I haven’t played a watercraft racing game since I was a child. Those were the days of Splashdown: Rides Gone Wild and Hydro Thunder (with a minor dash of Jet Moto.) They were incredibly fun and I was looking forward to reliving those times with Vector Unit’s Riptide GP: Renegade. As with most racing game experiences this one included many tricks to perform, lively maps to race on, shortcuts to discover, and nasty wipeouts to be had. It was everything littler me wanted and fun times were had but it came at the expense of a learning curve and difficulty spikes.
One of the core aspects is of course career mode (there is also a challenge mode to net the best time, free play, and split-screen, local and online multiplayer.) In it you play as Impact, a GP racer who gets locked up in jail for two years. Why you ask? Well apparently you can’t race on racing tracks when there isn’t a sanctioned event. You are suckered into racing illegally by a bully, betrayed, framed, and sent off to Rikers. Ok maybe not that bad but you’re no longer a free man. Upon release a friend gets you back on your watercraft to climb the ranks and take down the man who wronged you. Who also happens to be the champion (or something like that) of the sport now. If you said this sounds like a cheesy 80’s movie I’d say you’re correct.
So you and your friend start off on making another name for yourself. You do this by completing different modes on different maps while earning stars to progress the story. Let’s start with the maps first. There are nine of them and for the most part are unique. There’s a metropolitan downtown area, a park, a military base, a map floating in the sky, a factory, a carnival, ruins, a space station, and even through a forest fire (albeit a tame one.) Each one has a variety of paths and jumps that mix it up just enough to prevent staleness. A few even have events that slightly alter your passage.
Each map will host up to four game modes. There’s the typical race, whether head to head or in a group, elimination where the last place racer is kicked out once the timer depletes, kicking up tricks in order to get points for freestyle mode, and an event where you have to reach certain markers on each map as fast as you can. These may get a bit stale depending on how long you play for but I found each variant fun up to a point. Lastly, there are up to forty tricks to learn, nine characters to unlock, and also nine watercraft to ride on.
The story itself serves its purpose in explaining why you’re doing what you’re doing. The downside being, except for the very beginning, it’s all told by text pop-ups. Sure some of the characters can be funny in dialogue but it doesn’t truly add anything besides notifying you what to do next. I found myself not paying attention to the plot as I focused on doing the best in each map and mode. Which in itself is saying something because the game’s simple racing mechanics are what kept me going. That is always good for a racing title.
The graphics weren’t amazing but what did look pretty were tricks. Performing them was an awesome experience. Watching your craft fly through the air was adrenaline pumping and definitely one of the stronger points of Riptide GP: Renegade. The wipeout fails were also enjoyable to witness. Unless it cost you a win and then it’s incredibly frustrating which I’ll get into soon. The soundtrack complimented the stunts nicely and everything else in fact. There was pleasure in listening to the tunes for a few minutes here and there.
Before I mentioned a learning curve and difficulty spikes. They’re not pros in this review. Once you get to your second series of events you’ll experience an initial burst of frustration. The A.I. will be faster and will seem to rubber band something awful. I believe it isn’t that but instead the opponents having faster crafts, better tricks to perform, and higher stats than you to begin with. Not in the way to give you a friendly challenge but in the way that you will eventually need to be fully upgraded to get first place in most events. Even still it might not be enough. Some of the “post-game” content is ridiculously hard to the point I declared it impossible. I would do everything right and then some but still lose. It came down to needing the A.I. to screw up for me to win which often didn’t happen.
Another annoyance was the drafting in this game. I’ll spare you the physics lesson if you don’t know what that is but essentially if you follow behind an opponent you’ll go faster. This game put too much stress on that. You could draft behind someone, pass them, and end up a remarkably far from them. Same goes with the A.I. and you. In other words the drafting is overpowered. Cops were also a nuisance. In some modes there will be officers trying to take you down. Only you down. You. One of eight racers illegally racing. You understand how this would be frustrating in the latter, excruciatingly hard levels.
The physics of Riptide GP: Renegade for the most part were amazing. I’d land the jumps like I should depending on what I did in the air, moving from side to side felt authentic, and hitting waves at certain points affected your trajectory in a believable manner. However, sharp turns were an additional pain in this game. Even if you hit the corner perfectly or let up on the gas to make it easier, it didn’t matter. You would be forcibly slowed while the A.I. remained unaffected. This was grueling when combined with my previous complaints. The last con deals with input problems. It didn’t happen all the time but I would push X to boost or tilt my thumbsticks to no effect. Upon another immediate try it worked but still a problem all the same.