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Ridge Racer Unbounded preview

Ridge Racer Unbounded brings user-created content to the classic street racing drift-em-up.

The Ridge Racer team say they have a problem: they reckon they’ve reached the limit of what they can do with the budget Namco issues them. They mean this in terms of both the number and quality of tracks, although wanting to do something new is never a bad thing when it comes to game design. So whatever the reason, Ridge Racer Unbounded will include a deep and intuitive Track Creator so that players can create their own circuits for their and the communities enjoyment.

Over Gamescom we had a chance to have a look at the track creation features in Unbounded with the developers of the title. The concept is quite simple – you start with a grid containing 64 blocks and you fill it up with pre-made track elements. A very simple track would have a start and finish line, with a few corners and straights connecting them up. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg as you also have access to bridges, shortcuts, forks, hairpins, tunnels, and all manner of extra objects that you can utilize while creating your levels.

That’s not all though. Certain track elements have "destructible" weak points, namely a pillar or a barrier that you drive through that changes the layout of the course or activates short cuts. At the moment, these are linked to specific blocks and the game automatically determines which are on and which are off. While this sort of auto-select may lead to better traditional track design, the developers are aware that there could be some clever folks out there who can create more exciting moments if they had control over which were turned on or off, so they are looking into making that user controlled.

The layout of the track itself is not fixed either, and the 64 blocks can be used in any configuration you want — from an eight by eight square, to a meaty 1 by 64 straight. The developers even mentioned challenges where players are presented with a layout in the shape of Pac-Man. The setting of the tracks you create are fixed to be in a city — your own city, to be precise. Similar to your moon in LittleBigPlanet, all the tracks you create are stored in a specially-crafted metropolis, allowing other gamers to have a crack at them. Players can "dominate" cities from winning events and races you have set on your tracks for special bonuses.

The player has complete control of these events, such as choosing the rules, cars, along with "post-processing" effects and lighting for the stages. While the developers are using the same track creator for the single player content, they are not using all the tools the user will have, which should lead to more original content. And, despite the fact the creator itself was not finished, what we saw at the time looked great. There were no landscape tools, but the developers promised automatically generated scenery from certain themes the player chooses, and object blocks like mountains and statues that can be used in spare spaces.

Overall, if ModNation Racers sounded a bit daunting to you, than Ridge Racer Unbounded’s more simplistic approach is something you should keep your eye on.

Stay Tuned.

Ridge Racer Unbounded is due out on PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360 in March 2012.