I love the Ridge Racer franchise for its style and its fast, arcade-y racing action, but not much has been done with the core formula in awhile. A new game, Ridge Racer Unbounded, is out to add something new and unexpected to the mix: Destructible environments.
I got a behind closed doors look at Ridge Racer Unbounded this week at E3. I was glad to see that Developer BugBear Entertainment (FlatOut titles) has kept all the original style and approachability of the classic Namco racer, but seeing my first car-to-wall collision in a demo was a bit of a surprise. The Finnish studio obviously has love for the series, so it seems they're taking care to preserve the Ridge Racer feel and look, even with this radical addition. It's early, but I see what they're getting at, and I think it looks like a lot of fun.
Standard racing and drifting in races builds up a meter that can be used for the destruction of Shatter Bay, the game's new setting. Once charged up, you'll find a marker on some environment pieces. These marked pieces invite a collision, and the end result is usually a fantastic crash and a bit of a shortcut. I saw a section of the demo where a car that was supposed to take a sharp turn but decided to plow straight into a building instead. The car continued through the building and out the other side, with glass and metal sparkling in the sunlight and onto the ground. Sure, the car was a bit damaged, but the racer was placed ahead of the pack through this shortcut.
There's a lot more than just big, breakable set pieces in RRU. Walls, pillars and even other cars are awaiting your love taps, and they're all actively tracked with a robust physics engine that ensures that no two collisions are the same. BugBear says that these aren't pre-canned animations, which means that you won't grow bored of bashing and crashing.
At the end of the presentation BugBear teased what looks to be an online component. A video showed the skyline of a new city with what looked to be an online screen name creation credit. Another followed. Then blocks of more cities were lined up as if to imply that they would all be connected. BugBear staff all but confirmed that players would be able to create their own cities to drive and crash through, and then share them online with other players. That could be quite fun.
I know what you're thinking: Split/Second meets Burnout meets Ridge Racer. Maybe. There seems to be a bit more going on here, though. It is a street racer with destruction, but BugBear is aiming a bit higher with a a bit of a storyline and what seems to be an online city building component. Oh, and style. This one title could both excite old Ridge Racer fans and invite new ones along for the ride. Ridge Racer Unbounded is one to keep an eye out for.
Ridge Racer Unbounded is slated for release in 2012 for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.