The "Ridge Racer" series has seen many changes since its humble PlayStation beginnings. "Ridge Racer Unbounded" is another great entry into the famed racer series, but it's also a major departure from what fans are used to. Taking the developing wheel this time around is the Finnish developer Bugbear, and it's clear they had their way with this installment. It may say "Ridge Racer" on the box, but once you open it, you get a totally different gaming experience.
Taking place in the fictional city of Shatter Bay, the overall game looks great. Players have a wide selection of cars from which to choose, each with its unique strengths and weaknesses. Some are faster, others are better at drifting, while others still are great for plowing through your opponents. Each car handles a bit differently, so mastering all of them takes time and patience. Players will undoubtedly have their favorites.
The best new change is the massive destruction element that has been added to the game. Cars go up in fireballs when hit, buildings crumble, and bridge supports get blown to pieces. Drifting through a pylon is both visually pleasing and quite a bit of fun. The best part: the more you destroy, the more you're rewarded.
Speaking of destruction, players will notice a boost bar that fills up during drifts. A full boost meter will allow a driver to wipe out anything in their path with a well-timed drift. Even Michael Bay would be happy with the carnage when you smash through a building and continue racing.
All the mayhem that takes place in the game isn't just for fun. The more things you destroy, the more points you earn. Placing first gets a player thousands of points, but all the destruction adds up as well. The more points you get, the higher the racing level you can achieve. Additional points also unlock new cars, tracks, events and districts in the city of Shatter Bay. Opening up new districts adds longevity to the game, as they offer a wide range of new locations to race through and destroy.
There are several types of races players can choose from in the game. Shindo racing is straight-up racing without all the destruction. Frag Attack allows players to take out as many opponents as possible, which is reminiscent of "Twisted Metal" or "Burnout." Other challenges include Time Trials, Drift Attack, and Domination, the last which awards players for the amount of total destruction caused.
The online multiplayer feature includes a city creator, allowing players to build their own courses in their own custom cities. Throughout, players can add all the explosions, obstacles and mayhem they want. Players can race their own courses, placing in it, and publish their scores online. Furthermore other racers in the online universe can compete in these homemade courses and see if they can beat the creator's top scores.
Available for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, "Ridge Racer Unbounded" is a great looking roller coaster ride of a game. Borrowing parts from other racers, Bugbear has created a refreshing take on a somewhat dated series. If racing is your game, then pick this up. If destroying everything in your path is your thing, then definitely pick this up. Die-hard "Ridge Racer" fans might protest the major departure taken, but they'll get over it the first time they plow through a building and watch the glass shards fly around their beautiful, shiny car.