Milestone are rubbing shoulders with the motorsports greats
- Developer: Milestone srl
- Publisher: Milestone srl
- Release date: 8th October 2020
- Genre: Racing, Motorbike
- Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC
- Reviewed on: PS4 Pro
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
Ride 4 is one of the best bike games ever made. Admittedly, that is quite the statement. Milestone has cornered the motorbike game market with MotoGP and the RIDE series. With each game they produce, they have refined the formula, until now, with RIDE 4, we have what can be considered as one of the best bike games ever made. RIDE 4 does have some issues, along with a few minor niggles, but on the whole, it is a rock-solid, fantastic experience.
Where to start!
RIDE 4 is to motorbike enthusiasts what GT Sport and Forza are for car lovers: A lovingly crafted homage to all things two-wheeled. From the reveal of a new bike you have purchased, the experience of racing, the in-depth customization of your bike and rider, to the tuning of each bike to suit the vast amount of tracks to race on, it’s all here. This attention to the finest details even goes as far as deciding if your rider uses two or four fingers for braking.
Upon starting your career, you are presented with a choice of three leagues to begin your journey in; The American, European or Asian leagues. Each league can be opened at a later date, but to start with, you are locked into the one you have chosen. Much like the legendary license test in Gran Turismo, you have to pass a series of tests to obtain a licence to compete in the subsequent leagues. Although passing these tests with a gold standard isn’t easy, putting in the time to perfect them will reward you with a bike that will be useful for the upcoming events. Otherwise, you will have to purchase your silver steed of choice.
The license tests vary from basic time trials to racing through checkpoints at certain speeds within a certain time or completing a single race. This is a good point to experiment with the difficulty settings, with harder difficulties awarding higher rewards.
Once you’ve passed your tests, you can start to make progress in your chosen league. The circuits you race on are based on the region you chose initially, and you have to make progress to gain access to races on other continents. Events are based on the category of bikes, with a wide selection of bikes available within each class.
The best events in the licences are the events where you have to ride through checkpoints at certain speeds. This event in particular trains you not only on the correct racing lines but how to push you faster which increases the player’s accuracy. The selection of race events in each league to complete are all interesting as they vary the tracks and bikes you are required to use, apart from the races that are locked for just 3 laps on the smallest of circuits. These races can be frustrating as there is very little time to work your way through the pack if you don’t get a great start from the line.
After a league has been completed, you gain access to the more serious World League, and then on to either World Superbikes or the new Endurance League.
Endurance racing is a new feature from Milestone, and it features a class of custom-built bikes specific to endurance racing. Races can and do last up to a few hours and include pit stops and night races for which strategy, as well as riding ability, plays its part. If you are brave enough, it’s possible to run a full 24 hour race, with a real-time day/night cycle and dynamic weather.
New to RIDE 4 are events that become available depending on your affiliation with brands. If you ride a lot of Yamaha bikes, for example, then exclusive Yamaha events will become available.
It’s all about the setting.
RIDE 4 has a wide range of settings to adjust to fine tune the level of competition to your liking. This makes the game far more accessible to newcomers. Finding the right balance of difficulty is key, and makes for a better gameplay experience. As your skills improve, you can easily turn off the assists as you go and ensure you are always competitive.
The AI difficulty, however, always seemed to boil down to one rider who never made a mistake in the lead, followed by a group of three or four riders slightly behind, and then the rest of the pack. It would have been better if there was more unpredictability in the results. Having the whole pack together, overtaking each other and riding more consistently with each other would have made for better racing. As it is, you need to match your performance to the one rider out in front, which limits the competition against the weaker AI riders.
When you purchase a bike, you can buy upgrades for it, such as better brakes, a more powerful engine, improved suspension, new chains and more, as well as some purely aesthetic modifications. Much like in Forza, these settings can change the performance level of your bike to then raise it to a different class of bike. Finding the balance between power and handling while keeping it in the required class is crucial, and addictive.
Adding a new engine upgrade for a bike rated 450 may then take it over 500 points, which will take it to a new class. The AI bikes, however, are selected and tuned based on whatever you have brought to the race, so you can not simply upgrade your bike to beat the AI. I found that whatever level I had my bike at, the AI would be upgraded such that it was always around the mid-level of the field.
Where you can gain an advantage over the AI in a race is in your choice of tyres. You can mix and match which tyre set up you have, i.e. soft on the front and medium on the back. Learning the nuances of the tracks helps immensely, as with tyre wear on some tracks will wear out the tyres at different rates, so understanding this can be used to your advantage.
During the race, you can adjust the bike’s electronic assists on the fly. Traction control helps you maintain grip while cornering, Anti Wheelie can help prevent the front-wheel lifting during hard acceleration, and Engine Braking adjusts the amount of deceleration you experience when lifting off the throttle.
Changes between these settings and learning how and when to use them can make a big difference. Not having traction control on during a wet race, for example, can lead to frequently spinning up the rear tyres and high-siding over the bike. The only niggle here was that there was no way of changing these settings before the race began, and it’s only when the race is underway that you can do so. Juggling a bike through corners while trying to change the settings was a challenge in itself.
The race is underway!
The AI of the other riders is extremely aggressive. While you are in the pack at the beginning of the race, the AI, with alarming regularity, feels the need to dive bomb you at the apex of a corner, sending you off. With the physics set to realistic, this effect was even more pronounced, as it’s even easier to unsettle a rider and bike with those settings applied. The other issue the AI has is, if you have made the apex in front of a bike, but are going through the apex too slow for its liking, rather than slow down it has no qualms about shunting you off.
