The last time I wrote about a TT game was back in 2020 when the actual event had been cancelled and the only way to experience the infamously hard and dangerous course was via the second instalment of Nacon’s biking game series. Interestingly, head into the details of the latest release – TT Isle of Man: Ride On The Edge 3 – and you’ll find real life bike superstars quoting that the game was one way of practicing while they couldn’t be there, and has proved instrumental in them getting involved this time around. Clearly the hardcore nature of the titles has been the right direction for enthusiasts, but I’d expect by the third iteration that more casual fans might be made to feel welcome. Note: that was “more casual fans” not “casual fans“… this is still a hardcore game based on a hardcore event, so we can’t expect it’s suddenly going to start taking it easy on us. Can it blast along to deliver the thrill of nailing the notoriously treacherous course, or will it throw us off at the first corner?
It’s immediately apparent that TT Isle of Man: Ride On The Edge 3 has been streamlined in its approach to setting up the race events, building to the titular TT challenge, and even riding around the 200+ km of the island. There are simple choices to make at the beginning – Supersport or Superbike, and a rider for each – then you’re dropped on the Isle of Man’s asphalt and left to it. Here you have a choice of opening up the map and jumping to either a season progressing qualifying event or race, or simply setting off to explore and discover additional activities on your own. RaceWard have introduced what they’re calling “Open Roads” which is effectively letting you ride freely around the 1:1 scale island, covering the key courses and even adding a couple of unofficial ones to allow further exploration. Doing this will uncover points of interest, historical info, head to head races, time trials, and other elements to expand the scope of the game. Whilst something similar was in the last entry, here it’s expanded and feels more like the hub of the game rather than an idle distraction. You can speed along straight sections, master tricky winding sequences of corners, or just enjoy the view at a more sedate pace, and it’s quite easy to spend a lot of time cruising around. However, you’re likely here for the challenge of the main event and you’ll need to earn your chance to take part.
To get to both the qualifying and race of the Tourist Trophy you’ll have to complete a season first, with each event taking place in different sections of the island courses so that you build a familiarity with the layouts. With 16 events in total, and many of them being relatively lengthy runs, this is not a quick route to driving the full 60 km Snaefell Mountain Course. Qualifying events start with a practice session which allows you to repeatedly run the circuit for a length of time to learn and perfect your lines; then you’re into a qualifying run which does pretty much the same, only your position will dictate where you’ll start on the grid at the next race event. Not that the race is necessarily on the same course, that’s something to watch out for. Qualifying is easy to understand and lets you keep trying as long as you don’t go over the allotted time limit. Races are obvious – you need to watch out for the other riders and aim to finish as high up as possible. Finishing positions reward with XP for your rank and upgrade points to spend on your chosen bike. These also transfer between your Supersport and Superbike seasons, so when you’re flipping between them both you’re sharing the spoils. TT Isle of Man: Ride On The Edge 3 keeps it straightforward, maybe because all your concentration needs to be on the road rather than menus.
From the off it doesn’t beat around the bush – it’s punishingly hard. Heading out on the open roads you’re likely to be sliding along the ground or in a hedge within a corner or two. Starting with the Supersport class makes things a touch more manageable as they’re a bit slower and slightly more nimble at higher speeds, but it’s the environment itself that’s out to get you. Kerbs, walls, grass verges, crests and bumps will all unbalance the bike and spill you off if you’re not paying attention, and in any of the events this is where the time is lost. Key to success is (surprise!) not crashing out, and in the early stages of your career that means paying attention to the racing line and reading the road right in front of you. It might be intense and seem like it’s focused on perfection, yet TT Isle of Man: Ride On The Edge 3 is definitely more accessible than previous entries, and dialling the settings in to account for your experience and desired challenge will make this a much more fun game for all players. Understand that, to a degree, slow and steady wins the race and you’ll be earning upgrade points quickly that can be ploughed into the performance of the bike as its handling becomes more second nature and the terrain easier to anticipate. Get past the immediate spike in difficulty and the learning curve is actually quite subtle and very rewarding.
Managing improvements to the machinery is also kept basic – pick a part and pay the upgrade points to improve the stats. Pretty much every core element of a bike can be upgraded too, allowing you to focus on the areas you think will benefit your riding style the most. It’s where you’ll also find incremental ways to withstand the environmental effects on the Isle of Man, namely the wet and fading light. Racing can take place at any time from dawn to dusk and in either bone dry conditions, or soggy moggy territory, and the grip adjusts accordingly. When it lashes it down you’ve the double jeopardy of the droplets on the screen/visor obscuring the view, and the reduced traction of the pools of water, and you really do have no option but to calm down and be more considered. Open up the throttle on a straight and the foliage at the sides of the road blurs leaving only the focal point in front visible, which is where all your attention needs to be as you think about how early and how gently you’ll need to apply the brake to avoid a race ruining accident. These worries still exist in the dry with low light washing out features you want to actually see, though you’re comforted with the knowledge that you’ll still likely slow down before clobbering a wall.
This brings me to the visuals, and TT Isle of Man: Ride On The Edge 3 looks mighty impressive when you stop and stare at it. The sense of place and quintessential Britishness is infused into every detail, so much so that I expected to see the Douglas branch of M&S as I rocketed through the town centre. With plenty of detail lining the narrow roads out in the countryside, you’ve always got that feeling that it’s going to hurt if you hit anything. It’s double-edged though as these details cause a few issues with the framerate, especially in foliage heavy sections where the trees crowd over the top of the road. Add in the water and reflections and it has a similar effect, which is really not helpful for the precise control needed. You’ll not really see slowdown, it’s more skipped frames and screen tearing at the top of the image, and it’s enough to cause a wobble in your confidence. How the game engine will perform on the older generations of hardware remains to be seen given the framerate on PlayStation 5, yet it’s likely patches and improvements will come after launch that will tackle this. Other than that it’s pretty solid performance-wise, and the sound is top notch too as it keeps it purely to the bike and road surface. I did encounter a strange glitch though that saw fields rendered across the roads of one of the courses I was on, making it impossible to complete in the time limit. Whether it was due to my liberal use of rest mode I can’t say, but a reboot corrected it.
I had concerns before playing TT Isle of Man: Ride On The Edge 3 that it might not have stepped on from the last game and eschewed the chance to bring the event to a wider audience; I’m really pleased that’s not the case. Despite some of the relatively minor technical issues and the lack of additional official events, there’s a fantastic bike racing game here that brings enough options to tune the experience to your skill level, without compromising on the shear difficulty of the real world TT either. The Open Roads feature is a good way to introduce the island, as is having to find mechanics spots, fast travel points and the additional challenges, and there are now the obligatory online asynchronous events and multiplayer features that come hand in hand with any motorsport title. Upgrading becomes compelling too with the steady rate at which points are awarded, and it’s compact enough in terms of scope that there’s no real grind. I’m tempted to say that the developers know this type of sports title tends to be a tie-in with the real world timing and its size links with that – it’s not a 100+ hour sim and it won’t outstay its welcome. I’ve genuinely enjoyed every minute riding across the island, it’s been a refreshing challenge, and for fans this will be an exciting blast through arguably the most iconic landscape in bike racing history.
A PS5 review copy of TT Isle of Man: Ride On The Edge 3 was provided by RaceWard’s PR team, and the game is out on 11th May 2023 for PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Switch, retailing at around £40 depending on platform.
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