Back in the late ’90s / 2000s, I was “Mr. Extreme Sports”. Skateboard, Aggressive inline, Snowboard, and BMX, I was doing them all in search of the next thrill. And when it was time to come indoors, I was playing every extreme sports game available. As the years pass and I got physically older, some of the above activities had to remain in the past but not my desire to play extreme sport video games.
Thankfully, we have seen a revisiting if you will of the extreme sports scene with the release of THPS 1 & 2 along with a few others in the development pipeline. Therefore, once my eyes bore witness to Ubisoft’s new game Riders Republic at Ubisoft 2020 Forward digital event, I screamed to the heavens “LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!”
Riders Republic‘s presentation and career mode feel like a throwback similarly found in those hey-day extreme sports games. All the characters are overhyped with a “GO, GO, GO” attitude which could be seen as endearing or eye-rolling depending on your view of the extreme sports scene. The lifestyle has its own lingo and Riders Republic nails it.
Now I’m not sure if that is still the case in the present day, but during my time this is exactly how we sounded. You play as an up-and-coming rider new to Riders Ridge. Your goal is to earn stars along with in-game currency to unlock new areas known as regions and obtain new gear along with sponsors in order to style & profile your way to the bigger events. The overall map in Riders Republic is beautifully massive and consists of the following seven regions:
- Mammoth Mountain
- Yosemite Valley
- Grand Teton
- Bryce Canyon
Each region is masterfully modeled after the real-world locations with creative tweaks to the terrain. It’s mind-blowing to look out on a cliffside and see all the hills and snowcapped mountains off in the distance and know each location can be explored by simply hopping on your bike or snowmobile. Hell, if you feel like just going on a long virtual hike and walking to all the regions then you can do it.
However, if you are not interested in trekking to each event, you can press the touchpad which brings up the game menu screen and displays the world map that allows you to fast travel to whichever event you wish to partake in. When it comes to playing a game that involves various types of vehicles, having the most comfortable control scheme is key. Thankfully, Riders Republic provides multiple control options which can be switched on the fly by pressing the start button and going into options. These options include the following:
- Racer: Use gamepad buttons to perform tricks. In this preset, you can freely control the camera.
- Steep: Use the right trigger to jump, and perform tricks with the left stick.
- Trickster: Use the gamepad sticks to perform tricks. This preset has no camera control.
Personally, I would switch between Racer and Trickster depending on the vehicle. I felt Racer was more manageable during bike races since I found myself accidentally using the right stick while in Trickster and watching my character try to do a backflip on flat land. With that said, Trickster is the ideal control option for snowboard events. As stated in my opening, I played every extreme sports game under the sun and when it comes to snowboarding, Trickster definitely feels closer toward SSX mixed with some Cool Boarders 2.
I would like to mention that even the controls can be tweaked in the settings, especially on how you land. There is an option to set the landing to auto and the game will do its best to straighten you out when trying to land flips and spins. Also, regardless of your control scheme, pressing the R1 button will “rewind” your play. For example, if you steer off course and are now barreling down the mountain, you can hold down R1 and your character will rewind as far as you want.
Just note that it’s just YOUR CHARACTER that is rewinding and yes this is a no-brainer in regards to multiplayer but the same applies offline. So don’t see this as a crutch or you will always end up in the back of the pack. If you smash into a tree or take a tumble, your best option is to button mash the O button to get up at your current spot and continue on.
When it comes to sports, the following options are currently available:
- Ski & Rocket Ski
- Mountain Bike
- Wingsuit & Rocket Wingsuit
Ubisoft also announced more sports will be added to Riders Republic with BMX being the first sometime in 2022. I spent the majority of my time doing mountain bike and snowboard events. And I’m saying events because you don’t have to just race in Riders Republic.
You can jump into trick events and bust out your best combos to earn stars and cash. This is by no means a sim for any of these sports, so go crazy and try a double frontflip to boardslide on your snowboard. Yes, this is all possible. There are also daily challenges to compete in and obtain new sponsors. You can have up to three sponsors at a time.
All events can be performed solo (with Ai opponents) or Multiplayer. The game is extremely forgiving, so you will obtain rewards for just competing in events. When I first started career mode, I was almost always placing last yet my AI hype buddy was face timing me saying how “AWESOME” I was in that race and it’s time to move on. I get it as the goal is to make the player feel like they are progressing win or lose but it kind of breaks the immersion for me.
What does the opposite in regards to immersion is pressing R3 which switches you to first-person view and jumping into a 64-person event (32-person on last-gen consoles). These events are exhilarating while comical as riders collide in every way possible. These mass race events are a blast and in my opinion, the heart of Riders Republic.
Riders Republic is an ambitious project that in traditional form Ubisoft has long-term plans for. They have seen what has and hasn’t worked in other multi-sport titles and created an extreme sports world in which every inch can be explored. The “Zen mode” (free roam) lets you go and do as you please.
One could spend countless hours riding around the various regions and relax in this virtual space. The multiple control options along with the ability to tweak them show that the developers at Ubisoft Annecy are doing their best to say all are welcome and there truly is something for everyone in Riders Republic.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Riders Republic for the PlayStation 5 provided by Ubisoft.