The genre of ‘dumb arcade racers’ was one we had a lot of fun with in the early 2000’s.
Series like SSX, Extreme-G, and Burnout weren’t content with players simply cruising around racetracks, so they threw in their own entertainingly silly mechanics to keep things fresh.
Riptide GP: Renegade aims to recapture the magic of those ridiculous racers, by strapping players to high-tech ‘hydrojets’ and letting them flip, trick, and boost their way through a series of futuristic waterways. Which sounds like a lot of fun on paper. But there are a few crucial aspects on which Renegade fails to deliver.
Gameplay takes place across four different modes: Quick Play, Multiplayer (online or splitscreen), Challenge, and Career. It’s in the latter where you’ll find the bulk of Riptide’s content, as well as its wholly unexpected story.
To get started, you must first choose a rider. The two blank slates on offer are both equally devoid of character, and at the very least, serve as a good indication of what’s to come.
A devious rival dupes you chosen avatar into an illegal race; which ends with you being caught and thrown in the slammer. Two years later, you vow revenge on the Hydrojet GP champion who set you up. And since you clearly haven’t learned your lesson, you decide to participate in more illegal races to rebuild your reputation.
Mastering the controls of your watercraft is straightforward, and exactly what you’d expect from a third-person racer. Triggers accelerate and brake, left analogue stick steers, and the A/X button boosts. Things get a little more complex when you hit the air however, as launching off of waves and ramps allows you to perform tricks.
These are executed with simultaneous shifts of both analogue sticks and become increasingly elaborate as your racer levels-up. To begin with, you’ll only have access to simple grabs and spins. But pour a few skill points into new moves, and you’ll soon be working your jet’s handlebars like an Olympic gymnast.
Tricks are for more than just showboating however, as successfully landing one fills up a portion of your boost meter. As a result, you’ll find yourself having to judge on the fly whether or not the extra speed is worth the airtime, or a potentially race-ruining wipeout.
Eventually, your on-course antics will attract attention from the Five-O, who’ll try to ram you (and I mean exclusively you) off the course. They’re more of a nuisance than an actual threat, but there’s nothing more frustrating than being cost a win by persistently aggressive cops.
Progressing through the story unlocks new hydrojets which you can upgrade with money earned from races, and there are some decent cosmetic options to trick them out with too. Colours on individual sections of your craft can handpicked, and there are a variety of unlockable decals to adorn your machine and leathers with.
You’ll also earn yourself new riders to play as, but the forgettable personalities of Riptide’s characters offer little incentive to unlock them. From robots to European rave twins, the game’s tired cast members deliver dialogue in between races, but attempts at humour and ‘banter’ regularly fall flat.
Unfortunately, bland design choices extend beyond just the characters, and into Riptide’s courses. From one run-down future-industrial canal to the next, there are few visually distinct circuits amongst the nine on offer, and you’ll find yourself running through the same environments a lot.
Most races are geared so that there’s always one or two competitors with better jets than your own; forcing you to come back and repeat the courses once you’ve earned a better craft.
Different event types do mix things up a little. Aside from the default 8-player race, there are one-on-one boss battles, slalom, elimination, and trick events. But it only takes a couple of hours to have seen every permutation of event and course, and Riptide’s reliance on repetition becomes glaringly obvious.
In short, Riptide GP: Renegade is a difficult title to recommend. Mechanically, it’s a solid racer with some great scope for customisation. But there’s a distinct lack of personality in the game’s characters, tracks, and horrendously padded story.
Despite being the first title in the series to be built primarily for consoles, it’s clear that the game’s design has been hamstrung by plans to port it to mobile devices. Awkward animations, low-poly models and lazy, touch-screen-friendly menus, scream ‘made for mobile’, and honestly, we feel it’ll do exceptionally well as a portable.
The gameplay lends itself to quick pick-up-and-play sessions, and if you’re only running two or three races at a time, the repeating circuits won’t be anywhere near as obvious.
On current-gen consoles though, Riptide feels out of place. It’s not polished enough to be a serious racer, nor is it out-there enough to feel like an old-school arcade title. Some fun trick moves, a couple of nice tracks and an impressive volume of things to do, make it enjoyable in short bursts. But pacing issues, a lacklustre aesthetic, and an overreliance on revisiting events leave it for us, dead in the water.
Our Riptide GP: Renegade review code was kindly supplied by the developer.