Riders Republic review: a missed opportunity

I’ve never hated a game that also seems immensely fun to me, but somehow Riders Republic achieved this. Ubisoft’s open-world action sports game begins with a promising premise: You, a voiceless action sports fan, arrive at Riders Ridge, a mecca for shredders everywhere. Somehow, contrary to all national park laws and state regulations, the action sports industry has re-appropriated national parks worth several states, including Mammoth and Yosemite, for the explicit purpose of hauling ass.

The Rider’s Republic map looks as good as any other Ubisoft open world, which is to say that it is visually pleasing to the eye, but without much meaningful or interesting depth. Giant mountains and deep valleys consume the map, giving the entire game a great sense of variable verticality. Multiple biomes (forest, desert, snowy, etc.) do a decent job of adding visual variety as you go back and forth between objectives.

And you go and see a lot. While Rider’s Republic offers a ton of collectibles all over its map, like discovering landmarks or popping balloons (… for some reason?), The world isn’t all that attractive. I seldom felt the need to stray from the beaten track, because my curiosity was never rewarded with anything but menial collectibles, endless checklists on various checklists. After a while, I got bored of going from one place to another and started traveling fast to save time. The Riders Republic map is really big, so getting from one extreme to the other for a race can take more than 10 minutes. Since that trip is always boring, I felt better skip it. This beautiful world was just dressing up rather than something I wanted to get involved with.

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Whether you were racing the clock or your massive 64-person races, traversing the many roads and paths of the open world at breakneck speeds, sometimes for what feels like a 90-degree descent, captures a sense of speed that few games have. Every time I went through a race, I felt like I was barely in control, that one wrong move would lead to disaster, and it was exciting. This was especially true in wingsuit and rocket suit racing, where you cruise through the air trying to get through checkpoints. During these intense races, you fly up and down at wildly different altitudes, creating constant near misses and collisions with the ground and mountains around you. I loved taking on the races in the game, testing my skills as Riders Republic slowly increased the challenge. Getting there first always felt great.

I also enjoyed the races that mix the various action sports of Riders Republic. Many long races force you to alternate between bikes, snowboards, wingsuits, and rocket suits on the go, putting your skill to the test and punishing every mistake. As I got better at the game, these races boosted my understanding of Riders mechanics in consistently satisfying ways. I always took the opportunity to do a new multisport career when it was unlocked.

Trick races, in which you try to rack up points by completing aerial maneuvers, are not that attractive. Performing these tricks does not feel rewarding and you are not incentivized to master complex maneuvers because you can do so simply by performing the same basic tricks over and over again. I often worked my way through these races, so I rarely knew what trick I was going to pull off when I hit a ramp. The stunt racing failed to test my knowledge or skills with the stunt systems, leading me to largely ignore it. Especially considering how many of these various cheat races are out there at Riders Republic (dozens or more for each sport), this eventually became repetitive work as I ran out of the more standard racing events to play.

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After almost every race, you get a brand new bike or vehicle. With this constant stream of new equipment, I never got attached to any piece of equipment. As such, I was not forced to search my computer. I picked the one with the highest number and got on with my day. These are little complaints in the grand scheme of things, but in a game while Riders Republic these little issues got to me.

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Riders Republic’s biggest problem is how it betrays everything good about non-stop gameplay. This game is desperate to make you think it’s cool. Throughout, it bombards you with its infinitely long script, filled with incredibly annoying characters, delivering an endless series of irritating jokes and witty lines. Some prominent options include, “You’re working on these events like a pork chop! Nummies”, and you’re breaking “a whole new level of steeze”, constantly repeating in non-skippable dialog messages that play every time you move around a certain part of the game map or cross the world. These lines are not great the first time; they are excruciatingly excruciating after a dozen times.

The soundtrack has the same problem, which incredibly features a cover of Coolio’s song “Gangsta’s Paradise”, softly performed by Les Ukulélés Girls, with artist Zita. This is truly one of the worst songs I have ever heard. Sprinkle on select cuts from Green Day’s latest album, Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow,” and you’ve got a soundtrack completely disconnected from current popular music. The soundtrack is a big hurdle for me because Riders shoves it down your throat. There is a radio in the game with different genres and stations, but once you enter the race, the game has a predetermined soundtrack. Play a dozen races and chances are, you’ll hear the same three songs a dozen times.

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Rider’s Republic offers an experience that, while fun and exhilarating, gets under my skin in a way that no other game has. It does one or two things that I think are great, but that doesn’t outweigh the things I can’t bear. In the end, Riders Republic dies from a million cuts. I can only hear the same song or dialogue so many times before it stops being annoying and becomes infuriating. Riders Republic is a missed opportunity in a fun and unique action sports game, a genre I grew up in and miss very much. It’s a game that I don’t see myself returning to anytime soon.