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Ridge Racer Unbounded review: A series reboot that's slow off the grid

A new paint job can't return Ridge to its glory days...

Ridge Racer and developers Bugbear are a perfect match. They're both behind a tradition of racers that don't quite hit their mark. Bugbear's FlatOut chipped a glass ceiling that Burnout 3 was busy smashing to bits, and Ridge Racer is a much-loved series that, arguably, now belongs to a different time.

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This Year One revision attempts to shake things up but, in truth, the combination of developer and series makes for an uninspired mix. There are Split Second-style roadside detonations (here more fuel truck than multi-storey building), slow-mo takedown events la Hot Pursuit (cars flip and fly, but weightlessness renders them more like crisp packets), and - just to remind you you're playing Ridge Racer - drift events.

It certainly doesn't look like Ridge Racer, though. Attempts at modernising a series predominantly at home on green valley-set motorways that tear through waterfalls and under swooping helicopters are refreshing, but Bugbear didn't need to ditch the iconography entirely. The action is now set in a urban sprawl called Shatter Bay, a dense megapolis low on space and high on muscle cars.

It's large enough to make a varied setting, but it doesn't achieve it. You'll race through industrial areas and speed downtown, and then through an industrial area, and then downtown again. Different time periods and weather effects are something, at least, and the gritty concrete-meets-neon aesthetic looks good in places, but it's nowhere near Forza, Burnout Paradise, or Dirt. Shiny and angular sports cars only have exterior and hood cams, and look positively flimsy compared with other racers' more robust rides. And at night, everything is orange. Everything.

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MIND OVER SHATTER

So, the setting falls flat. Worse, however, is the speed. In a cardinal sin for an arcade racer, Unbounded is slow. Something's wrong when instead of gripping your controller with white-knuckle glee, veering away from incoming traffic and using every available second to plan and battle and correct approaching angles, you're looking at your watch while a corner listlessly coasts into view. Your internal monologue is less, "Omg omg omg" and more, "I supposed I should start turning left in a bit". You feel like you're waiting for the game to catch up to you. In a racer, it should be the other way around.

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