When you hear that Bugbear are making a new racing game, that's a reason to be happy. They're the guys behind FlatOut, a series that focuses as much on testing your racing skills as it does your ability to precisely launch your driver through the windscreen.
However, when you hear that Bugbear are making a Ridge Racer game, especially one with a subtitle that sounds like a Clive Barker book, that's a reason to be confused.
Unbounded isn't heavy with Ridge Racer's defining drifts. Nitrous has gone, replaced with a destruction gauge. And Ridge City is replaced (at first) with Shatter Bay, a hybrid of New York and Chicago that's been built for destruction. How is this Ridge Racer again?
While Bugbear's Joonas Laakso explains it in terms of "trying to capture a certain feeling", it's clear Unbounded is an attempt to branch out. Like Need For Speed lending its logo to Shift and Hot Pursuit, this isn't a change in direction, it's a fork in the road. Ridge Racer purists - chill. Your game still exists.
BREAK THE BANK
As we'd expect from the people who introduced rag doll abuse to racing games, Shatter Bay is a city designed for chaos. Build your destruction gauge, and you can - if you're lacking ambition -
use it to ram an opponent. Or you could watch out for the orange warning signs which mark an interactive spot in the city.
These could be shortcuts, taking you through the atrium of a bank. They could also be traps, knocking out the support of a bridge, and closing off a road with debris.
You can build your destruction gauge by chasing, jumping and, yes, drifting. When you've built enough to take advantage of the track's weak spots, the destruction will be different every time. It's easy, but inaccurate, to compare the carnage to Black Rock Studio's Split/Second.
Laakso isn't interested in scripted animations - he works in the medium of physics-generated chaos.
If you're looking for a plot, you're barking up the wrong skyscraper. Laakso describes Unbounded as a game where you find out, once and for all, "who is the biggest badass." Chekhov it ain't. Similarly, his assessment of his team's strongest assets are brilliantly simple. "We're good at making racing games," he understates. "And we're really good at smashing things up."
The game isn't just set in Shatter Bay, there are thousands of cities you'll be racing around. That's a suspiciously high number, which implies some level of procedural generation. But it's something that BugBear aren't willing to expand on, apart from a vaguely positive response when they're asked if it's part of the multiplayer mode.
So, don't expect Ridge Racer. Don't expect FlatOut. Don't expect Need For Speed, Split/Second, or Burnout. At this early stage, it looks like you should expect all of the above.
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