Outside of accepting prizefights with gorillas or mountain climbing without ropes, racing motorcycles at the highest levels of competition seems to be about the most dangerous thing a person might want to do. Luckily, Italian developer Milestone has made it easier than ever for thrillseekers to get a rough approximation of taking a superbike out for a spin with RIDE 4. On the flip side, the upgraded visual presentation given to the latest entry in the franchise tends to make the first-person views downright frightening at speed.
Break out the good leathers
While still a relatively niche genre in the world of video games when compared to racing in cars, zipping around circuits and the countryside atop the world’s fastest bikes still draws a dedicated crowd. The nice people over at Milestone have been working on the RIDE series for the last half-decade and work to present it as the Gran Tourismo of two-wheel motorsport. You get a wide variety of bike classes and a collection of world-class circuits on which to exploit their strengths (and to test the limits of your protective gear when you inevitably lay them down at speed).
The fourth go-round offers 170 different bikes from the most popular manufacturers, including Yamaha, Suzuki, Triumph, Ducati, and more. These rides span the last forty years of motorcycle racing and include some of the most iconic designs in the world. The overall selection naturally leans heaviest towards modern bikes with many 2020 models making their first-ever video game appearance. More than thirty total circuits are waiting to be toppled, including a mix of real-life licensed speedways and others that draw heavy inspiration from some of the most iconic events in two-wheel racing.
Most tracks have the option of running multiple unique circuits and at different times of day. A solid weather system is also included, with the option to have conditions change during an individual event. Weather changes play a huge role in the Endurance events that are new for RIDE 4. This mode takes some of the focus off of the endless pursuit of perfect laps and forces riders to manage fuel, tire wear, and pit stops. The additional strategy adds a nice layer to the normal gameplay loop and being forced to go slower to conserve fuel or tires in service of making it to the finish line allows players to appreciate the nuance in the upgraded physics systems. An overhauled front-end UI is a welcome change and is easily the best design I’ve seen from Milestone.
It would be fair to say that the changes to suspension simulation, rider weight distribution, and how tires interact with the asphalt make RIDE 4 a tougher game to get into for newcomers than has previously been the case for the series. While it does offer an array of rider assists including auto-brakes and racing line guidance, the learning curve required to work at podium-earning speed is steep. Ultimately, it will make RIDE 4 better in the long run for those who have been wanting a more realistic experience and for the players who stick with all the bumps, bruises, flips, road rash, and other ways your rider can experience pain.
Rider interaction with the bikes and animations across the board are really solid for RIDE 4. In third-person views, it is easy to see exactly how the bike is responding to your inputs and road conditions as you’ll see countless minor movements that work together to build immersion and give relevant feedback. I played on a gamepad and wished for better rumble feedback, but it wasn’t annoying enough that I thought about it too often. Should you make a mistake or misinterpret feedback, you’ll enjoy the views of your rider being tossed into trees, safety barriers, roadblocks, and just about anything else near the track. Admittedly, I would love for the ragdoll physics to be more realistic, but I’m not sure the game would be able to earn a rating under Mature (18+).
The biggest thing that will jump out for returning players is the visual overhaul, should they be playing on PC. While Milestone has plans to bring RIDE 4 to the next-gen consoles in January, you can get the experience now on PC and the results bode well for those who must wait till the new year. Bike models are exquisite and dripping with detail. The leathers for your rider look very clean and are customizable. Additionally, your editing work can be shared online with other players and you can download the best designs from other community members. An overhauled lighting system gives the bikes, riders, and environments a big boost in image quality over the PS5 and Xbox One versions.
I was able to get a solid 60Hz at just under 4K out of the PC version at Ultra settings and it makes a great first impression, particularly in first-person views. Many aspects of the presentation were good enough that I began to look deeper until I saw a bit of the rougher parts hiding in plain sight. The first-person side mirrors are great at speed, but their lower resolution and reduced draw distance killed some of the immersion. The same goes for shadow map and lightmap pop-in on the country tracks. It would be nice if there was a way to push things further, even at the expense of resolution.
On the whole, the first-person riding when things are maxed out is still a real hoot. Races at dawn and dusk look great, particularly in HDR where the vibrant red tail lights stand out against the nearly dreamlike sky hues. The sense of speed on the modern bikes is downright panic-inducing, particularly in RIDE 4’s version of the Isle of Man TT event (which is officially licensed to a different game). Attempting to maintain speed while screaming past country cottages and blind corners is where RIDE 4 shines and I simultaneously want to keep trying and never try again.
There is still the issue of motorbike game fatigue. I’ve already been through a few Milestone racing games this year, each with parts that are similar to RIDE 4. All four entries in the RIDE series have now been released within a five-year period and while their improvements to the visuals are nice, franchise veterans on older consoles might not find enough difference to buy in for yet another go-round. Also, Milestone has laid out their plans for post-launch DLC for Ride 4, with some being free to all players and some being a part of a Season Pass. It appears that the Season Pass is only available to console players (as was the case with RIDE 3), so PC players will have to buy all the paid content at full price, should they want it at release.
If you are all hot and bothered by the thought of tearing past some United Kingdom pastures at 240+kph on a crotch rocket with the best visuals of any two-wheeled racing game yet, RIDE 4 for PC and next-gen consoles needs to be on your shortlist. While I found the first-person cameras lead me to slower lap times, they were my preferred way to crash the bikes. I’ve still yet to win at the Isle of Man on a modern bike, but hopefully, that time arrives soon. 8/10 Ninja wheelies
- Great sense of speed with first-person cameras
- Visual overhaul for next-gen is solid
- Redesigned UI is best yet from developer
- Endurance Mode is a welcome addition
- Not much new for console players
- Very steep learning curve
- Poor controller rumble feedback
- No Season Pass for PC