There aren't too many fully fledged modern motorcycle games around out, but up until now the Ride franchise has been a popular choice. Ride 3 comes just a year after the previous iteration with some new bikes, tracks and gameplay modes. After receiving some mixed reviews, Ride producer Milestone had its work cut out to make a biking experience fit for the virtual world.
Your first experience of the game is on a Ducati Panigale V4 on Laguna Seca raceway; a track that I’ve become accustomed to after having done countless laps since my Gran Turismo 2 days. However, on a top-end superbike I was expecting it to be a more intense experience. Sadly, it didn't quite live up to my expectations.
The game starts you off with all of the assistance features on to allow you to become accustomed to the experience, but that saps plenty of adrenaline from the ride. Gameplay is furthermore marred by a numbing of the sensation of speed, something similar to what I experienced in 2017's Gran Turismo Sport. What further curbed my enthusiasm was the sound of the Panigale, which lacked the depth that I remembered from when we had one on test. This, for me, is a disappointment as the engine and exhaust notes are great contributors to the experience of a superbike. This is something that Burnout Paradise nailed back in 2008.
Graphically, the game impresses while not being ahead of its time. The colour palette isn't the most vibrant and there’s quite a bit of detail lacking in the environment, but then the attention is focused on the bikes themselves. The lighting and reflections also satisfy.
Once the tutorial ends, you’re prompted to select your first bike (I opted for a two-stroke 1992 Suzuki RG 125 F) followed by an introduction to your home base, which takes the form of a rustic workshop/living space strikingly similar to the one in which Sam keeps his Ducati Sport 1 000 and 900 SS in 2010’s Tron: Legacy. This is a great touch to the game and adds a very personal feel to the "man and his bike" ownership experience. However, it would have been even better had the player been allowed to customise this space. This, though, is a minor criticism.
You are, however, able to customise you avatar with licensed race wear and riding styles. You also have access to view the more than 230 bikes available to purchase plus customise the appearance and settings of the bikes you already own. Having access to these features further broadens Ride 3’s appeal as it allows players the opportunity to make the bikes feel more personal.
After these administrative duties are complete, Ride 3 opens itself up to its players and reveals various interesting aspects of biking. The career tab, tastefully designed to look like a magazine feature, reveals many competitions that represent the various classes within the games, which include classic icons, modern superbikes, motocross and more. The various tournaments consist of traditional and night races, time attacks, drag races and endurances with a career progress that allows you to unlock more events as you progress and gain experience points, all of which culminates in a "grand final" event. If you want to get up to scratch with your skills before you start, there’s also an optional four-part "riding school" that you can choose. It’s a career mode that follows the format of traditional racing games but provides a linear experience that will keep you occupied for some time.
Ride 3 improves on the biking experience once you switch all of the assists off; this adds a more weighty feeling to the controls, making it a little more engaging. But feedback to the controller is still lacking, which makes braking and turning harder to perfect. Still, this becomes less of an issue as you become more comfortable with the physics of the game.
The AI difficulty can be adjusted if you’re looking for more competitive racing but this only changes the speed of the competitors and not the aggression, which again detracts from the racing experience since the opponents are "clean" racers (this makes things less of a challenge if you are already a fast rider in the game).
Ride 3 is a great offering for bike fans, delivering something of a two-wheel experience of what Forza Motorsport or Gran Turismo offer car lovers. There are a few elements that could be improved (such as the sounds and the feeling of speed), but overall, if you’re looking for a comprehensive digital biking experience, you'll likely be mostly satisfied by this game. Indeed, it should keep you busy for hours thanks to its diverse categories and formats.