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Review: Riders Republic’s Bells and Whistles Work Against Its YOLO Mentality

Riders Republic is a buffet of breathtaking sights and catchy sounds, but it’s bogged down by checklists and grinds.

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Riders Republic
Photo: Ubisoft

The Las Vegas of extreme-sports video games, Riders Republic is a buffet of breathtaking sights and catchy sounds, constant rewards, and an unending checklist of activities to participate in. The game’s map squeezes together the best elements of seven different national parks but edits out the empty stretches of Idaho and Nevada so that you might bike, ski, or fly directly from the peaks of California’s Mammoth Mountain to the valleys of Utah’s Zion Park, through Yosemite, and then back up to Wyoming’s Grand Tetons. It’s great fun for a quick vacation, but unless you’re a huge fan of stunt racing, it’s not necessarily a place you want to live in. And the longer you stick with Riders Republic, the truer that becomes.

That said, apart from making its tutorial a lot clearer, it’s hard to imagine what more a game like this—a massive upgrade over the winter-set Steep and a wilder alternative to The Crew 2—could do. With hundreds of events to partake in across five careers, plus precarious stunts and Shackdaddy challenges, every inch of the map feels utilized, even if that’s just to let players admire the natural majesty of one of the game’s 45 recreated landmarks.

There’s nothing quite like taking a harrowing ride across a thin cable bridging Zion’s gorges or flying a rocket-powered wingsuit through the hoodoo rock formations known as Bryce Canyon’s Wall of Windows. And for those seeking something less serious, there are unlockable Funkies, which is the in-game word for silly vehicles that you can fool around with in events and on your own, whether that’s riding a surfboard down a ski slope or attempting to balance an ice-cream cart on a narrow rocky spine. That’s already an abundance of riches, but on top of that players can create their own trails and challenge others to follow in their footsteps.

Riders Republic is also a remarkably smooth experience, with seamless loading (at least on the PS5) between fast-travel locations. Occasionally comical physics aside—as in when you get wedged into a barrier—the game performs well even when racing against 63 other players, and it’s a marvel to look up (or down) mid-race to see other players in the middle of their own separate races. If anything, the world almost feels too active, with players abruptly materializing in fast-travel points beside you or parachuting into the middle of an otherwise serene photographic moment beside Yosemite’s mighty granite Half Dome. (Separate from your always-online career is an offline Zen mode for those who prefer to explore alone.)

But all the polish in the world can’t sustain the in-game promise made by your protagonist’s mentor, the “lege” (cringe-worthy slang for “legend”) Brett Nale: “The more you nail, the more you unveil.” Each activity nets you stars, with specific bonuses for each course based on factors like difficulty, score, and time. For the first 100 stars, you’re unlocking a steady clip of new modes (like multiplayer Trick Battles) and sponsors, whose daily tasks can be completed to unlock new gear. With over 20 sponsors, weekly challenges, and individual careers, there’s no shortage of boxes to tick, but the rewards feel increasingly empty, and tasks like “Complete X Snow stunts” quickly grow repetitive. And while the snow, air, and land races are often spiced up by their varied landscapes, the trick careers are just a matter of getting enough hangtime to pull off a handful of reliable, high-scoring combos and using the dedicated backtrack button to try, try again each time your protagonist’s body succumbs to gravity.

A sports bike has two wheels, and wisely, instead of trying to reinvent those, Riders Republic provides players with iconic courses on which to ride its perfectly tuned bikes—and skis and jetpacks to boot. If anything, the developers at Ubisoft Annecy have gone to admirable lengths to make sure that nothing mechanically gets in the way of that fun. How odd, then, that so much of Riders Republic’s gameplay ends up bogged down under onerous checklists and thankless grinds that are the very antithesis of the game’s YOLO mentality.

The game was covered with a review code provided by Ubisoft.

Developer: Ubisoft Annecy Publisher: Ubisoft Platform: PlayStation 5 Release Date: October 28, 2021 ESRB: T ESRB Descriptions: Lyrics Buy: Game

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