Ambitions As A Rider

HIGH The intuitive and accessible gameplay is among the best in its genre.

LOW Oh boy, that dialogue… 

WTF An acoustic cover of Gangsta’s Paradise

The extreme sports genre is something I’ve written about for years across different publications, but no entry was as significant as Ubisoft’s Steep. This 2016 snowboarding title was the French publisher’s way of incorporating their massive open-world design philosophies into an extreme sports experience. Five years later, it seems that Ubisoft is out to refine Steep‘s legacy with Riders Republic — a successor of sorts in which players create a custom character who wants to move up in the ranks by competing on bikes, snowboards, skis, and even rocket-powered wings. 

Like Steep, Riders Republic is set in a large open world. However, instead of just one huge mountain, the setting is a mishmash of different national parks like Bryce Canyon, Yosemite Valley, and Sequoia Park. There’s plenty of variety in the environments, offering everything from snowy mountaintops to off-road paths.

Most of the experience revolves around events scattered across the maps, ranging from standard races to courses focused on performing tricks within a time limit. The controls themselves feel great thanks to two different control schemes and a host of accessibility features.

Unlike Steep’s more rigid and precise handling, Riders has players using a combination of the face buttons and triggers to pull off tricks. For example, when speeding downhill on a bike, pressing one of the face buttons allowed me to jump and attempt a few flips in the air. It’s a great, intuitive setup that reminds me of arcade-like experiences. I specifically love the way bikes feel to ride, as drifting is incredibly satisfying.

There are different events to compete in, like races or trick challenges. The races are fairly straightforward. Up to 64 players at a time compete in a specific sport, like off-road biking or skiing, and the goal is to either reach the end of a long sprint or to get through a few laps. EXP is awarded at the end of each race, with the chance to earn bonuses for completing extra challenges such as beating a certain time, earning a certain amount of points while pulling off tricks, not using the rewind feature, and so on. Completing races also rewards players with better gear that they can use for other events.

The other major mode is made up of trick challenges. Basically, players have to try and get the highest score in three rounds. For example, the snowboarding tracks have a variety of rails and ramps. There are bonuses for successfully transferring across rails and nailing a perfect landing, and nothing is more satisfying than pulling off a tricky set of moves.

Outside of these main modes comes the exploration and open-world aspects. Riders Republic is beautifully rendered and the environments are gorgeous — it’s damn-near photorealistic stuff. Apart from the vistas, players will often spectate others, as they constantly share a map with 64 other people. Seeing a random player pull off tricks as I wandered around was a cool sight, and this live element made it feel like I was a part of a grand spectacle.

While in this exploration mode, one great feature is the ability to switch between different sport types on the fly. For example, hitting the D-pad let me either control my character on foot or change to skis, snowboard, bike, or the rocket wings. This flexibility proves useful when combing the map for different collectibles that grant EXP or the occasional photo op.

Gameplay-wise, Riders Republic is excellent. However, like most modern sports titles, the main story is nothing special, and the main narrative is a clichéd journey to becoming the ultimate rider. As players unlock new challenges and complete events, they’re greeted with some of the most cringeworthy dialogue I’ve seen all year — stuff like “bucknutty” and tired, overused phrases get thrown around a lot, even while simply browsing the map. Beyond that, all of the most common extreme sports tropes are present, like veteran superstars training the young guns and reality TV used as a framing device to get players from point A to point B. It never gets in the way of the core gameplay, but it’s tough to listen to, to say the least. 

Even if the narrative comes off like an awful TV show, Riders Republic remains a phenomenal, open-world extreme sports title that sets itself apart thanks to accessible controls and a large number of sports to choose from. It’s done serious damage to my productivity over the last few weeks, and for the first time in a long time, I’ve found a massive triple-A game that genuinely prioritizes player enjoyment over anything else. 

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is published and developed by Ubisoft. It is available on PS4/5, XBX/S, XBO, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS5. Approximately 35 hours were spent in both the single-player and multiplayer and the game was not completed (still playing)

Parents: According to the ESRB this game is rated  T for Lyrics. The official description reads as follows: This is an extreme sports racing game in which players compete in mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, and various flying competitions. Players explore open-world environments (e.g., National Parks) and engage in various competitions and events (e.g., Free-4-All, Trick Battles, Showdown Sessions) to earn status and gear. Some songs in the game contain references to drugs (e.g., “…my mother’s on crack/My sister can’t work ’cause her arms show tracks”; “Just handing out blow”) and suggestive material (e.g., “Hit her with the stroke, get her w*t like aqua”).

Colorblind Modes: There are colorblind modes available

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Subtitles and on-screen instructions can be adjusted and audio is not needed to enjoy this game, thanks to the abundance of visual cues as well as closed captioning. This game is fully accessible. 

Remappable Controls: Yes the controls are remappable.

Cj Salcedo
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