Ubisoft Annecy‘s previous foray into adventure sports and all kinds of aerial acrobatics and snow resulted in a surprisingly fun game that had tons of potential – Steep. This time around, Ubisoft Annecy, along with other Ubisoft studios – Pune, Montpellier, Belgrade, Kyiv, and Odesa, have something a little more rugged and flashy in store with Riders Republic.
The game was announced a while back to a largely positive reception and the audience was curiously optimistic about whether it will be that much a departure from Steep – Ubisoft Annecy’s previous title that does bear a strong resemblance. From the Beta, it became pretty clear right from the get-go, that not only is the presentation decidedly distinct from Steep – Riders Republic is its own game, capable of standing on its own two feet, although it retains a lot of good things and charm from Steep.
The opening wastes literally no time in putting players right in the thick of things, as they ride down a hill full speed and marvel at just how incredibly fast-paced yet responsive it feels.
Riders Republic Beta – Just the right amount of fun and challenge
The first “race” players are put in is simply to introduce the kind acrobatic insanity that will ensue later in the game, with players getting to ride a bike downhill, followed by a brief section with rocket wingsuits, and ends in a small cutscene – introducing players to the social space of Riders Republic and the characters of the game.
Needless to say, you’re not going to be playing Riders Republic for its writing – which isn’t bad, it just sounds like a very long Red Hot Chilli Peppers song. Which again, isn’t bad – there’s nothing with everyone talking like an extra from Point Break, it’s actually quite charming, in a very early 2000s kind of way.
The heart of the game is in the races, and snow tricks, and the massive map that is ripe for exploration. So, how does it play?
Controls – Less Simulation, More Arcade
The introduction sequence is pretty long, but it isn’t without good reason. There is a lot players need to know before they go hurling themselves off a ramp and land head-first. There are two sets of controls that players can choose from: Racer and Trickster. Performing tricks is an essential part of not just trick events, but also Races, as they allow players to gain points – which are essential for progression.
The Racer preset uses the face button to manipulate the player character’s weight and body to perform tricks. While the Trickster preset uses the Right Analog Stick to do the same, which can be a bit more accurate than the face buttons. This is ultimately a matter of preference as some can find the face buttons to be not as responsive or vice versa.
The next choice players will be making is between Auto Landing and Manual. Needless to say, Landing safely is a primary concern if players want to rack up points. As falling flat on your face isn’t really the most impressive feat to look at. Auto Landing allows the player character to automatically make last-second adjustments so as to secure the landing, while Manual puts players in charge of doing that.
The trade-off is that players, should they choose Auto Landing, will lose out on the points bonus gained by landing perfectly. After this is sorted, players can start experimenting with different kinds of races and sports. The controls do have a bit of a learning curve, but it is, by no means, a simulation game. The simulation aspects of it are kept at a minimum as the core value of Riders Republic comes from its pure arcade-y chaos. Stringing together a ridiculously long combo finishing in a Superman 3 ft off the ground doesn’t make sense realistically – but it is extremely fun.
Riders Republic nails Downhill Biking
Of all the races and sports available, Downhill Biking quite quickly became a personal favourite. The sheer rush of speeding downhill and losing control over the direction of the bike is a feeling you just can’t get enough of. Snowboarding feels quite fun and stringing together Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater-like moves is always a fun time. Even though all 6 disciplines have a lot to offer – its Downhill Biking that definitely feels the most rewarding and exciting.
The minute-to-minute gameplay is simply brilliant, if you can stomach the virtual Gs you get from making increasingly sharp turns at break-neck speeds. This is definitely where the game is at its best – and something that is carried over from Steep – as that game really knew how to craft extremely fun tracks, races, and opportunities for stunts.
Everything players loved about Steep is there in Republic Riders, as is all the fun terrain and overall improved presentation of Riders Republic. There is certainly a healthy dose of 2000s pop-punk all over the title and it feels all the better for it. The presentation, mixed with Steep’s extremely fun gameplay and responsive controls makes this game just the perfect title for those that enjoyed Steep.
The Riders Ridge, also the Mass Race is absolutely golden
The Riders Ridge is the social space in which players can engage in a number of activities ranging from a Tricks Academy where players can learn moves to a Creation Center – where players can view other players’ content or create their own and share. This social hub is the heart of Riders Republic, and it serves as a great space to unwind, look at all the new gear you can buy or simply compete with others in Tricks Battle to gain supremacy over districts on the map.
There’s plenty of gear in the Shop Menu to keep players and competing in events to earn Cash. Progression is rewarded in the Riders Ridge with plenty of cool equipment and cosmetics to spend Cash on, and it doesn’t feel like they don’t add to the overall experience.
The Riders Ridge is the key component for Riders Republic and it feels like Steep could have fared much better if it had a similar social hub as well. Where Riders Republic is at its chaotic best is the Mass Race, which pits 32 players against one another in absolutely its best game mode.
The Mass Race is nothing short of pure, unbridled chaos and the game truly comes alive in those moments. It is the perfect game mode to get into with friends and engage in absolute adventure sports chaos along with other like-minded folk. Despite coming n close to last in almost every round, the game reminded had my character celebrating – meaning there are losers if you don’t quit, which is a nice little message.
All in all, Riders Republic is everything one expects it to be, and that much more. There is plenty to like about the beta and its only going to get better should Ubisoft support the game with continuous and quality updates and perhaps even add new game modes and sports to a hilariously large and well-crafted map.
The game finally comes out on October 28 2021, for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.
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