The more bike racing I watch, the more I get an appreciation for just how hard it must be to keep them on a track, let alone getting around at speed. They’re twitchy, snarling angry beasts that seem to be built to buck whoever dares straddle them, and it’s fair to say I’m never going to be jumping on one in real life at my age. Riding in a game is thrilling however, and I’m more than willing to spend the time sliding across the asphalt and clattering the barriers as I pretend to know what I’m doing. Occasionally I might even string a lap together that makes me think I’m the next Barry Sheen before being rudely awakened by a gravel trap. With RiMS Racing though comes the need to actually engineer your bike and it’s such an integral part of the way it plays out that I’ve found myself being more in tune with what the components do and how riding affects them. I’ve definitely fallen off less, even if that’s just because I know how much it’s going to cost to repair it. Does this make it a game for mechanics or hardcore racers though?
Props to the team at RaceWard Studio with the intro to the game – it’s actually a proper tutorial that teaches you to ride a motorbike around a race track, and is pretty lenient on pass requirements too. So often I’ve lamented racing games that just think players will have an innate understanding of what they’re doing, and whilst there is a time and a place for that, home console releases are there to let gamers experience something they’re never likely to do in real life. RaceWard don’t stop there either, there are continual academy events that steadily dole out training for new skills like riding in the wet, or tackling hairpins… it’s nicely done so that even if it’s pushing itself more at the enthusiasts, a casual gamer won’t struggle to pick it up. That’s not to say it isn’t underpinned by demanding physics and realistic mechanics. With the use of KT Racing’s engine that we saw in the recent TT Isle of Man games, we know it’s not for the faint hearted. RiMS Racing is putting itself in a great position then – it’s a hardcore racing game that wants players to be the full race team, yet it’s forgiving enough for novices to get a hold of. I’ve always found that a rare thing in this genre.
RiMS Racing’s major innovation though isn’t balanced gameplay for all experience levels, it’s the wear modelling and the fact you can replace every part on the bike. From the wheels to the clutch cable, they all suffer degradation over time and need swapping out for something fresh. Racing hard will see the components efficiency reduce, most noticeably in the tyres and brakes as grip drops off and stopping distances increase; and crashing will make things worse. A button press mid-race will show you the overall status of each of the critical areas, so it’s possible to check what’s causing performance to drop off and earmark them for repair back at the garage. Tyres are the easiest and most frequent to change, and as long as there’s some in the inventory they can be replaced at will during practice and qualifying sessions at the same time as tweaking the bike setup, as well as just before the race. It’s a nice touch that they persist across events, so there’s a need to check the weather forecast and lifespan of the current set to make sure you’ll have as much grip as possible. Heading out onto a rain soaked track on old slicks is not going to go well, and the increased spills are going to damage the rest of the bike components too.
Back in the team HQ there’s much more scope for repairing and modifying the bikes, and it all goes a bit Car Mechanic Simulator in the way it works. The overview shows what the rough status of the part is (green/amber/red), and it’s your decision on what gets fixed. Bear in mind that everything costs money so there will be a trade off in replacing a part and living with an issue. Tackling the update is a fixed process of unmounting a part by following the onscreen prompts for button presses, buying a new part, selecting it, and then mounting it back on. All of it is played out on screen like some sort of CAD rendered model that explodes to show all the materials, and then slots back together. It’s very satisfying to do, though I can’t say that major repairs aren’t a bit tedious. A couple of parts between races is OK, but a full bike rebuild takes a fairly long time, and unmounting something like the full wheel assembly in one go to change a brake pad will result in several operations to re-mount the different parts back. RiMS Racing includes upgrades to the team that can be made to speed things up, as well as reducing wear and damage rates, though keeping on top of the critical components becomes second nature so that the amount of time spent fixing vs. racing is minimised.
Out on track RiMS Racing does a great job of feeling like a full-blooded racer, and as alluded to earlier, this could be because you’re much more acutely aware of the impact your riding is having on the machinery. Cash isn’t massively abundant, and the more damage you take, the more you’ll need to spend on repairs. Falling off also affects race positions which in turn reduces the prize money. It’s a holistic set of systems that seem to be there to make you focus on staying upright and getting some riding consistency into your performance. However, if you’re prone to dropping it, the AI difficulty accounts for that and you find that their pace is relative to your ability. This means you still feel competitive even if they’re not making any mistakes. Being careful and knowing the limits of the bike is still the best way to get around the track, and with a greater influx of rewards you’ll be able to buy better parts that all work towards improving performance. It’s noticeable in the early races that the AI can brake later and harder, so hints strongly that you’ll need to do something in that area soon – even if that’s only to stop them running into the back of you at each tight bend. For all its balancing for gameplay, the AI is not able to ride around you, or get out of the way, and a good amount of crashes will come from this.
