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Game review: Ride 4 (PC)

Milestone, free of the licencing restraints of the excellent MotoGP franchise gives us more bikes to play with in Ride 4.

Motorcycle racing games are not for the faint-hearted. At best they are a punishing war of attrition with a fiendish learning curve that opens up into a rewarding experience, at worst they are a cartoonishly easy or frustratingly annoying mess.

Ride 4navigates this narrow road dangerously close to losing balance. This is not a game where you can expect to pick up and play. From the very start, the game is testing you and training you to ride the featured powerful motorcycles. The developers really don't want you leaping on a superbike and careening off the circuit and the first turn.

The game features a range of modes that allow players to get straight on massive bikes and burn some rubber. But I won't recommend this course of action. Ride 4, even with all the assists on, is not an arcade game. It is a very nuanced motorcycle racing simulation that requires care and control to even stay on the bikes.

The first stop should be the career mode. Here players will need to choose between the European league, the Asian League or the American League. Whichever one chosen is the starting place for your rider's career.

The game tries it's best to help players obtain the skills needed to get the most out of the game, but I'm not sure that I'd entirely call it fun. The career mode requires players to pass the licence test for the league that they choose to start in. This involves successfully completing challenges across a number of circuits. It very much reminds me of Sony's Gran Turismo in this respect, and I don't think that's by accident.

In order to instil the discipline required of the game, players will be asked to repeat and repeat until they can control their bike to a standard suitable to proceed. Ride 4 doesn't take prisoners, and, even with all the assisted switched on obtaining your licence is tough. I don't rage quit that often, but I did rage quit Ride 4 a few times.

The bike physics, even on the basic settings, do feel about right. This makes it even more frustrating when you bail, as it's usually your hubris and not the game that caused you to come a cropper.

The controls and assists can be set for independent front and rear braking, manual gears (with clutch) and realistic physics. The flip side is basic physics and automatic everything, with you just steering and applying throttle - the game braking and sorting out your gears. It takes a while to find the right balance. I'd recommend leaving auto-braking off from the start, though.

As well as turning left and right, players can control the rider's weight forwards and backwards, useful to avoid lifting up the front wheel when pulling away and the rear when braking. Riders can also tuck in for better aerodynamics.

Ride 4 is not an easy game to master. But the controls are all there for when you start to get to grips with it. The assists could be better and the game needs a better training mode than simple getting players frustrated trying to pass their licence. The game does have a rewind function, which takes a bit of the pain out of the early game, as you are getting used to it.

There are 30 circuits at launch with more, apparently on the way. These range from endurance circuits like the Southern 100 (Isle of Man) and Nordschleife to famous motorcycle circuits like Silverstone and Donington. The circuits are all amazingly detailed and can be raced at any time of day in wet and dry conditions.

The stars of the show are the bikes. A couple - the '94 TZR 250 and Yamaha RD500 LC - are particularly close to my heart, but there are over 100 to choose from right up to a BMW S 1000 RR. Each one is meticulously detailed down to the last bolt.

The environments look amazing, close but not quite up to photoreal on PC. The rain effects are realistic enough to give me the same sort of dread that I had riding in the wet, back in the day.

Ride 4 is not an easy game to get into. The crippling learning curve may prove too much for many. Get over that learning curve, though, and Ride 4 opens up to become a competent and rewarding motorcycle racing game that looks great.

Verdict: 7.5/10

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