With their work on Hydro Thunder Hurricane on the Xbox 360, along with the previous Riptide GP game, developer Vector Unit has proven that they know how to create a proper racing game on water. With Riptide GP: Renegade, Vector Unit looks to continue that pedigree with a game that builds on the previous game with improvements to the graphics and gameplay.
If you’re not familiar with the series, Riptide GP: Renegade is a water racing game on that pits racers on hydro jets against each other to establish supremacy on the high seas. Throughout the nine different tracks, you’ll boost, jump, and perform spectacular aerial tricks and grinds to propel you to the finish line.
Riptide GP: Renegade: PS4, Xbox One [Reviewed], Windows 10 PC
Developer: Vector Unit
Publisher: Vector Unit
Release Date: 24 February 2017
Price: £8.39 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
One of the things that set Renegade apart from the previous Riptide game is the inclusion of a campaign story. From the get go you are given a choice of a male rider named Impact and a female rider named Poison. After selecting your character, a brief introduction sets up the storyline. A fellow rider named Krex issues a challenge to you because he thinks that you were lucky in a previous victory over him.
He wants you to prove otherwise by facing him in an unsanctioned race. Little does Impact/Poison know that this was all an elaborate scheme by Krex and before you could even finish the race, you are caught by the authorities for engaging in an unsanctioned race and incarcerated. After being released, your character begins the career mode with the ultimate goal of beating Krex and restoring your honour.
It’s a simple story, and one that rather forgettable quickly, but it does an adequate job of introducing you to the other playable racers along the way that you unlock in the career mode along the way. As you make your way through the campaign, you’ll earn experience and cash, as well as a star rating at the end of each event. You need to earn at least one gold start in order to participate in the next event, and gold stars are earned by reaching a podium finish.
The better you do, the more stars you earn which in turn leads to more experience and money. While earning a minimum of one star appears easy at first, the campaign does ramp up the difficulty significantly by the end. This is done in both the AI of the competing racers (by increasing the rubber band system that is prevalent in most racing games), but also the introduction of the police, which will occasionally interrupt your race by chasing after you with the intent of ramming into your hydro jet to slow you down or take you out. Near the end, it feels as if the police are unfairly targeting you, while largely ignoring the other racers, even if you’re not in first place.
Cheap AI isn’t a novel concept in racing games, but the experience system in the game does help alleviate these frustrating situations. Like any RPG, time spent completing races or events in Riptide GP: Renegade is not wasted, even if you lose. That’s because you still earn cash and experience no matter where you place, and those can be used to help level up your rider and his/her hydro jet.
Money earned can be used to boost up hydro jets by increasing the acceleration, top speed, handling, and boost capabilities of any hydro jet. Meanwhile, experience accumulated will help increase the level of your rider, which in turn unlocks abilities such as new tricks to perform and speed boosts. While these alone will not ensure victory, it does help level the playing field if you feel you’ve hit a wall thanks to the rubber band AI or an event where earning a star is just beyond your reach regardless of your skill level.
Throughout the five chapters of the campaign mode you’ll be introduced to the four different modes Riptide GP: Renegade has to offer. Aside from the standard race option, the elimination mode removes the last place pilot every twelve seconds until there is only one left. The slalom event tasks you with turning left or right along pre-determined buoys during the course of a track as well as going against the clock.
Finally, the freestyle event focuses more on aerial tricks, with points earned based on the type of tricks you perform and degree of difficulty which are tallied when the timer reaches zero. While the game offers only nine courses, it does an excellent job of rewarding players who take the time to know critical jumps throughout the tracks.
By performing aerial tricks with the left and right thumbsticks, or grinding along certain objects, you’ll earn power to the boost meter which gives you a momentary burst of speed. The more complex the stunt, the greater the risk of crashing if you don’t give yourself room to make a proper landing, but the greater the reward in terms of earning a higher boost. Thus, success comes from knowing the tracks inside and out, while making the most of the obstacles to gain as much boost as possible.
Graphically, Riptide GP: Renegade is easily the best-looking entry in the series so far. The water effects are excellent, especially during times when giant waves ripple across the track, or whenever you land a huge jump and little droplets splash onto the screen and flow downwards. Unfortunately, the same level of detail isn’t applied to the racers or hydro jets, but it isn’t too big of a deterrent. The controls work well for the most part, although the commands for certain tricks don’t register consistently, which can lead to major wipeouts.
The game runs at a smooth 60 frames per second and 1080p resolution. However, the soundtrack isn’t anything to write home about, as the tracks are pretty generic and forgettable. Furthermore, despite the introduction of a proper story mode in Renegade, there are no voiceovers for any of the characters, nor is there really any cutscenes to set up the story, merely a few words of dialogue between your character and the opponents they are facing.
Riptide GP: Renegade improves upon the previous iteration of the series in a number of key areas. The inclusion of new aerial tricks offers more choice of spectacular feats to perform in the air, while the character progression system offers RPG-like elements that provide meaningful replayability in the form of earning cash and experience without making it feel like too much of a grind.
It’s not the most visually impressive racer on current gen systems, and the story and audio departments leave a lot to be desired, but Riptide GP: Renegade is still easy to recommend for anyone tired of the traditional racing game on the road and looking for an aquatic racer in the vein of the classic Jet Moto or Hydro Thunder series.