When it comes to racing games, the dafter the better is my motto. I can very rarely stomach gritty, bland realism in my vroom-vrooming, so naturally games that focus on a more fantastical version of racing are far more enjoyable on a personal level. Be it cars mangling each other in spectacular fashion and respawning unscathed, racing aero ships pinging about gravity-defying future tracks, or even tearing it downhill on snowboards whilst chaining tricks together in style. So it’s almost always a pleasure to take on a game that embraces the warm glow of arcade-style racing fun.
Anything Seadoo Can Do…
Riptide GP Renegade is the sequel to last years decent, if content light, Riptide GP 2. The series focuses on hydro-powered seadoos racing around near-future waterways in illegal tournaments. Originally finding its flippers on mobile, this is the first entry to be designed with consoles in mind first and foremost.
The obvious comparisons are to fondly-remembered arcade water racers such as Wave Race and Hydro Thunder, and in visual presentation terms that’s a compliment. Everything is brightly-colored and set to a throbbing dance soundtrack like the arcade racers of the late 90’s and early 00’s. Renegade does this without sinking too far down the nostalgia bait hole thankfully, so it’s a pleasant feeling that isn’t tinged with the usual memory lane misery. The vibrancy of the races, even in the gloomier, more desolate tracks (coupled with the immediacy of the gameplay), is impressive, giving you a good sense of speed and competition without bogging you down in the minutiae of precision racing, so you get to fully enjoy the impact of the wildly colorful tracks.
Developer Vector Unit has definitely made the most of a relatively low budget here, with the only noticeable concessions being the odd stilted bit of animation and menus that aren’t especially enthralling. Instead, they’re just rather functional in a slightly crude manner. To be fair, I’d rather they focused on making the actual racing fun to play and watch, and clearly that is where the focus has gone.
The centrepiece of Riptide GPR is the career/story mode. You pick one of two racers to start your new life of competing on the choppy waters of illegal hydro races. The prologue acts as a basic tutorial. It’s standard stuff: R2 accelerates, X boosts, yadda yadda yadda. The most intriguing aspect is learning about the tricks. When your rider gets enough air of a ramp or wave, they can perform stylish stunts on their vehicle to earn boost meter units. These are all done exclusively with combination flicks of the analogue sticks. Of course, you have to ensure you have the time to complete them or end up getting flung from your ride with all the force of Brock Lesnar if he’d just discovered you sat in his hot tub, eating his dinner.
You’ll also earn xp as you go through races that results in Skill Points you can spend on further stunts that are increasingly complex. These fill up more of your boost meter in one go, essential as you get to the latter half of career mode and find one missed trick can be the difference between 1st and 8th.
Breaking the Law and the Waves
Anyway, the tutorial/prologue culminates in your character getting screwed over by a rival racer and getting slung in prison for two years. You return to the scene after your prison term is up, and now have to claw your way back up the racing ladder and exact your revenge on the insufferable git that got you in this mess to begin with. Okay, it’s hardly the most original story ever told, and its execution is pretty bare bones and predominantly text-based, but it’s nice to have something piecing the various courses together all the same.
You get eased into career mode proper fairly gently by having you compete in some standard eight-man races. The first few don’t even have men or women in it at all, rather seven bots (like actually robots). You quickly get to grips with the handling of your ride thanks to the accessible nature of the controls. Riptide GPR’s racing is focused on enjoyment rather than mastery, so if you want a more meticulous and strategy-heavy racer, I don’t know quite why you’d be looking in the direction of a game that features turbo jetskis from the future to begin with. Turning is pretty forgiving; the effect of waves is impactful without ever throwing you off too much, and with the right set up, any race is winnable. There are, however, difficulty spikes that require you to retread old ground in order to upgrade whatever your current hydro-powered seadoo is before you can tackle later races in a manner better suited to competitive levels. At least there is a way past them instead of being stuck, frustrated by perceived cheapness.
Simple racing is not all you’ll do in career mode though. Vector Unit has thrown in a few favourite alternatives of the racing genre to shake things up. There’s Eliminator, where last place is cut every fifteen seconds or so until just one racer remains. The mandatory time trials are also here, yet thankfully don’t just involve a straight shoot to the finish line; instead, it adds slalom gates to pass through first, making it the most skill-driven mode in the game. Then there’s boss fights, which are simply 1v1 races to complete a set of stages and claim a new fancier ride.
The variety doesn’t stop in career mode though. You can get your kicks in eight-player online multiplayer or four-player split screen, and from the small amount I’ve played, it’s been pretty good fun. You can also set best times on each of the game’s tracks and challenge your friends to better it. In short, there’s plenty here for a game that costs less than fifteen pounds/dollars, and most of it’s worthwhile.
Is Riptide a Wipeout?
Riptide GPR is a good, solid arcade-styled racer that puts fun at the forefront. It lacks a competitive edge for racing enthusiasts to sink their teeth into, and even with multiplayer, I don’t think you’ll get a whole lot of extra juice out of the game once the credits roll on the career path, but it doesn’t really have it to. It’s simply an enjoyable distraction that’s worth the asking price. It’s definitely a step up from the previous entry, and there’s little out there that does the job of offering fun arcade racing with hydro jetskis and cool stunts like Riptide.