Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 18th October 2020.
RIDE 4 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £49.99)
IT is no secret that Milestone are the magicians of motorsport gaming, but they are riding into town with another two-wheeled classic. We have previously had their MXGP off-road series and Moto GP but RIDE offers something different. This is really a bike version of what Gran Turismo is to cars. The Italians have revved up the sim experience. RIDE 4 is the latest instalment and it has taken the foundations of the previous games and added a mixed bag of ideas that boost the experience in places and hold it back in others. It doesn’t muck about — bar a handful of text panels at the start you climb aboard a bike and work it out as you are going along. The tutorial is like going 12 rounds with Anthony Joshua. It is brutal. Forget any hope of arcade fun — and that’s just a tutorial that shows you the basics. If you want to complete it, you even have to set a time on a hot lap.
RIDE is a sim so it’s not as easy as dropping the throttle as you hit a corner at 100mph. Do that and you’ll be spitting up kitten litter for a week. Series fans will lap it all up and blast through it. Newcomers may find their enthusiasm severely tested. Oh, and there is no skipping the tutorial. You have been warned. It’s a real shame that this gatekeeper mechanic is here because it prevents you getting stuck into the action. There’s a real biker’s dream to enjoy. There is a Gran Turismo licence system in the career. No licence, no race — so you have to put in the hard yards. They make the tutorial look like a piece of cake. Outside the career, there is actually a lack of content options apart from a handful of custom quick-race modes and the online excitement. Your enjoyment of that will depend on your connection speed and the level of those you’ll race.
But the bikes look amazing — they are highly detailed with tons of makes and models including the likes of the Ducati Panigale V4 R, Suzuki Hayabusa and even the new Harley Davidson Livewire.
That is the stock version of the electric bike Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman used in telly show The Long Way Up. They are all backed up by a solid selection of tracks such as Suzuka in Japan, Brands Hatch and Phillip Island in Australia. Even UK tracks like Oulton Park and Cadwell Park pop up and the new weather system helps to keep things fresh and even more challenging.
RIDE 4 is a biker’s game for bikers. It is tough and unforgiving — and it knows it. There is real depth, but you’ll have to give a pound of flesh to be good enough to enjoy it.
Ride by Proxy
RIDE design chiefs reckon the new game is a bit of a Covid Milestone. The firm was front and centre as the pandemic caused devastation in Italy, but they held their nerve to keep the game on track. Lead designer Federico Freschi revealed that coronavirus was one of the biggest challenges to getting the game to market. He said:
“Milestone’s offices are in Milan, which was one of the first and most- affected Italian cities during the first month of the pandemic. Luckily, we reacted quickly and moved all the production so we only lost a few days of work. The team was really challenged but reacted very well and used all their energy to make things work. Now that we are near the end of the development, we can say that nothing has been removed from the game because of the 2020 pandemic.”
And that is some feat because large chunks of the RIDE3 game have been rebuilt from the ground up. Frederico said:
“All the RIDE 4 bikes have been made from scratch, even the bikes already in RIDE 3. This new game aims to be more ‘racing-oriented’ so we have added different racing and endurance modified bikes. On top of that we added some new motorcycles born in the last few years. In RIDE 4 we have more than 100 new motorcycles that were not in the previous game, and many more will be added during the first year through a long DLC plan. The partnership with Yamaha helped us in different ways. First, they have sent us all the precious material needed to craft the 3D models of their bikes, allowing us to make the Yamaha motorcycles perfect and as real as we can. The partnership allows us to create some in-game content dedicated to the brand. Milestone has a long relationship with the other manufacturers, and we will continue to work with them to bring all their bikes in the game.”
