Strategy might not be the first thing that leaps to mind when you think about a motorbike racing game. It might not be the second. Or even the third. Ride 4 is going to make you rethink that though, and with pit stops as one of the new features touted for the game, Milestone recently took the opportunity to say more about the latest version of the comprehensive two-wheeled racer. Not only that, they brought along their partners from Yamaha and Bridgestone to impress the importance of collaboration and bringing in the heart of a real bike racing team. Hosted by Alan Boiston from TeamVVV.com, the run-through of the latest and greatest developments had Luigi Crocetta (Ride 4 Producer), Paolo Pavesio (Yamaha Motorsport Europe) and Fabian Francois (Bridgestone, EMIA) all talking about what we can expect when it hits consoles on the 8th October this year.
The focus of the development for Ride 4 has been to rebuild the game from the ground up. It might look like it’s offering the same on the surface, but it’s been completely retooled under the hood. 3D scanning of bikes and riders brings in a level of detail not previously seen in the other titles, and Milestone have fully updated their materials library so that each asset reacts correctly under the new dynamic weather and lighting systems. Over three-quarters of the motorbikes available to head out on will have been created with the 3D model scanning tech. And whilst some tracks return they’ve all been updated with laser or drone scans of the real world locations to make sure they’re as up to date as they can be. Added to these are the updates in the customisation and bike mods that can improve machine performance, as well as letting players create their own liveries for rides. Helmets will be customisable for the first time in the Ride series, and suits can be personalised which will be a Milestone first.
Your journey to all conquering rider won’t be a quick one, and will even force specialisation in the late stages. It’ll start in local leagues, widen out to regional events, and then move up to the highest level with World Superbikes or the World Endurance League depending which appeals the most. Bringing the challenge from start to finish is ANNA, Milestone’s AI, and it’s had more time to get to grips with how the racing should be. With over 16 million hours of training and the ability to manage pit stops and react to changing weather conditions, it’ll provide the most authentic competition yet. It’s a lot to take in on how much has been overhauled for Ride 4, but Luigi sums up what they’re trying to offer perfectly:
“[it’s the most] comprehensive experience in motorcycle culture.”
With race strategy being key, particularly in the endurance events, Milestone were keen to get real world experience fed into the game. Bringing Yamaha onboard leverages their endurance series heritage, with Paolo highlighting that reliability is as important as speed, but the rider is integral. Because of this there’s a need to design and build a single bike that can suit a team of riders, each with different styles, rather than the usual one-to-one relationship in the higher levels of the sport. If it’s Superbikes however, you’re only looking at needing to maintain performance for 40 minutes, so it’s a completely different design philosophy. Bridgestone are key to getting the response and feel right through the tyres, and Fabian was keen to point out the amount of data gathering they do for development simulations, but not at the expense of ignoring the rider feedback.
It’s alright being told about the game, but what’s it like to play? We’ve been having a go on a PC preview build with the settings on a mix of high and ultra so we can make the most of the extra detail in the bikes, and see what the dynamic lighting and weather has to offer. It doesn’t disappoint in the looks department. The motorcycles are fantastic and genuinely feel like they’ve weight and heft to them, needing you to find the right balance between cajoling and manhandling them through corners. Whether it’s hurtling full tilt into the chicane at the end of Monza’s long straight, or tackling the twists and undulations of Portimão, it’s a thrill as the wind noise picks up and your eyes are drawn to a distant apex. Of course, hit the wrong braking point or get overzealous on turn in and your rider will be getting a face full of gravel. At least rewind will let you recover some dignity.
With different riding styles to choose from and a pretty impressive suite of difficulty options to tailor to your experience, Ride 4 is arguably more pick up and play than the previous iterations, or many of the other bike games on the market. With minimal experience it’s possible to head into a race and hold your own, though being truly fast is going to take some practice. With 12 opponents (again with customisable difficulty), there’s plenty of on track action, and trying out the endurance races had us experiencing the pit stops first hand. One of the best bits though was seeing the day/night cycle in action around Oulton Park. Setting out just before dusk and having night fall around the track, then passing under pockets of misty lights before diving into the darkness with only the headlights picking out narrow sections of the course… it’s something to experience. Then the rain comes and starts to make a mockery of grip.
It looks as if there’ll be a huge amount to get stuck into when Ride 4 roars into our homes, and the taster we’ve had so far is making us want more. Loads of bikes, loads of circuits, bike upgrades and customisation, a full career with discipline specialisation, online modes and the usual time trials and quick races – it’s pulling everything together to make it the fullest featured bike racing game yet. It’ll be out on the 8th October on PC, PS4 and Xbox One for around £40, and there is a next gen version arriving on the 21st January 2021 for those who want to see what the new machines can do. The upgrade will be free to those who own the original up to the end of April 2021. Promising 4K resolution at 60 FPS, it’ll be smooth at the blistering speeds the bikes can reach, and including an increased grid of opponents, it’ll be the best version of the game you can play. In the meantime, October can’t come soon enough.