This is most apparent in the early stages of races, but as the pack thins and there is more space between riders, the AI becomes slightly less unpredictable, and it is possible to have some good, clean racing. Individually, the AI can make unforced errors, allowing you to capitalise and make moves down the inside, or pass on the outside if they corner too slowly. When it works right, it’s excellent, and it’s preferable to processional AI that hugs the racing line, but for now, the over-aggressive nature of the AI feels a step too far in the opposite direction.
Frankly, that is the last time anything negative about the game will be mentioned as from here on out, it’s good. Really good.
Beautiful and silky smooth wherever you look.
RIDE 4 has a dynamic weather system that adds a new element to racing. A race can start dry in beaming sunlight, and end at night in pouring rain. These changing conditions affect the physics too, with cooler track temperatures affecting grip and tyre wear.
The lighting is excellent, too. A highlight for me was during a night race, when the headlights from the bikes cast such a convincing light I could see the different effects and shadows on the tarmac. What appeared to be a flat, boring surface on RIDE 3, is now a richly textured surface, highlighted even more with tiny shadows in stunning detail at night.
Textures and detail in the environments have also had an upgrade, as the buildings and backgrounds have had that extra polish of detail, so much so that the world pops with realism. Not that you’ll be noting this all the time, as the motion blur while racing is very effective, causing the world to speed by with incredibly lifelike realism. The visual sense of speed is utterly convincing and so addictive!
The bike models themselves are also of the highest quality, and they meet the visual expectation of a game aiming to emulate the experience of GT Sport or Forza. RIDE 4 is incredibly photogenic. It is simply beautiful to look at, and the engine that runs the game has it running so smoothly that not one moment of screen stutter or tear occured, no matter what the in-game conditions.
Audio that assaults the senses.
RIDE 4’s audio can be erratic at times. The howling engines of some of the brands of bikes are, for the most part, very convincing, with the Yamaha YZF-R6 being a personal favourite. However, compare that to the strange, almost off-putting underpowered electric hair dryer sound of the MV Agusta F4 RR 2019, which is so reminiscent of old 8-bit computer games, it actually pulls you out of the experience.
Ambient noise is decent, and as the bikes travel faster the wind resistance and noise increases the faster you travel. One detail missed, though, was that there are no crashing noises such as metal scraping along the ground when the bike falls off the track, or any skidding squeals of tyres when there are wheel spins off the line or the rear end steps out in the middle of a corner.
Making up for this, albeit just a little, is that the in-game music has quite a catchy selection of tracks for background music, as I enjoyed the reassuring noise of button prompts.
The actual content in numbers, and more beyond.
RIDE 4 has 176 bikes from 22 manufacturers, with a further 81 bikes to arrive via a combination of free and paid DLC. Thirty tracks are available from day one (as well as multiple variations of the same tracks too) with four more tracks to arrive via free and paid DLC.
Over the next year, Milestone has plans to release a series of free DLC packs that will include two tracks and twelve bikes. This will be joined by paid DLC that will include two more tracks, with thirteen other DLC packs containing five new bikes each for another sixty-five bikes in total that can be added to the roster.
Bike, suit, helmet and player customization options that can be uploaded to the servers for other players to download via a new editor system, which leads on to the multiplayer aspect of the game.
Milestone is going all out to ensure the MP side of the game is Esports capable with dedicated servers and even a race director mode. I’ve been unable to test the multiplayer online, however, what can be confirmed is that both public and private lobbies can be set up. In these lobbies, there are a whole host of options, including:.
20 types of races ranging from single make, historic or modern endurance and more, or you can have bikes rated bikes by class, e.g. 400-599, 600-699 etc. Additionally, the number of laps can be altered up to 30 (an improvement over previous games), tyre wear can be forced, mandatory pit stops can be enforced (track dependant) along with many other options. In short, if you can think of it, it’s probably available.
This is where the longevity of the game will lie, as if they can complement this amazing game with an effective, well-supported and robust multiplayer offering, with friends or clubs racing online events, this could result in a truly special online experience. Adding to the longevity of the game is the fact that RIDE 4 will be getting a free next-generation console upgrade in January 2021.
(Next-gen upgrades are available through Smart Delivery on Xbox, or with a limited-time free upgrade for PlayStation gamers.)
When you put it all together
When you put everything RIDE 4 has to offer together; great physics, stunning lighting, an excellent selection of tracks, a huge number and variety of bikes, excellent graphics, sound and visuals, and yes, at times even in single-player, great on-track racing, the experience the game delivers is outstanding.
Bike racing has a much better dimension compared to cars, as it’s not just about the racing line and speed, but also the correct lean and ways to ride quicker, with the ever-present danger of falling off. In car racing games, braking a tad too late is common and doesn’t have many repercussions other than slightly slower lap times. With bike racing however, a slight touch here or wrong angle there means a rider who may be out in front of the field by miles can get it wrong all by themselves and fall off. The race is literally never over until the chequered flag is in sight.
Ride 4 is without a doubt now rubbing shoulders with the best racing games on the market. Milestone has improved each of their products year upon year, to the point that we are now closing in on perfection. RIDE 4 is most certainly currently the best bike game on the market and very close to being the best motorsport game in general. Gamers who ride bikes in the real world might question the physics, and the AI in single-player is far too aggressive, but those issues pale into insignificance compared to the amazing experience the game delivers.
RIDE 4 will give the player such an enormous sense of speed, thrills, and a superb experience of racing bikes that is certainly worth the price of admission. With a free next-gen update due in January 2021, I myself will be riding the bikes of RIDE 4 into the proverbial sunset for a very long time to come.