We have been hands-on with the preview code for Ride 4, the upcoming motorbike racing game from Milestone.
Considering it’s only an early preview build, there was a lot of content to try out. Career mode wasn’t included, but we were able to race single races, endurance races and time attack on all of the courses, with a huge selection of bikes.
(If you’re just here for a quick synopsis, it’s an excellent, feature-laden game, with loads of tracks, even more bikes, great handling and a road map filled with both free and premium content. If you loved the previous Ride games or MotoGP, or even if you just love motorbikes, you’re sure to enjoy Ride 4.)
If you’ve spent any time with the most recent MotoGP games from Milestone, the handling will feel instantly familiar on Ride 4. It also shares a lot of the same riding aids, and an almost identical control scheme, so if you found a way to play MotoGP that suits your ability, those skills will transfer over.
It took me a little time to adapt at first, with the front wheel lifting if you’re too aggressive with the throttle, and the bike ploughing on at turns if you brake too late and savagely. I persisted and managed to set a decent time trial lap, but it was a steep learning curve. After about 15 laps (and 3 clean ones), I decided to change tracks and try a different bike.
Returning to the bike dealership, I realised the error of my ways. With a virtually unlimited budget to purchase bikes, I had somewhat foolishly purchased an S class race bike and attempted to ride around a circuit I’ve never been round before. With no assists turned on, I’d basically jumped into the highest tier and made it as hard as humanly possible. <face palm>
I picked out a much more modest KTM and loaded up Brands Hatch, which is a circuit I know very well. The difference was night and day (not literally, although you can race any of the circuits at night if you wish). Within just a few laps, I was sussing out braking points, adapting to feathering the throttle, hitting the racing line consistently, and having a bloody good time doing it.
After a lot more practice, I began moving up the classes, trying out different styles of bike, and while they all behave relatively similarly, there’s a pronounced difference not only between different classes but also between manufacturers.
Many hours in and I’m still coming to grips with the big boy bikes, but it doesn’t feel punishing learning them like it can on something like TT Isle of Man.
For the first time, Ride 4 uses the newest version of A.N.N.A. (Artificial Neural Network Agent), which is Milestone’s rider AI system. Drawing on millions of hours of rider data, it’s a very competent system, and AI riders behave in a more believable fashion. At the higher difficulties, there is less variation, with the riders making fewer mistakes. but at medium or low difficulties they often miss their line or brake too deep into corners, giving you a chance to make your move.
It makes the races much more fun. The AI isn’t 100% aware of your position if you make erratic moves on them, or make mistakes yourself. However, if you’re racing competently they make space for you on corners or will try to squeeze in if you leave a gap. There’s a level of aggression to their riding, and it’s far more fun compared to the processional races you used to get.
Some races I had difficulty keeping up with the front runners, but this is where the excellent bike customisation comes in. Much like in Forza or Gran Turismo, you can just upgrade your engine, bolt on a better exhaust or swap your tyres for grippier rubber and improved traction. You could always just buy another bike, but if you have a favourite you want to ride, or don’t have enough credits, it’s possible to make almost any bike competitive.
Ride 4 has a highly impressive list of tracks, with a lot of variety among them. Split between USA, Europe and Asia, there are 27 unique tracks, with a further 26 variations within them. We reached out to the developers, who have confirmed, “That is the full list for Day 1, but there will be more coming after launch, both free and premium.”
There’s a selection of short, technical tracks, but there are also some epic locations like the Nordschleife, and the Northwest 200 and Southern 100 road-racing circuits.
The full list:
- 1. Laguna Seca
- 2. Okayama
- 3. Imatra
- 4. Oulton Park
- 5. Donington
- 6. Imola
- 7. Brands Hatch
- 8. Cadwell Park
- 9. Algarve Portimao
- 10. French Riviera
- 11. Macau
- 12. Southern 100
- 13. Tsukuba
- 14. Suzuka
- 15. Nurburgring GP
- 16. Nordschleife
- 17. Sugo
- 18. Northwest 200
- 19. Mugello
- 20. Monza
- 21. Phillip Island
- 22. Canadian
- 23. Road America
- 24. Virginia
- 25. Interlagos
- 26. Kanto
- 27. Utah
It’s a brilliant lineup, and there’s a lot of tracks that don’t often feature in racing games, or that haven’t been seen in a while. In comparison with MotoGP, which by its nature is forced to use the same tracks each year, it’s hugely refreshing to have tracks like Tsukuba, Oulton Park and Interlagos. Incidentally, the Interlagos management is pushing to have the course added to the MotoGP calendar, so Ride 4 could be the ideal place to get familiar with the circuit.
During a developer preview, they highlighted how all of the tracks have been laser and drone scanned for accuracy. It’s not just the physical properties, though, they have added an impressive amount of detail to the circuits. Graphically, they have created some of the most authentic-looking circuits I’ve seen in a racing game.
A nice touch that I really appreciate is how Ride 4 lets you know the name of the corner you are going around. Granted, it can be tricky to look at while you’re banked hard into a turn, but it’s far more interesting knowing the name of the corner rather than just “Turn 7”.
Ride 4 features dynamic weather and a full day/night cycle that can be accelerated to make the effects more pronounced. You can start a race in bright, sunny daylight, ride through the night, and finish in a sopping wet downpour the following morning. Best of all, this can be done on any circuit.
I wasn’t brave enough to run full-length endurance races, but I tried racing in all different conditions and times of the day. The new lighting system looks superb, with glistening sunshine bouncing off reflective surfaces, and the incredibly realistically textured roads shimmer in the rain. It really is a beautiful looking game.
The Ride series has always excelled at giving you a huge selection of bikes to race. Ride 4 is no exception, and it gives you a massive roster of bikes from a wide variety of manufacturers.
Road bikes, racing bikes, naked bikes and, new to the series, endurance spec bikes. Pretty much every major manufacturer is represented, with even more to come in the day one release. But wait, that’s not all! Even more bikes and manufacturers are going to be added through both free and premium DLC. It’s a huge amount of content.
Expand the box below to see the full list of bikes I had available, but remember this isn’t the full list as we don’t know which additional bikes/manufacturers are going to be added yet:
Even without the career mode or multiplayer, I loved Ride 4. Riding and learning tracks that are completely new to me kept me hooked on playing, and much like on Forza or Gran Turismo, it’s as much fun buying, building and tuning a massive collection of bikes as it is racing.
Milestone has been refining their riding mechanics for years now, and they have struck an ideal balance between being easy to pick up and play with assists, but hard and in-depth enough to keep you improving and playing as your skills develop.
If Milestone can make a decent career mode and support multiplayer with enough varied features to keep people hooked, Ride 4 is set to be the defining bike game of this generation, and an amazing start to the next.
Ride 4 releases for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC (Steam) on the 8th October.
PS5 and Xbox Series S|X versions release on the 21st January 2021, with Smart Delivery for Xbox and limited-time free upgrades on PlayStation if you purchase the current-gen versions.
Visit the official website