When I sat down to replay Riptide GP: Renegade for this blog post, I found myself playing the game a lot longer than I expected to. Originally, I just wanted to get a quick refresher of what the gameplay was like, but the game actually managed to suck me back in. In short, I really dig this game.
For this month’s Band of Bloggers assignment, the topic at hand is extreme sports games. While it is a bit of a stretch to say that Riptide fits the genre, I will argue that the spirit is still there. Riptide has a very strong futuristic bend, which is why it doesn’t really fit with other notable extreme sports titles, like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater or Dave Mirra’s Pro BMX. But it does contain remnants of other titles from the genre.
The game is all about racing on jet skis that have jet boost engines on the back of them. JetMoto, anyone? The levels then take place on these otherworldly landscapes. Some are aquatic raceways that cut straight through large cities. Others are through what appear to be futuristic military complexes. The level design reminds me of another notable racing game from years ago: Star Wars Episode 1: Racer.
On top of it all, the “trick” system, which allows the player to build up their boost, is reminiscent of the SSX games. A lot of the strategy while racing is choosing to use your boost at the ideal time. Unlike SSX however, Riptide lacks a dedicated game mode that is specific to tricks.
Finally, a boat racing game wouldn’t be complete without some floaty water physics (see Hydro Thunder) and a wealth of electronic beats to accompany the game (see any racing game with a non-licensed soundtrack).
With all of that said, this game managed to capture the essence of a handful of my favorite extreme sports games from years past. To sum it all up, I was able to get a small taste of a genre that I have been missing for quite some time.
One of the reasons why I wanted to write about extreme sports games is because I feel as if the genre has faded away. The late 90s and early 2000s saw a gamut of awesome extreme sports titles. As the years have passed, this style has faded out, but there are still some outliers and lesser-known titles that attempt to capture that spirit of arcade action mixed with high-adrenaline sports competition.
I got lucky. I bought Riptide GP: Renegade on a whim during one of the PSN sales. Sometimes this proves to be a mistake, but in this case, I was immediately captured by the game.
Studio Vector Unit got its start with Hydro Thunder Hurricane, a sequel to the original Hydro Thunder. The studio continued on into the mobile gaming market. The first in the Riptide series, Riptide GP, is currently only available on mobile devices. The second game, Riptide GP: 2, released on mobile and was later ported to consoles.
If you’re a newcomer to the series, I recommend jumping straight into the third title, Riptide GP: Renegade, which is available on Steam, mobile devices, and all three current-gen consoles. There is no story in the second game to speak of. While there is a bit of a story in the third game, it is completely self-contained within that game. So you don't need to worry about missing any plot-points by skipping the first two games.
The second game in the series, Riptide GP: 2, shows much more of its mobile-gaming roots. The handling is not nearly as smooth as its sequel, and the progression system is not nearly as fleshed out. Riptide GP: Renegade shows a lot of improvements from its two predecessors, and it also contains a lot more content.
To sum up everything, Riptide GP: Renegade is an indie game from a small development studio who successfully built upon the first two Riptide games in order to deliver a product that has improved gameplay and progression from its original entries. On top of it all, Riptide GP: Renegade manages to deliver what, I would argue, is the most important element in a good extreme sports game: it worries not so much about realism but more about action, adrenaline, and good-old-fashioned over-the-top competition. I will say that this game is an excellent effort by a small studio to deliver a style that has faded out of the market place. My hope? That other indie studios will see Vector Unit’s work and that a wave of extreme sports indie games will continue to hit the market in the years to come.