Riders Republic Review – A missed opportunity

I’ve never hated a game that I also think is hugely fun, but somehow Riders Republic succeeded. Ubisoft’s open world action sports game begins with a promising premise: you, a voiceless action sports lover, arrive at Riders Ridge, a mecca for shredders everywhere. Somehow, against all laws in national parks and state regulations, several states’ national parks – including Mammoth and Yosemite – have been reclaimed by the action sports industry with the explicit purpose of pulling the ass.

Rider’s Republic’s card looks about as good as any other open world from Ubisoft – which means it’s visually easy on the eyes, but without much meaningful or interesting depth. Huge mountains and deep valleys occupy the map, giving the entire game a great sense of varying verticality. Multiple biomes – forest, desert, snow cover, etc. – do a decent job of adding visual variation as you go back and forth between targets.

And you go back and forth a lot. While Rider’s Republic offers a lot of collectibles on its entire map – such as spotting landmarks or jumping balloons (… for some reason?) – the world is not that engaging. I rarely felt the need to go off the beaten path, for my curiosity was never rewarded with anything but strange collectibles – ways to cross off endless boxes on various checklists. After a while, I got bored of going from place to place and started traveling fast to save time. Riders Republic’s map is really big, so it can take more than 10 minutes to walk from one end to the other for a race. Since that journey is always boring, I felt it was best to skip. This beautiful world was just dressed up instead of something I wanted to engage in.

Whether I was in time trials or in its 64-person mass race, capturing a sense of speed that few games have, and running down the open world’s numerous roads and trails at breathtaking speeds, sometimes down what feels like a 90s degree drop. Every time I crashed through a race, I felt like I was barely in control, that a wrong move would send me to disaster, and that was exciting. This was especially true of wingsuit and rocket suit races, where one navigates through the air and tries to get through checkpoints. During these intense races, you fly up and down wildly different altitudes, creating constant near-accidents and collisions with the ground and mountains around you. I loved taking on the races in the game, testing my skills as Riders Republic slowly increased the challenge. It has always been great to get in first place.

I also enjoyed the races that mix Riders Republic’s different action sports together. Many long runs force you to switch between your bikes, snowboards, wing suits and rocket suits on the go, test your skills and punish any mistakes. As I got better at the game, these races pushed my understanding of the Riders’ mechanics in constantly satisfying ways. I always jumped at the chance to do a new multi-sport race when it unlocked.

Trick challenge races where you try to collect a score of points by performing air maneuvers are not nearly as engaging. Performing these tricks does not feel rewarding and you are not encouraged to master complex maneuvers because you can get it by simply performing the same basic tricks over and over again. I often pushed myself through these races, so I rarely knew what trick I was going to do when I hit a ramp. Trick challenge races could not test my knowledge or skills with the trick systems, which led me to largely ignore the system. Especially considering the number of these different trick races that are in the Riders Republic – dozens or more for each sport – this eventually became a repetitive blow as I had run out of the more standard race events to play.

After almost every race you get a new bike or vehicle. With this constant flow of new equipment, I was never attached to any piece of equipment. As such, I was not forced to search my equipment. I just picked the one with the biggest number and got started on my day. These are small complaints in the big picture, but in a game as long as Riders Republic carried these small problems on me.

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Rider Republic’s biggest problem is how it reveals everything well about the gameplay with non-stop disgust. This game is desperate to make you think it’s cool. At all times, it bombards you with its infinitely long script, full of incredibly annoying characters that exude an endless array of annoying jokes and one-liners. A few select highlights include, “You work with these events like a pig’s rib! Nummies,” and you break out “a whole new level of steeze,” repeated constantly in non-skipping dialogue prompts that play every time you scroll over a certain part of the game map or cross the world. These lines are not cool the first time; they are unbearably intolerable after a dozen times.

The soundtrack has the same problem, which incredibly includes a cover of Coolio’s song “Gangsta’s Paradise”, softly performed by Les Ukulélés Girls, with the artist Zita. This is truly one of the worst songs I have ever heard. Sprinkle selected clips from Green Day’s latest album, “Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa, and you have a soundtrack that is completely out of touch with music that is popular today. The soundtrack is such a big issue for me because the Riders push it down your throat. There is an in-game radio with different genres and stations, but once you enter the race, the game has a predetermined soundtrack. Play a dozen races and there’s a really good chance you’ll get to listen to the same three songs a dozen times.

Rider’s Republic offers an experience that, while fun and exciting, gets under your skin in a way that no other game has. It does one or two things that I think are amazing, but that do not outweigh the things I can not stand. In the end, Riders Republic dies with a million cuts. I can only hear the same song or dialogue so many times before it stops being annoying and gets annoying. Riders Republic is a missed opportunity for a unique and fun action sports game – a genre I grew up with and which I miss a lot. It’s a game I do not see myself returning to for the time being.

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