But Federico also credits the community with helping to shape the new features in the game. He explained:
“The RIDE players have been very helpful in guiding the team to the things they want the most. They enjoyed the helmet editor in MotoGP so we have brought it to the RIDE series and added the suits editor. They have been asking for a more dynamic and challenging racing experience and, in response, we added the dynamic weather and the tyre consumption as well as a new physics simulation. From the videos and images published on social media from our users, we understand they needed more powerful tools to take pictures and watch replays so we remade the photo mode and ramped up the quality of the replay. Lastly, they have been calling for a qualifying session, so now some of the more challenging events in the career has that.”
But Federico also revealed that the team has a thick address book to call on when it comes to defining the experience. He said:
“During the last few years Milestone has been in contact with MotoGP riders, safe-riding instructors and riders from the Italian championship. Those talks have been very helpful to understand how we can upgrade our physics simulation and the game in general. The team is also full of racing enthusiasts, track day lovers, day-to-day riders, enduro explorers and Sunday bikers. This team loves and knows motorcycles.”
The series has been a very sim- focused series from the start but Frederico has laughed off any move to follow Forza down the arcade road. He said:
“RIDE has always been a game that can be played by the racing sim lover but, at the same time, from a more casual user. Moving to a more full-sim experience will make only half of our players happy, and we don’t want that. We think we can make a game that is enjoyable for all. Developing an open-world game like Forza Horizon is very challenging and, for the time being, is not in the plans. It’s a very different game and many founding ideas would be changed. It has always been about learning the tracks, lapping faster, reading your opponents’ weak spots and beating them by a fraction of a second. Open worlds tend to be way more relaxed, demanding less precision and knowledge. They rely on exhilarating moments and immediate challenges — that’s very different.”
Tennis World Tour 2 (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £39.99)
RAFA Nadal may have defeated Novak Djokovic last weekend to rule supreme at Roland Garros, but if you think you could boss it then head to the virtual court. Aussie big-hitters Big Ant Studios are making a name for themselves with tennis games — they started on the AO Tennis series and are now swinging into action with the sequel to Tennis World Tour. They have taken over from Breakpoint Studio, and aim to build on their foundations. However, for a team that clearly knows a backhand from a smash, the gameplay is surprisingly simple and lacks any sort of depth. They have also taken some odd decisions on controls — movement and shot placement are mapped to the same stick so it’s a pig to shoot in one direction and move in the other. You will get used to it but it never feels natural. The modes are a bit light. The career sees you create a player to rise up the rankings. It’s all standard stuff.
Beyond that there are a few ways to set up custom matches and that’s it. It’s not a bad game — it’s just basic. The training system, which works by buying packs of cards with credits in the hope of getting a better stat card, is RNG-based. That removes your hopes of shaping your player — it’s all chance. It looks better than the first game, but that is not a huge compliment, and there are 38 real-world players but no Djokovic or Sir Andy Murray. Are they playing tough on their visual rights? This is one for ardent tennis fans. It’s just not a grand slam of a game.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Beta (Xbox One, Series X/S, PS4 , PS5 and PC)
IT seems there is no end to the Call Of Duty adventure. Another year, another instalment. This one has Treyarch at the helm with the action back in the Black Ops universe. The twist is that this is not a shot at the future, but a blast from the past as it’s a return to Vietnam — although this time it is 1980s Cold War. A new taster beta program has been launched and it is working its way across different platforms from week to week. We set sights on it to see whether this Cold War is heating up nicely. We tried a handful of modes, weapons and maps. First impressions: a good period-accurate arsenal, great scale on the maps and the verticality is superb. The Armada sees you fight across warships and even a submarine but map knowledge is king.
The core gameplay — time to kill, how your gun handles, the time it takes to throw a grenade — is different from Modern Warfare and will take time to learn, and there will be tweaks before the game launches. Hopefully, the matchmaker will also be changed. The skill-based system sees you battle overly aggressive players in match after match — that’s OK in short bursts, but it’s heavy going after five fights. You never get a chance to breathe. Your opponents might think every match is a £1million tourney shoot-out, but some just want a laugh and this system doesn’t seem to understand that. Treyarch have time to listen to the fans. We hope they do.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…