Platform reviewed: PS5
Available on: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Release date: August 24, 2023
Ride 5 is the latest in Milestone’s premiere motorcycling racing series which is running exclusively on current-generation hardware, and it looks and runs all the better for it. However, it brings relatively few new additions to the established formula, save for improvements to the dynamic weather system, a few more bikes, and split-screen racing. It’s a title that’s made first and foremost for dedicated racing enthusiasts for better or worse.
While some of the best racing games skirt a fine line between realistic simulation handling and arcade action, Ride 5 firmly establishes itself in the former camp in an unflinching and uncompromising way. You’re thrown into the deep end from the off
– just like 2020 predecessor Ride 4 – and must complete a few time trial laps before engaging with the rest of the title’s content. However, unlike the older game, there’s no strict insistence on a personal best time or the risk of an invalid lap for the slightest mistake, but this is about as much slack as the game awards you.
That’s because Ride 5 isn’t interested in teaching you how to play with its sink-or-swim mentality. There’s no tutorial mode to speak of, nor a walkthrough of how to best use the game’s systems to learn as you go. There’s one track, a couple of laps that need doing, and you have to do your best to wrestle with the controls early on and fight through the difficult learning curve to even have a chance at racing other people. It’s more of a wall to climb than a curve to progress up, though. Bikes feel weighty and responsive in the acceleration, although, turning and appropriately breaking before turns takes some serious getting used to. Even as someone who has played a ton of this series, I was still having trouble with the basics, and can only imagine they are thoroughly unapproachable and uninviting to newcomers.
The Grand Tour
Once you’re up to speed with the fundamentals of Ride 5, you’ve got the lengthy career mode to contend with which is split into four main chapters with varying difficulties. You start on a basic 2-stroke 250cc motorcycle, the slowest of the professional racing world, with top speeds capping out at around 80mph / 128kmh before graduating to far more powerful 600cc sport and supersport bikes which can easily do up to 160mph / 257kmh. Before long, if you’re good enough, you’ll be putting your money where your mouth is against some of the best in the division on 1000cc liter bikes in some of the tightest corners seen yet.
There are a ton of motorcycles to unlock by making your way through the career mode as each of the four segments awards dozens of bikes, usually between 20 and 30, which is the core reason to keep pushing through. Unique bikes can also be unlocked including the stellar Kawasaki Ninja ZX-7RR 1996 and the Honda VTR1000 SP1-EM 2001 model, which are sure to be highly coveted to long-time riders and racing fans.
The big appeal of Ride 5 is just how fully realized and gorgeous these real-world motorcycle models look, sound, and feel like. From the garage, you’ve got a total of 233 bikes from 14 of the biggest manufacturers in the world such as Honda, Kawasaki, Aprilia, KTM, Suzuki, and Triumph. Without question, this is the best-looking motorcycling title ever made, and the jump to releasing purely on the PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC has cemented that, as there’s a level of photorealism that just couldn’t have been achieved by holding onto the previous console generation.
This extends to how the vehicles sound, too. One of the first things I did in the game was to loan out the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R, a 636cc sports bike, and an in-game version of the vehicle I passed my bike test on several years ago. Putting the camera into the first-person helmet mode, hearing the roar of the liquid-cooled in-line four-cylinder engine, it was that bike and sounded just as it did when I was behind the controls, it’s really impressive. The immersion starts to break, however, when factoring in actually racing in Ride 5 because taking corners is challenging, even when dropping down a few gears, breaking before the turn, and then accelerating out of a bend. It’s far easier to do that in real life on the same bike at high rates of speed than in the game, where I felt like I was constantly wrestling with the controls.
It’s a shame that the same level of detail doesn’t extend to the tracks that you’ll race on. There’s a total of four continents to choose from split up into three categories; America, Europe, and Asia-Africa which implements real-world locations like Sonoma Raceway, Donington Park Raceway, and Sportsland Sugo just to name a few. While the tracks look good, and that’s the main focus, pedestrian onlookers appear poorly rendered, and asset pop-in is a frequent occurrence from foliage, and other set dressing. Things can look genuinely photorealistic at times, but the illusion can break if you stare too closely at the small details.
Having a ton of some of the sport’s most iconic vehicles be fully realized to the degree that no other game has before. A lot of time, love, and care went into accurately recreating the look, feel, and sound of over 200 motorcycles.
Not helping matters for the racing experience in Ride 5 is the rival driver A.I. which is consistently coming for blood even when on the tamer difficulties. It isn’t unusual to see fellow racers routinely crash into each other even on straight parts of the track, but it does happen often in the bends. However, it becomes more frustrating when you’re often rear-ended or clipped by drivers who have little regard for their own safety and care even less about you. In the races, I took part in, it wasn’t uncommon for many seconds of penalty time to be added because I was hit off the bike by people who had no business ramming into me. It makes for an experience with is more frustrating than not, as real motorcycle races aren’t conducted this way. While it’s true you can turn collisions off, and tweak driver A.I. settings to your liking, dialing every down to the calmest settings just to get through a race isn’t fun, or the proper solution here.
The previous title Ride 4 received an update to PS5 and Xbox Series X which added DualSense functionality and that’s something that has carried over into this title. It’s an incredibly immersive touch and one of the best uses of the PS5 controller that I’ve ever seen. The adaptive triggers provide a realistic and weighty punch to everything from braking to accelerating, gear changes, and red-lining and it feels awesome. The haptic feedback further sells this as you’ll be able to feel different terrain as you go from sleek tracks to roads, to the grass and gravel when you inevitably take a corner too sharply or get rammed off the road. Because of this, the PS5 is definitely the definitive platform in my experience.
It’s in comparing Ride 5 to its predecessor that I’m less convinced that this iteration even really needed to exist because the games look and feel functionally identical. Prior to this review, I went back and re-experienced Milestone’s latest racer side-by-side with this one and I couldn’t really tell that anything was different. Yes, this one adds a split screen mode, which is a welcome addition, fleshes out the career mode a little more, and includes new tweaks to the dynamic weather system, but that title is available considerably cheaper and includes far more bikes included as free DLC than the base roster here.
Ultimately, I’m incredibly torn on Ride 5. There’s no doubting the visual presentation, sound, and immersion that the game offers on a surface level. It’s without question one of the best-looking PS5 games I’ve ever seen and a good showcase of what current-generation hardware can do. But with that said, it’s just not that enjoyable to play through, as once you get over the steep learning curve, which will likely put off more than a few curious people, you’re left with a title that just isn’t exciting in action, hampered heavily by the A.I. and the handling. If you’re a simulation purist who adores motorcycles then you’re going to get a lot out of this one, however, if you’re just interested in getting on a track with a few bikes you recognize and having fun, then this isn’t the game for you.
Ride 5 has a couple of decent accessibility options including entirely remappable control layouts for some of the best PS5 controllers. You’re also able to enable riding aids which makes the experience easier and includes automatic braking, automatic steering, and the ability to turn off collisions entirely. You can also disable various elements of the HUD to what you need on-screen, too.
How we reviewed Ride 5
I spent around 15 hours playing through Ride 5 in single races and going through different stages of the career mode, buying and testing a wide variety of different bikes with ranging weather conditions. In order to accurately check the controls, I tested the game with multiple PS5 controllers, one which had DualSense support, and another which omitted vibration and adaptive triggers completely.
Ride 5 will look stunning on one of the best monitors for PS5 or the best monitors for Xbox Series X.
This post originally appeared on TechToday.