Ubisoft’s ability to create racing experiences that cover a variety of genres is something that started with The Crew and was almost mastered with The Crew 2 – and while those worked well for planes, boats, and cars, it didn’t do much for those wanting an extreme sports offering. Riders Republic was shown off in September of 2020 and offered a promising look at that kind of racing action. Multi-genre racing has been done before with the Xtreme series on the PS1 and Extreme Sports on the Dreamcast, but it has been many years since we have seen something that aimed to use modern technology to do justice to a variety of outdoor sports.
Biking is something that we’ve seen get an uptick in gaming representation with games like The Descenders and Lonely Mountains: Downhill, but nothing has quite meshed the beauty of biking with tricks this well since the days of Dave Mirra BMX. For all sports, Riders Republic offers up both auto and manual trick landings alongside a racing-centric mode that allows tricks or a more intricate trick system that emphasizes that aspect of the race over others. Bonuses are given for using the tougher controls and that does enable faster progression through the main campaign, as those result in gathering more stars within a single event. Just beating an event nets the player a single star, while up to five starts can be obtained by ramping up difficulty or going trick-happy.
Biking feels natural and playing on both the PS4 and PS5 resulted in a good experience in terms of just getting around on tracks. The Dual Sense’s haptic motors are used to replicate moving across different terrain and it’s a pretty neat effect. Something like this has been tried before on much older tech – Project Gotham Racing 2 would change up the vibration effect depending on the surface you were driving on – but nothing has been quite done to this degree yet. The Dual Sense’s triggers also feel quite natural for gradual changes in acceleration and braking, and go a bit beyond what the Dual Shock 4 can do in that regard; they have just enough resistance to help feel when you need to go a bit faster or tone it down a bit and avoid going too fast for the environment.
On both dirt with bikes, and when on the snow with a board or skis, controls are natural across the board and it’s impressive to see in action. It’s hard enough to nail one genre of racing and stunts correctly, and Riders Republic manages to do that for several different sporting events – including some we don’t see much of in games. The rocket-powered wingsuit is something that took me right back to the fun of using the rocketbelt in Pilotwings – only this blends the precision that provided with a lot more speed and the excitement that comes from using it in a race with others. The fast pace is something that no Pilotwings game could match, but the event itself combines a bit of the light planes flying through hoops with a modern-day racing experience and the ability to fly around the track. It almost feels like Anthem’s flight suits – only a bit more responsive and without combat thrown into the mix.
No matter what sport you choose, you’ll be able to enjoy a fast-paced race and excitement at every turn. Even if you aren’t a big fan of snow-based games, having them as part of this overall package helps make the sometimes-daunting idea of snow-racing blended with tricks far more doable. By having the same core racing action for all ground-based racing, the game feel is similar enough from racing style to style that it feels natural to go from biking to snowboarding to skiing, and that makes the experience more fun for everyone. Veteran extreme sports gamers can enjoy more kinds of racing than a normal game while still having different control methods depending on how they want to play. If they’re in the mood for tricks, then manual controls are best while automatic landings and the racing control setup is best for those wanting to just kick back and play.
Cross-generation playback is fairly similar between the PS4 and PS5 versions we tested out. The PS5 does have a massive advantage in loading times as going from the map to the desired area takes around one second via the SSD and about 10-15 seconds on the PS4. This may not seem like a lot, but you will be going in and out of the main map fairly often and it winds up being a massive time-saver to play this on a PS5 versus a PS4. In terms of the core game, the PS4 version is impressive given that it’s running on eight-year old hardware and still looks quite good overall. The PS4 version has a bit of a texture pop-in issue for about a second when areas load in from the map, but actual racing action is pretty smooth.
The lack of detail on textures on the PS4 version when manually exploring the world can be a bit jarring and it definitely feels like we’ve reached the limit of what we can truly expect the PS4 to do with its mechanical hard drive. If an internal SSD is inside your PS4, it might be a better experience – but stock HDDs result in much slower loading times and slower texture loading. Luckily, buying the PS4 version entitles the player to a PS5 version and Ubisoft Connect allows progress to track seamlessly between them. The PS5 version is impressive to behold in action because while the character models’ faces aren’t amazing, the clothing really does shine when it comes to wind creating creases and having dirt and snow pile up on them.
Beyond being a great-looking game, Riders Republic sounds fantastic thanks to its top-shelf licensed soundtrack and fun voicework. The cast has solid chemistry with one another and it’s clear that everyone had fun working on this. The licensed tunes are great and go from rock to more melodic fare like Les Ukulélés Girls’ cover of “Gangsta’s Paradise” – something that has become quite divisive, but a song that I enjoyed. The original is a classic and this cover has a completely different vibe to it that works as a stark contrast to the original.
Overall, Riders Republic is a fantastic game and the most addictive extreme sports game on the market outside of maybe the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 and 2 remake. The variety of sports enables the experience to remain fresh, while those wanting a greater challenge can enjoy more events faster by stepping their game up and going for a more all-encompassing experience with more tricks and tougher difficulty. Cross-generation buyers will be in for a far better experience on the PS5 thanks to the SSD speeding things up and making for a much smoother experience, but the PS4 version is impressive given the tech. If it wasn’t for the SSD’s speed, the feeling of both versions’ races would be quite similar and you can’t go wrong with any version.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
This review is based on a digital copy of Riders Republic for the PlayStation 5 provided by Ubisoft.