E3 2011: Ridge Racer Unbounded

By Andrew Yoon, Jun 14, 2011 10:55am PDT

QUICKTAKE: There are many reasons why Kaz Hirai's infamous Ridge Racer remark... became infamous. One of the main reasons the comment sparked such internet fervor was the simple fact that Ridge Racer is inherently unexciting. Remaining nearly unchanged for three generations, the franchise has, at the very least, been reliable.

Ridge Racer Unbounded is everything Ridge Racer is not. In fact, it was my biggest surprise of E3. Unbounded features a level of destruction that rivals, if not bests, the mayhem of Split/Second. As I saw the driver rip apart concrete and destroy bridges, I knew that this was definitely not "just another Ridge Racer."

THE DEMO: I saw one race played out from beginning to end. While the drift mechanic looks to be taken from Ridge Racer games of yore, everything else was brand new to the series. I saw the racer side-slam an opposing car into the wall, and it turned into a fiery wreck, a la Burnout. Then, a blue icon appeared on a building, letting the racer crash through, creating a new shortcut. Further in the race, I saw the racer crash through the support beam of a bridge, causing it to rain down destruction on the cars trailing behind.

The race was quite the thrill ride, but the developers had one final secret they wanted to tease. A video played, showing off what appeared to be new tracks created by other players. Could Unbounded be going the Play, Create, Share route?

DETAILS: Because the demo was so brief, there aren't many more details to divulge in. Throughout the demonstration, developer BugBear reiterated that this is not a part of Ridge Racer "canon." In fact, the game will feature a loose narrative, where players try to command the streets and expand their gang's turf. I wasn't privy to too many details, but it's clear that Namco Bandai is trying to steer away from the vanilla attitude of the series' past.

Obviously, crashing through concrete makes for dramatic impact -- both literally and figuratively. However, these moments can't be triggered at whim. You must earn the ability to crash through walls by raising a meter which, as you've probably guessed, requires you to drive as recklessly as possible. Drifting will engage the meter, but so will aggressive driving, near-misses on oncoming traffic, and more. Burnout vets will find themselves in familiar turf here.

I love how empowering crashing through the environment is, and I like how you can use your abilities to hinder the progress of your opponents. I didn't see it in the demo, but I hope your rivals are also able to do the same, forcing you to keep your wits up. Another great consequence of your destructive capabilities: the tracks feel very different on subsequent laps. As new routes are created and others are destroyed, no single lap feels the same.

And, if my theory about Unbounded's final E3 teaser holds true, there will be too many tracks to race through. I'm already digging Unbounded's dramatic departure from the rest of the Ridge Racer series ... but will Namco Bandai be daring enough to make the bound into user generated content? We're sure to find out before the game's 2012 release.

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