Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ridge Racer Unbounded Trailer: Let Bugbear Be!

And here we go again. Last year, when EA unveiled SSX: Deadly Descents, the Internet descended on them in a rather deadly decent into all sorts of nasty name-calling and threats based on the trailer that showed the new installment was headed in a more action flick direction, something many die-hard SSX fans didn't want at all. Now, Namco Bandai is facing the same sort of crankiness based on a trailer that also doesn't even show any gameplay at all. Worse, some of the comments directed toward the game's dev team are at best, ignorant and at worst, more than a tiny bit racist.

Based on that trailer above, Ridge Racer Unbounded DOES indeed have a few obvious problems that NEED changing, from the logo design (sorry, guys... but it's a clear swipe from EA's Need for Speed Underground) and the name, which is a bit too clumsy for some folks out there.

On that note, bit of clarification:

Yes, Virginia, "Unbounded" is an actual word:

un·bound·ed /ʌnˈbaʊndɪd/ [uhn-boun-did]

1. having no limits, borders, or bounds.
2.unrestrained; uncontrolled: unbounded enthusiasm.


...but it still trips off the tongue like a stuttering drunk reading a takeout menu upside down.

For the record, that other word you're thinking of, "Unbound", means something entirely different:

un·bound /ʌnˈbaʊnd/ [uhn-bound]
1. simple past tense and past participle of unbind.

2. not bound, as a book.
3. free; not attached, as by a chemical bond: unbound electrons.

Nevertheless, kudos for whomever came up with the name for adding a new word to the vocabulary of TOO many undereducated internet posters who thought it was misspelled or simply made up to make the game sound "cool". So, new logo (definitely) and maybe dumb down the name so gamers in the US won't snicker too much (even though the joke is on them for being too dopey to look up new words on all those fancy devices they're carrying around).

On the other hand...

Since NO one in the public has seen any gameplay yet, it's IMPOSSIBLE to know what the game will play like other than to speculate that it'll be a cross between Criterion's Burnout games, Bugbear's own FlatOut series and yup, a bit Ridge Racer. You may not like the direction Namco Bandai is spinning off your favorite franchise in (pun intended), but without some actual hands-on time, all that bile is wasted on those rather annoying slurs against a VERY capable developer that I'd say knows what its doing.

Hell, it's not as if Namco Bandai hasn't ever tried to change up the RR formula previously or published a few other racing games that weren't "pure" Ridge Racer. R: Racing Revolution mixed different styles of racing together in one package and while the results were mixed, it was still a decent game experience with a difficulty level that could be tailored up or down depending on each player's skill level. As for other racers, the infamous SRS: Street Racing Syndicate mixed the import tuner craze from a few years back with real-life scantily clad ladies in a fun and pretty decent racer. Then there are import-only titles such as Critical Velocity, but that one-off was more of a collectible oddity than a memorable game experience.

Let's face it, folks... sometimes change can be good whether you like it or not. While the last couple of RR games were solid and a blast to play, a bit of staleness was creeping into the formula. Letting a great dev team with a solid track record (again with the obvious puns?) attempt something different with a popular franchise is always a 50/50 deal. But in these days of a jaded fan base that's overly protective of "their" game to the point of destroying sales based on them merely wanting the same retread year after year, then complaining about the results... well, you get the point of that particular circular firing squad (hopefully).

Personally, my only worries are how Unbounded will do in a market where the pinnacle of destruction-based racing was reached a few years back with Burnout Paradise. More recent titles such as Blur and Split Second were fun, but by the time they were released, the sub-genre had pretty much gone as far as it could. Of course, Sony's upcoming PS3 exclusives MotorStorm: Apocalypse and Twisted Metal might reinvigorate interest to the point where Unbounded (which is set to hit PS3, 360 and PC) manages to ride that new wave to some decent success.

Granted, Helsinki-based Bugbear Entertainment is quite a STELLAR developer that makes some solid racers. Their FlatOut games remain some of my personal favorites, Sega Rally Revo was a blast on the PSP and Glimmerati was pretty spectacular (you probably didn't play it because you don't have a N-Gage). I like their stuff enough to have tracked down Rally Trophy, their 2001 PC racer simply because I'm a big rally fan and want to see how the team's work has evolved since ten years ago. They're not making a dime on that purchase however, as I picked the game up used off ebay for a song (plus shipping).

As for Unbounded, I'll be there to play any demo that pops up at a press event here in NYC. I'm hoping that other game journalists do their jobs and accurately cover the game in terms of telling the truth about how it plays rather than merely saying "Burnout already did this, so go play that instead." or something equally lazy. As for the rest of you complaining... why not wait for a demo or some actual hands-on impressions before unfairly slamming a qualified developer around? All that time you're wasting typing out curses and such can be better spent playing more games or doing something other than pissing on a bunch of talented folks' hard work before you've actually seen it in action, right?

Just a thought.


  1. Glad to see some common sense in the interwebs. I agree with what you wrote about the game and would like to point out that the guys at Bugbear didn't have anything to do with this CGI teaser. It's so depressing to see people crucifying a game based on a damn teaser video with no actual game footage in it. Cheers!

    (I think I'll bookmark this blog too)

  2. Ah - I'd forgotten to mention that trailer wasn't done by Bugbear (many CG trailers for games are outsourced to studios that specialize in them). Still, some of the negative comments I've read about it were a bit mean spirited and off-base from those who want to find anything/everything to complain about here before they've seen a single second of gameplay or even a screen shot.

    I have the feeling a few words will be eaten by some of those posters once we start seeing how the actual game is turning out.

    Of course, as much as I'm looking forward to this one, it would also be nice to see a current-gen version of Glimmeratti show up on either a console or handheld at some point in the future (NGP/3DS, hint, hint)...