Ridge Racer Unbounded (Xbox 360/PS3) Box Artr(www.ridgeracer.com/)  Rated T for Teen by ESRB.  Let’s not mince words.  I haven’t played a racing game since Project Gotham Racing 3, and that was my favorite racer of all time.  Needless to say, it’s been a long time since I’ve revved a virtual engine and watched my digitized sports car crash into buildings.  Ridge Racer Unbounded was a fun update to my racing career, and while it does have some issues, it’s not a bad ride.

Ridge Racer Unbounded (Xbox 360/PS3) Box ArtRidge Racer Unbounded (Xbox 360/PS3) Logo(www.ridgeracer.com/) Rated T for Teen by ESRB.  Let’s not mince words.  I haven’t played a racing game since Project Gotham Racing 3, and that was my favorite racer of all time.  Needless to say, it’s been a long time since I’ve revved a virtual engine and watched my digitized sports car crash into buildings.  Ridge Racer Unbounded was a fun update to my racing career, and while it does have some issues, it’s not a bad ride.



Presentation:
The narration of Kara Shindo, the leading member of the Unbounded, provides us with our general backstory.  Shatter Bay is a city filled with individual districts, and the city’s foundations are quite literally being shattered by a group of lawless racers who call themselves the Unbounded.  The Unbounded race for dominance, destroy whatever they please, and take pride in undermining whatever sense of order Shatter Bay tries to instill.  And you’ve just been invited to join the club.

It’s an intriguing plot, and I liked starting out as an initiate and working to prove my worth in the group.  Kara Shindo, our enigmatic leader, doesn’t appear often at all besides her introduction in the opening trailer.  Nor do you meet many other unbounded personally.  But  it’s a racing game, and we didn’t expect this much plot to begin with, so we’ll count ourselves lucky and give Ridge Racer credit for giving us something to work with. 

Graphics:
Enjoy the opening movie, because it’s worth enjoying.  The cinematic graphics are fantastic; I was very impressed when I saw a close-up of Kara Shindo and noticed that she was wearing a lovely lip gloss that made her lips shine.  When I was reminded that I couldn’t ask what brand she used because she’s not real, I was simultaneously disappointed in her virtual nature and elated at the graphics.  Regular game play features strong graphics as well, though certain things like the fire and the crashes weren’t great.  The detailing in the sky and the settings of the different districts were perfect; you clearly understood that the twilight hours were approaching in the first district, and while this was a gorgeous setting to race in, it did get difficult to see between the lighting and the shading of the environment. 

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The cars are so pretty to look at.  They shine, they glow, and they get very visibly damaged when you slam into objects you shouldn’t slam into.  I just wish I had more color options; one car in one district can only be yellow.  The camera angle has three options: in the car, behind the car, and just a little farther behind the car.  The corners are well labeled with bright flashing arrows and it’s not too hard to see where the road goes, but depending on the district, it can get a little tough to see the general layout.

Sounds:
Cynthia Holloway voices Kara Shindo, and has also leant her voice to Taki from Soul Caliber 3.  She certainly sounded like a charismatic leader who’ll also beat your face in if you defy her.  Other than her occasional comments, you don’t hear much voice acting.  The sounds were great; my favorite was how well the cars shifted into higher gears and the screeching when I attempted to drift. 

It wouldn’t be a racing game without a full mix of electrifying techno beats, and surely enough, Ridge Racer Unbounded delivers.  With a soundtrack full of Skrillex and other prominent dubstep or techno artists, you’ll have no trouble getting your blood pumping before you even start driving.

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Gameplay:
I don’t want to beat Ridge Racer Unbounded up, because it was a fun game to play. But it was hard.  It took me six tries on the first race to qualify, and it took my friend, who plays Grid constantly and is an expert driver in real life as well as in games, four tries before we passed it.  Drifting doesn’t work very well, which makes the first few races hard to pass since they encourage it.  It’s hard to understand how to drift since it’s not consistent, and eventually I just gave up drifting and ran the race normally, which actually improved my times. 

At the center of the gameplay are the “power” and “boost” systems.  “Power” is a built up storage that you gain by smashing into objects, drifting, chasing, or destroying other racers, and it gives you a temporary speed boost that allows for further destruction.  “Boost” is just that; it’s a jolt of nitrous oxide that gives you a short speed boost.  I preferred the races that used the boost system, since the power system was hard to attain without destroying your car. 

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Longevity:
Your ability to cruise through several districts per location gives you countless opportunities to race, as does the create your own town system.  You design a district and the tracks within it, and as you work to create newer and trickier tracks, you also have to continue playing the storyline to unlock options for those tracks.  This game isn’t short, which is a definite bonus.

Conclusion:
Ridge Racer Unbounded is visually stunning in several aspects, and while some glitchy controls hold back certain functions of the game, the smooth racing style that you experience when you don’t try the flashy tricks or when you stop pretending like you’re in a demolition derby more than makes up for them.  As a strict racing game, I enjoyed it, and hey, everyone likes to blow up a car that’s not real every once in a while. 

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