It would be really easy to classify Ride 4 as simply ‘the Gran Turismo of bikes’, but there are so many similarities to it that it’s hard not to come to this conclusion.
Skipping to the chase, Ride 4 is a good bike racing simulation. How good it is I think in part depends on how much you want, or how familiar you are with racing (or even riding!?) bikes. Disclaimer: I am not familiar at all. This was most evident when applying my brakes into the first corner saw me searing off into the barrier at the turn before starting my very first lap.
Simulation is the name of the game here, and accounting for real-world… leaning (is that the terminology?) is important here. Flicking left and right in an arcade-style will just make you fall off your bike, instead, you need to carefully consider velocity and angle.
I feel like I need to cover this in detail, as the core gameplay of Ride 4 will very much determine the levels of enjoyment you get out of it. To begin, and to be clear, it is very hard for newcomers to bike racing. Milestone’s other bike offerings (the MX games) have separate controls for turning and leaning, and instantly easy to brake, turn and gas. Here, you need serious control of both front and rear brakes coming into corners and powering out to ensure stability and a clean line through the apex.
This can’t be understated. There are a number of assists to help you, although their benefit is varied. Auto braking removes all of the pain and does this for you. However it is so ruthlessly cautious that you will both never fall off, and never win any races or tests (more on these later). The joint brake (so you only need to worry about left trigger) is helpful, although at points I felt it wasn’t severe enough. Stability control is essential to minimise wobble when the power goes down, and the ideal line with braking zones also seems essential, although I’m not convinced it’s dynamic enough to help you manage your speed in corners.
This could be my lack of ability of course. Regardless of the assists you are running with, you need to manage throttle control in the corners like a boss. Analogue triggers help greatly, but you’ll need real precision to maintain the line with a decent pace. Should you master all of these elements, however, you have a decent game here.
‘Decent’ is probably understating it. It’s great fun although the outside bike view feels slower than the pure adrenaline of the ‘insider’ rider view. The pace feels very ‘Gran Turismo’ like if that’s a way of describing something.
Back away from the core gameplay, those vibes continue. A clean UI overlaid with blends of relaxing music feels at a glance like bikes have been added to GT. Your career sees you embarking on different regional tournaments, each consisting of race days, speed gate challenges and hot laps. The aforementioned braking assist ensures you get around but won’t complete any of these. A medal system translates to points to unlock new bikes and further progress, but it’s relentlessly brutal – touching the outside of the track on a time trial, for example, sends you back to try the whole lap again. Annoying.
Off-track is another way to crash easily (although there is an assist for this) and despite lacking qualifying for your career races, a penalty system ensures that rules are obeyed. It’s equally brutal – less concerned with ramming other riders off, touching the off-limits track areas, or worse, corner-cutting sees a time penalty build up rather quickly at the side of the screen.
Bike ownership and customisation is a core selling point here. Your bike garage will build over time, each with a class and class score depending on bike attributes. A variety of different parts and tyres can be bought and equipped to improve your rides, and a detailed skin editor can fully customise any livery you can image – from the bike, to rider gear, to the helmet. It’s immense, with an online portal to share and download other creations. If you see the pink one with love hearts – that’s mine.
There’s an awful lot here to play and master. If online racing is your bag, from the races I had, all worked smoothly and perfectly. I lost them all, but what can you do? The game is quite lovely to look at too, with quick loading times and a high frame rate (with an equally lovely photo mode) – there’s also the promise of a free PS5 upgrade, complete with variable sensitivity in the haptic triggers which may help some of my aforementioned control challenges. Dynamic weather tops it all off – with the ability to customise the intricacies of the weather system for custom races.
A wide variety of tracks, night racing, endurance racing along with pit stops round out a fully featured and considered package. Ride 4 is an excellent bike racing game, no doubt about that. It just turns out that bike racing is really hard.
Reviewed on PS4