I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was a bit surprised by TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 2 coming out. The original rock hard 2018 game about the iconic race was a bit of a niche title, and one that demanded a lot for little reward. A sequel seemed to be the last thing that would be in the works, but here we are two years on and it’s hurtling down the track… unlike the actual Isle of Man race in 2020 that’s been cancelled due to the fun gobbling Corona Virus. As disappointing as that is, there’s a chance that the increased scope of the new game coupled with fans annoyance at not being able to see it in real life could lead to many picking it up. Whether it will appeal though is the true question – does it simulate the experience of tight, dangerous road racing enough to satiate the hardcore, whilst simultaneously being accessible to casual or non-gamers?
There’s been a fair amount of rethinking on how to iterate in Ride on the Edge 2. There’s not a huge amount you could do with a single 37 mile course that’s used once a year, so where do you push things to make it feel like it’s worth the investment and offer up something new? By adding a career mode, freeroam environment (for Ireland at least) and an upgrade system, obviously. In the first game riding around other tracks was a relatively light distraction from the main event, but here it’s the core of the game and will determine whether you’re good enough to ever set foot on the Manx island. Learning to ride the supersports and superbikes are just part of what’s needed to qualify to tackle the beast of a track, and because it’s so integral the team at Kylotonn have made some great strides in making it feel like you are continually being tested for your worthiness… in both good and bad ways.
Set up as a year long season, you’re offered each month a chance to race in a number of different events (easy, medium and hard) that reward cash and perks depending on performance. Every now and again a series race will crop up – the Irish Series – where placing in the top half of the finishers will earn a signature towards being allowed to go to the Isle of Man TT. Get six signatures and when it comes round in March you can pit yourself against the best. It’s not the only way to get there, reputation and season performance can push you into the limelight, but for beginners it’s probably the easiest route. See, getting a contract with a team, having a bike to race on, and getting to the start line is the most simple part of the whole game because once you’re on any of the machines modelled in Ride on the Edge 2 it gets a whole lot harder.
The brutal nature of the handling and racing has not changed in the last two years. If anything it feels like it’s even more punishing than before. The ethos of the road racing within is go big or go home; you’re either full throttle and getting your knee down, or you’re a loser. It’s that straightforward. It wouldn’t be much of an issue if the bikes were a breeze to manoeuvre, but they’re not. Each is a handful to control, failing to respond when you want to flick it over in a new direction, or making you a victim of understeer that morphs into oversteer on a single bend. Braking? Pfft, who needs them to work… The tutorial race does a basic job of getting the controls in place, though skimps on the nuance of being able to man-handle a motorbike through the tight twists and turns of the Irish and British countryside. What are the temperature gauges on the tires and brakes for? What do they mean for performance? How come every other racer beats you off the line? When will I stop high-siding it in low speed corners?
But, and it a big BUT, tweak the controller settings a bit (particularly on the steering response) and get some laps under your belt and it does actually start to click. Progression through the season nets cash, and with the right sponsorship deal, upgrade parts too. Fitting a few pieces really makes a difference to the way the bikes ride and feel, and with that your confidence grows. Suddenly flying at 150 mph across a narrow bridge isn’t quite as frightening as it used to be. Don’t misunderstand – when the vision starts to blur, the wind noise begins to deafen and your focus is drawn to a narrow point in the distance, it’s intense. Yet when you can anticipate and guide the insanely fast machinery around the makeshift tracks at a decent pace, then the rewards start to come. Firstly there’s simply a sense of achievement, and Ride on the Edge 2 is actually really good at encouraging you even if you’re in coming in last. Secondly there’s perks which are cards that can be played before an event to give you an advantage. It might be full perk points even if you bail, warmer tyres for the start, impeding competitor performance, or something else equally useful. Thirdly it’s the cash for more parts or different rides. It all has a use.
Unfortunately, the good aspects of what Ride on the Edge 2 has to offer will be missed by some… possibly many. The problem is that the game is very tough, sometimes a bit unfairly so. Take a time trial race for example: you’ll set off and have to complete the course the fastest, with the rest of the field chasing at set intervals behind. They’re a good challenge as you don’t have to focus on wheel-to-wheel racing, but one single mistake and reset to track and you’ll be in last. There will be mistakes and crashes, lots of them, with the slightly errant nature of the stock bikes. Easy is not easy, as much as the season events will tell you, and the AI won’t make any errors for you to capitalise on. Without any prior practice and experience it’s a long slog to make progress, and it can be well into the second or third season before the moniker TT event is attainable. However, there’s a quick race option from the main menu that has it unlocked from the beginning for the impatient.
At least it looks good when you feel like you’re racing on your own at the back of the pack. This is a slick and well realised racing game that has you travelling familiar looking roads and seeing the right signs, if you’re used to the ROI or UK. The realisation of the courses is spot on and clearly the techniques from the first game have carried over. There’s never a hitch regardless of the speed, though in fairness there’s not a lot that’s dynamic in the environments. Time of day and weather (dry only) come into effect at times and make the landscapes switch from picturesque to beautifully bleak, and there’s something very special about the transition up to Mountain Mile on the Isle of Man. It feels like you’re flying across the top of the world when everything just blurs into a colourful mess. The audio isn’t bad either, with no music to detract during the racing there’s very much a focus on the natural sound of the bikes roaring at their limit. It seems to be lacking tyre squeal and there’s a weird static crackle sound when you come off the gas, though it’s not exactly something that would ruin the experience.
Much like the course, TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 2 is going to need patience, dedication and all manner of bravery to conquer. There’s a really absorbing progression system that’s kept complication free, and a sense of achievement that some racing games lack. I can’t avoid the fact that this isn’t for casual racers, or anyone without an interest in motorbike road racing, but then they’re not the target audience. This is firmly for those who appreciate the skill it takes to do this in real life, and want to experience some of the thrills without the risk of death. In the absence of the race this year this is definitely one for the fans to pick up… and it might take as long to master as the Snaefell Mountain Course does in real life.
A PS4 review copy of TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 2 was provided by Bigben Interactive’s PR team and the game is available from the 19th March for around £45 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One (price depending on platform).