Hands-on Riders Republic Preview (PS5) – Hella Gnar

Riders Republic is Ubisoft’s open-world, extreme sports, massively multiplayer…thing. I recently went hands-on with the game, alongside some of Australia’s finest gaming journos and found it to be a unique and compelling experience. Even if it did have that Poochy — don’t forget to recycle…to the EXTREME — thing going on.

Riders Republic is a celebration of all things extreme and embraces the gnarly, bodacious world of Red Bull Extreme Sports, pushing things to the limit and seeking adrenaline wherever you go. And while I’m gently poking fun at the culture, Riders Republic is, so far, genuinely thrilling.

Right off the bat, I was put in the middle of a downhill bike race, following serpentine roads through a rocky forest. One wrong move and either, I’d learn what happens when a human and tree become one or I’d plummet off the side of a sheer cliff.

These aren’t called extreme sports for nothing.

Riders Republic Review

My brief stint on the downhill bike made way for the Rocketwing. Now, I’m not 100% sure if these things actually exist or not. The closest I’ve seen is the jetpack George Michael uses in Arrested Development which subsequently offends the Japanese investors and leaves the Bluth family once again shit out of luck. Fortunately, there are no giant moles to be found, so far, in Riders Republic and the Rocketwing functions like a wingsuit…with a rocket strapped to it.

Flying through the air, hitting circular checkpoints and racing against the clock I was instantly reminded of Pilotwings 64 and what a tragedy it is that we’ve not seen a proper release in the series in almost three decades. Riders Republic’s Rocketwing scratched that itch for me. Despite having very little in common with Nintendo’s ancient franchise, Riders Republic filled me with nostalgia and made me enjoy the Rocketwing sections more than I otherwise might have. Controlling the Rocketwing is actually quite difficult and it steers like a bus so actually maneuvering through the checkpoints while making good time is pretty difficult. Thankfully, if you should happen to wipe out during any of the sports, a handy tap of R1/RB will rewind time and get you back on track. Literally.

After removing the Rocketwing and what I assume are now melted and charred trousers, it was time for some downhill skiing. Once again focusing on speed, this downhill skiing section felt entirely different from the mountain bike. The sense of speed was intact but it felt fast in a different way. Additionally, while skiing, you have much greater control of your character and are far less likely to stack. I mean, remaining upright forever is going to be impossible, Ubisoft has put SO many trees in your way, but, while on the mountain bike I felt like I was fighting for control the entire time, skiing was more relaxing in an extreme kind of way.

Riders Republic includes both a third and first-person perspective and for my money, first-person is the hands-down winner. Where third person feels fast, first person feels supersonic. The danger seems closer, the thrill is more in your face and the sense of excitement is far more compelling. Trust me, it might seem counterintuitive at first but once you get used to playing Riders Republic in first person, you won’t go back.

Once these introductions were complete, it was time to head to the Riders Ridge.

Located at the heart of the world map, the Riders Ridge is the hub in Riders Republic. It’s here that players can access various features of the game; cosmetic storefronts, training, PvP matchmaking and more. On loading into the Riders Ridge, there were players EVERYWHERE. And I mean everywhere. The number of avatars on screen at one time was impressive and it helps give Riders Republic that sense of community and camaraderie.

Once I’d reached the Riders Ridge, watched a few cutscenes about how tubular my sick moves were and how I was going to win the entire competition I realised what Riders Republic actually was.

It’s Forza Horizon for extreme sports. Once I realised it the more obvious it became.

Dotted across the huge open-world map are a variety of activities, races, collectibles and more. Players take part in the activities, earn stars and use them to unlock new content. Each discipline includes a number of events and by mastering each of them, players can earn the right to compete in more difficult (and extreme) competitions. And like Forza Horizon or special cuddles, going solo in Riders Republic is perfectly fine and tonnes of fun, but it’s much better when you’ve got company.

During my hands-on, I was able to play with four others across PC, PS5 and Xbox Series X. Just the fact the Ubisoft has cross-play working, basically, flawlessly in a closed beta is a great sign. Once we’d teamed up, our Ubisoft guide took us through a variety of activities as a team. Where the excitement and thrill of these extreme sports were great while playing alone, once I was in a squad the chatter, sledging and cheering on each other increased the fun exponentially. Better still, entering the Mass Race as a team was absolutely ridiculous and a stupidly good way to spend time with mates.

The Mass Race is Riders Republic‘s main event and occurs periodically. When a Mass Race is announced, players are able to register from the Riders Ridge and take part in 64-player races across multiple legs. Like the introduction to the game, where I went from downhill to Rocketwing and onto skiing, Mass Races include multiple activities across several legs and three races. The overall winner is the player with the most points at the end of the third race. I was pleased with my 50 something placement, wait, no, not pleased, embarrassed, that’s the one.

I finished my hands-on time with a PvP event called Tricks Battle. Here, two teams compete to earn the most points on skis or snowboards by pulling off the sickest tricks and shredding the gnarliest lines within a snowy arena. Various parts of the arena can be “owned” by the two teams by performing tricks from them. It’s kind of like Splatoon without the paint, or mutated squid children. Whichever team holds more parts of the arena can earn more points and has an advantage in the Tricks Battle. The tug of war of owning parts of the map and pulling off tricks gets pretty hectic as the clock winds down and players start attempting longer and more outrageous combos. You don’t want to be the guy who lost 100,000 points with 10 seconds remaining.

We managed to win our Tricks Battle and from the post-match scoreboard, it looks as though Riders Republic will include a ranking and league arrangement for Tricks Battle with teams having to spend points to enter and winning or losing said points depending don’t the match’s outcome. I can see the most competitive among us getting stuck right into Tricks Battle and I’m looking forward to seeing some insane runs on YouTube and Twitch.

Before I played Riders Republic, I was a little vague on what exactly it was. Now, having played it, I’m confident Ubisoft has a really solid title built on a great foundation. Using the Forza Horizon series’ as a framework for Riders Republic is brilliant. It works really well with the notion of exploring the vast open wilderness on bike, ski, Rocketwing, wingsuit or snowmobile and always keeps players motivated to move forward.

While it’s early days and too soon to tell if the shine will come off Riders Republic after spending more time with it, for now, it seems totally rad.

Catch ya on the flipside, dudemeisters.

Riders Republic launches for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series S|X on October 28, 2021.

Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevensonhttps://powerup-gaming.com/
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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