Career progression is handled via the Calendar in the team HQ, and is a linear series of events that puts you in various championships, sponsor events and the training academy. RiMS Racing mixes these up nicely so that you’re getting a good blend of event and reward types, and also gives a variety of bikes to ride too. You buy one to start things off, but aren’t restricted to only riding that, and through selecting a championship you can work towards winning others. Tactically reviewing upcoming events also helps you work out what to spend on your current bike as you decide whether to do repairs straight away or wait until there’s more cash in the bank. Sometimes you’ll find yourself with a couple of races where you’re using loan machinery so don’t need to worry about anything, or the next one might be the main championship so you need your ride in top working order. It’s another piece of strategy to consider on top of everything else. The HQ is also home to several departments that improve your skills, and pumping team points into them unlocks perks, as well as getting challenges issued that bring in some extra cash. In fact, there’s quite a bit to do when you look around the place, so it’s worth spending time figuring out what it has to offer.
Mainly though, RiMS Racing is going to have you spending as much time on the track as it can. There are only a handful of bikes to ride, but that doesn’t limit things too much, and with most events having practice, qualifying and race sessions, you’ll get to know the differences between all of them. There’s a decent number of circuits to experience as well, with classics like Suzuka, Silverstone and the Nurburgring mixing in with point-to point-races across coastal and desert roads. Don’t expect quick events either, most career races start off at 7 laps, and quickly jump to higher levels involving pitstops, and the road races can easily be over 15 km long. It’s a time commitment that needs to be recognised, though it flies by once you’re actually in the heat of the action. The handling is configurable separately from the AI, so you can pick how forgiving you want the physics simulation to be, and there’s always a touch of waywardness inherent in the track surface, camber or elevation change to take into account. Squealing tyres as they lose grip over a crest, or sparks flying from the exhaust housing as you lean too far, are visual and audible indicators that it’s all about to go badly wrong, and the more you play the more you learn to react before control is lost. More laps equal more experience though, and it’s not that long before you’re flying down straights and cruising around bends with confidence. Just keep an eye on the penalty system – it pops up every time a wheel dips over the white line at the edge of the track, and whilst it’s mostly fair, it’s constantly watching.
Part of the riding confidence comes from the controls, and it’s here that the DualSense delivers again. I’ve said it before with bike racing games – the adaptive triggers are possibly the best feature available to help you manage the throttle and braking effectively. Brakes have a heavy resistance to them so that you can progressively apply pressure and stop the wheels from locking up, and the throttle has a slight resistance to support smooth application. The acceleration doesn’t go light though when you’re losing grip, the trigger rumble and haptic feedback combine to do a wonderful job of letting you know something is up, and gives you just enough time to correct it. Layered over this is the solid clunk/thunk of a gear change as the pad jumps in your hand, and the crunch that comes from bailing blasting from the internal speaker, which enhances the audio from the TV and deepens your connection with the game. In fact, all of RiMS Racing’s audio is nicely done, with beautifully throaty sounding bikes and atmospheric effects replicating what’s on screen. It looks good and moves along at a decent pace, though there’s an issue with framerate in some corners of tracks which jars a bit, but not enough to put you off. Music is raucous too, and fitting for the genre, though I ended up muting it for races as it felt like it pushed it into feeling like an arcade game, which it clearly isn’t.
On the whole I’ve got to recommend RiMS Racing to anyone looking for a deep, without being daunting, motorcycle game. Career is where you’ll spend a lot of time understanding the basics and learning how to ride effectively, though there is an online element with races and daily/weekly/monthly challenges to take part in for when you tire of that. Bizarrely, it’s got one of the most hardcore premises you’ll come across with having to engineer the bike as well as race it, but the execution is well done and it’s easy to pick up and play. That’s not to say it isn’t a little rough around the edges, it feels like a patch or two might be inbound to smooth some of the very minor wrinkles out, yet that hasn’t stopped my enjoyment of it. The only bit of implementation I’ve not liked is the amount of DLC that was available on day one. Tracks and customisation options were all available at launch, which means they could have been in the game, but there are two packs of performance parts that get added to your inventory to cover the European and Japanese manufacturers, all of which will wear out through use. They’re quite clearly aimed at shortcutting for some players, but at £12 per pack it feels a bit of a cynical cash grab for something that’s single use, and in the case of tyres, can wear out in one race event. All these bits are available in the game, so if you’re going to pick this up (and you should if you’re liking what you’ve read up to this point), wheelie past the extra content.
A PS5 review copy of RiMS Racing was provided by RaceWard Studio’s PR team, and the game is out now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox S|X and PC for around £45.