impressive, can start to get repetitive.
This area is about managing expectations. Shooting for realism, RIDE 3 went all-in on the bikes and kept much of everything else the same. As long as newcomers aren't expecting an all-encompassing graphical leap for a series that last released in 2016, it's hard to find fault.
RIDE 3's list of features is about as impressive as its list of bikes.
This year's offering boasts north of 200 bikes, and each class feels different, though all the bikes within each class start to blend together. It's an exhaustive list, though it won't be uncommon to find different players gravitate to different classes of bikes as their favorite.
The mandatory career mode gets repetitive fast. Milestone tried to work around this by allowing a player to pick and choose what they wanted to do, but it doesn't hide the basic feedback loop of race-unlock bike-race again. There aren't any major voiceovers, cutscenes or story, though the magazine cover-esque presentation of each tier of races looks great.
Call career mode a microcosm of the game itself. For the hardcore fans, unlocking bike after bike while traveling well-known locales with different classes of bike will keep them engaged. For others, it's going to start feeling like a grind in a hurry.
Customization is a key talking point as well. Players can change a character both in appearance and attire. There aren't a ton of options here, but it is a nice addition and provides some personality to what would otherwise be a bland affair.
The livery editor is neat as well. Putting a personal touch on a character's surroundings allows for a fun bit of expression, and showing off accolades and bikes is a no-brainer.
Continuing the theme, bike customization is probably the deepest aspect of what players can fine tune. While this avenue isn't bad by any means, it is also a bit limited compared to some of the bigger simulation games out there. That said, the tweaks and upgrades do have impactful on-track results.
Rounding out the robust feature list is an online offering equipped with matchmaking of different varieties and private matches. It's also nice to have weekly challenges that expire, which add some longevity to the online scene.
The emphasis is on the motorcycles in RIDE 3.
This falls under "for better or worse" territory. Hardcore players know what they are getting themselves into, and there is a ton of content and replayability here for those seeking out a simulation experience.
Others expecting the yearly jump a Forza or other powerhouse annual franchise takes each year will have to readjust expectations.
At its core, RIDE 3 offers a rewarding simulation experience with faithful bike and track recreations for those with an eye for it. For its niche, Milestone has offered up its best release of the year and a natural next step for its marquee franchise.