Riders Republic sets out to accomplish a lot, a tour-de-force of extreme sports and multiplayer-focussed insanity. And while the moment-to-moment gameplay can be as riveting as the game’s excellent premise, it misses the mark a bit too much through inconsistencies in the sports on offer and the plethora of frustrating bugs and glitches that plague its gigantic map.
Divided up into five major careers — Bike Race, Bike Tricks, Snow Race, Snow Tricks and Air — Riders Republic offers up a smorgasbord of extreme sports to sink your teeth into. Taking place on a huge map filled with other real-world players, you’re given the freedom to dive into three of the five careers from the outset. In the mood for SSX-style skiing or snowboarding? Hit the slopes and check out the Snow Tricks events. All about that Descenders lifestyle and want high-octane bike races? Jump into the litany of Bike Race events on offer.
As you play through each event, completing side objectives and earning stars that go toward your overall ‘level’ in the game, you’ll unlock XP and level up careers. Levelling up each of the five careers nets you better gear to use, more events to participate in and sponsors that’ll give you some coin for doing specific objectives. Each career has a handful of big events, too – marquee-level events that culminate in one major event to cap off the career.
While there’s a bit of build up to the bigger events in each career (in the form of some cringe-worthy character monologues), they feel mostly akin to what you play through in the game’s regular events. I would have loved to see more of a story weaved into these big moments in the game, and they’re usually over before you know it. With licenses like the X Games in tow, it’s a surprise to see these dazzling moments thrown to the side so quickly.
Each major sport feels noticeably different from one another, however that’s both a good and a bad thing. Skiing and snowboarding, for instance, feels fantastic – easily the best in the game by some distance (and unsurprising coming from the Steep developers). Bike controls took some getting used to, but I’ve generally come to like how it feels even if it is a bit slow. The air racing is easily my least favourite of the bunch, though, offering controls that feel more imprecise than anything else on offer. It just doesn’t feel quite right to me, and nailing those sharp turns in air events became more frustrating than anything else.
As such I spent most of my time in the slopes and careening down mountains on a bike, with the game doing just enough to make each event feel somewhat different to the other. Whether that’s by a major change of scenery, through a variety of secondary objectives to meet or courses to nail, there’s enough here to keep someone who has a vested interest in raking up high scores entertained.
Navigating the landscape does taking some getting used to due to the control schemes on offer. Racer, the control scheme the game encourages you to use to begin with, has a handful of automatic assists in place like evening you out to land a spin or flip easily and being able to control the camera with the right thumbstick. The other, dubbed Trickster, is more focused on creativity, taking the training wheels off and letting you go all-in on manual controls while allowing tricks to be performed with the right thumbstick. The former is a great way for starting off in the game and coming to grips with what you can pull off, however the manual mode is where Riders Republic really shines.
There’s no doubt it took some time to get used to, but the game feels like it’s meant to be played with the trickster control scheme – especially for those wanting to rack up the highest score possible. Being able to nail those perfect landings and play around a bit more with spins and flips gives you an unparalleled amount of freedom when executing tricks, whether you’re out on the slopes or on the dirt.
Aside from the tried-and-true career events, there are also a handful of other things to get involved in with Riders Republic. There are Shackdaddy events, which put you in the driver’s seat of a ‘funkie’ vehicle (something that’s a bit more whacky than the average bike) and complete a set of objectives. Some of these races had me ploughing through the map on an automobile with jets attached, while others had me cycling about on a pizza delivery bike. It’s bizarre but lends well to the overall tone and theme of the game.
Stunts are littered around the map, too, with each giving you a time limit to get from point a to point b in a specific vehicle. Stunts tended to be a lot harder than the regular events, forcing you out of your comfort zone and pushing you through races that require a lot of precision in controlling the vehicle you’ve been given.
This is where the best and the worst of Riders Republic really came to the fore. Being able to cruise through the often-gorgeous landscape on a jetpack weaving around canyons was a thrill, however small bumps and inconsistencies in the map would send me flying – forcing me to ‘rewind’ back to a point and continue from there, losing time in the process. Bike races are plagued by these kinds of problems, with tiny bumps and rocks in the terrain sending you off in a completely different direction than you were anticipating.
I found similar inconsistencies trying to execute grinds while in the Snow Tricks career. Grinds I’d think were guaranteed to land easily would send me flying into the snow, whereas I’d pull off grinds that came off the back of two front flips and a tricky grab. These kinds of weird glitches and annoyances plagued my time in Riders Republic.
This was also a problem I noticed in the game’s Mass Races – huge events of 50+ real-world players that has you venturing across the map, using a variety of vehicles to try and earn that coveted top spot. While the premise here is excellent, I found it frustrating that one simple mistake (or unavoidable knock from another rider) would send you hurtling to the back of the pack, unable to make up any ground. And while Mass Races are a test of skill across all facets of Riders Republic, it’s a shame that the game can be the one to let you down – taking away any potential reward you might have rightfully earned.
Customisation is a big part of Riders Republic, though I was surprised to see how expensive most items in the store are and how limited the customisation options can be. You’re able to deck out your rider in separate gear for each of the main sports and careers on offer, though don’t be surprised to see lots of players donning the same gear for some time given how expensive even some of the most basic bits of kit are. As well as this, you can’t change the colour of the gear you’ve equipped – it’s all pretty stock standard. Unless you’re inclined to spend real-world money to make your rider look suave, expect to grind out lots of events in order to afford new threads.
Turning attention to the game’s map, in its best moments Riders Republic looks gorgeous – the scenery on offer in the game is striking. It’s unfortunate the game doesn’t quite hold that candle up in moment-to-moment gameplay, though, as some textures and graphical glitches completely take away from the experience. The same can be said for the game’s music, which is better left off. For a sports game that is heavily dependent on immersion and exhilarating moments, it felt like the music choices here do everything to pull you away from that.
Riders Republic shows promise, there’s no doubt about it. At the moment, though, there are a lot of small issues that completely derail the experience (sometimes literally). The sheer variety of extreme sports on offer is impressive and I’m excited to see it grow with the addition of BMX Sport in the future, however between the lines there’s just not a lot to get too excited by. That, combined with the lacklustre soundtrack and graphical inconsistencies, makes for a game that will likely need some time to bring it all together. I am hopeful, though, as there’s definitely something special hidden underneath all of the problems.
While it has promise, Riders Republic feels like it needs a bit more time in the oven. For fans of extreme sports, there’s certainly something to enjoy here – just don’t be surprised when a variety of issues run the experience into the ground.
Snowboarding and skiing feel great
Bike discipline is solid
Control schemes work well
There’s enough variety in the sports on offer
Big events don’t feel important
Lots of little gameplay issues
Many gameplay glitches that can lead to lost progress in a race/event