Ridge Racer: Unbounded is releasing in just over a week, and it promises to be a pretty exciting time for the franchise. It will serve as a huge departure from the rest of the series, not least because it's being developed by Bugbear. We had the recent opportunity to go and check out the latest build of the game to see how it's coming along.
First thing's first, Bugbear are a studio who aren't strangers to the racing genre. Some of their previous works include FlatOut and Sega Rally Revo, and it's because of this pedigree that they were approached by Namco Bandai to take the Ridge Racer franchise in a rather different direction.
Historically, the franchise has been very fantasy orientated, with huge drifts and mental boosts. Many of these elements have been retained for Unbounded, but their execution is rather different.
Unbounded offers a more "edgy" feel, with gritty street races showing that this iteration of Ridge Racer is going to be one that's much more grounded in the modern realities of racing. It also looks to actively promote contact, with you being able to take out other cars completely using certain moves.
There are a few different types of race, and each one offers a different style of gameplay. Time Attack is all about getting from start to finish as quickly as possible, while collecting targets to keep the timer from counting down. Domination is then a free-for-all, where you have to destroy as many cars as possible and Shindo is a full-on street race.
These are all divided out through the game's "world", which is called Shatter Bay. This has 9 individual locations within it and in the build we played, there were 64 different events to take part in.
Upon completing a race, you'll be graded based on your performance, but also by other criteria, such as the amount of damage you caused (collateral), any awards you unlocked and key targets you managed to smash up. You see, one of the main mechanics revolves around your boost meter. Get this to full, whack it on, and you become a mental wrecking machine for a short period of time. You're able to mash up other cars and even drive through pretty sturdy walls.
The game also features a nice "collision detection" mechanic, which is quite similar to those seen in shooters. If a rival driver is close behind you, that part of the screen will start to turn red, showing you where you're being "attacked" from. There's also the pretty mental "create-a-track" mode, where you're able to make pretty intricate courses for people around the world to race on.
Question marks could be raised about the actual performance of the cars and the visuals, but it wasn't a final build of the game. We'll be able to tell you more when the game releases on the 30th of March on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.