Ride 3 is the difficult third album for Milestone’s motorcycle franchise. Boasting the most impressive and expansive list of motorcycles and tracks so far, is the title riding the back wheel across the finish line, or fishing its bike out of the gravel?
Ride 3 brings the world of motorcycle racing to life, with some 230 bikes and 30 tracks ready to be tamed. At first glance, you’ll notice the lack of Harley Davidson, but that’s not really what it’s all about here. You’ll find everything from vintage classics to modern takes on the classic cafe racer, whiney little 125cc runabouts to screaming crotch-rockets. The variety doesn’t stop with the bikes either. From Oulton Park to the Nordschleife, there are some brilliant tracks to be tamed. Even the fictional courses are enjoyable to ride, which is more often than not a rarity.
Players will enjoy the ability to customize their bikes, and while this does remain rather basic on a visual level, you’re not going to be throwing new fairings and swingarms on your bike, you can make some tasteful changes to mirrors, plate deletes, and grips. Through the engine modifications, you can also alter the look of the exhaust on most bikes, which is the biggest visual modification when it comes to parts. You can even match your rider to your bikes should you wish, with a nice line of licensed gear from several brands.
The biggest implementation with regards to visual customization overall is the painting and vinyl system added to the game. Players of Forza titles will be more than familiar with the system but will see it for what it is. A cheap copy. There are some features here that are rather baffling, and after spending so much time in Forza, the more complicated method of control just feels unnatural.
When it comes to performance modifications, you won’t find anything you can’t do normally here. Forged internals, upgraded brakes, race slicks. It’s all here. These modifications will also have a genuine effect on the sound of the bike, which is a nice addition. You’ll find more pops and bangs here, adding to the feeling that your upgrades are having a genuine effect. I’d like to see some more radical modifications, maybe breaching into the world of boosted bikes and engine swaps, but the inclusion of electric bikes and their upgrades is greatly welcomed.
If this sounds a little like the motorcycle equivalent of Forza Motorsport, then the career and handling are going to do little to change that. Players of Forza 7 will notice the career is laid out in quite a similar manner. You have blocks of events, which feature a specific bike class and specification, of which some are broader than others, and to complete each of these sections you’ll need to complete, and beat, all of the races present. This is the bread and butter of the career mode, and it rarely strays from the fact.
Races are split into a few different types. You have of course the standard circuit race, laps against opponents adhering to the same specification as yourself. These are split into day, night, and wet races. Point to point races also exist, taking part on sections of the infamous Nordschleife. Time Attack pits you and your bike against the clock, with the sole purpose of putting together a lap Lewis Hamilton would call “sexy.” Later on, you’ll encounter endurance races which are longer in length, and make use of the title’s inclusion of endurance team bikes.
The most unfitting races are the Drag races. This really does seem to be commonplace in racing games these days, with the races here being more akin to those of a mobile game than anything else. Throw it into first on the green light and slam through the gears. Steering? Don’t need it. The camera even throws itself to the side to really emphasize the point that you’re pressing 2 buttons. Would it be too much to ask for burnouts and drag bikes? would it? What’s worse, is that some events simply require the right bike or you’ve got no chance.
The racing in all of Ride 3‘s other events is a rather mixed bag. The AI isn’t the most convincing you’ll find, but they’re definitely able to put up a fight on the higher levels. One thing you will note is that they suffer from the classic AI issue of having ‘that one corner’ on nearly every track that they simply don’t take at speed. This can leave some races feeling like a cakewalk, and then you’ll hit another track and be left for dust. some tweaks here would be grand, but they are far form the worst AI competitors available.
When it comes to the events, the game does enough to keep things feeling fresh and lose some of its repetitive nature, but to say it’s not a grind would be untrue. The variety of bikes and tracks really helps to keep things fresh, as you can go from riding supermotos with your legs out one minute, to screaming the back straight at the Nordschleife close to 200mph next. There’s a lot of fun to be had with the naked bikes as well in Ride 3, as they often possess the greatest differences within their respective performance indexes. Bikes that handle well and bikes with brute power sit side by side, and it creates a really interesting dynamic.
Of course, none of this matters if the physics feel like shite, and thankfully Milestone has done a good job with making Ride 3 feel challenging enough to hold some interest but accessible enough not to scare players away. Having said that, I would like to see a little more grit and rawness come through the bikes, and introduce that further level of challenge. Bikes can sometimes feel like they’ve still got the kid gloves on, even when you turn the traction control off completely. Bikes can be incredibly unforgiving, and I want to be able to feel that.
That being said, the physics are enjoyable enough that you can comfortably pass the time simply hot-lapping tracks searching for the extra tenth of a second. It’s enjoyable, and once you get the hang of the learning curve of riding a bike fast compared to driving a car fast – the learning of which is engaging enough as it is- you’ll be enjoying the exploration of Ride 3’s vast array of bikes and tracks, sampling their intricacies and drawbacks in a way that really helps to illustrate that these really are different beasts in more than just look and age.
There’s clear passion here on behalf of Milestone. The bike models are gorgeous, with levels of detail greater than you’ll find on some of the year’s bigger releases. What sadly lets the title down is everything that surrounds it. Tracks can look dull and grey, and there’s a distinct lack of dynamic lighting that really lets the title down. Just ride a night race and hit the brakes, you’ll think your brake light is out. The worlds feel flat and dull, which takes away the sense of speed, something that I really do miss. That being said, Ride 3 does have its moments, and when it gets it right, the game really does look fantastic.
As for sound, Ride 3 has a truly vast range of sounds that gives each bike its own personality and really does capture the spirit of the machine. As mentioned with the customization, you can alter these sounds, and for the better. Everything is as it should be, with high-revving machines having that signature howl, while the lower-revving machines have that signature bark and chop the more old-school bikers among us love. Blast a fully built machine through a tunnel and let off the gas, you’ll be addicted.
Ride 3 is a passion project in its purest sense. Rough around the edges, the passion for motorcycles still shines through the title despite its less polished nature. There are some clear points for improvement, but for a fan of motorcycles or just racing in general, Ride 3 is a highly enjoyable title.