Ridge Racer Unbounded Preview:
The Ridge Racer series dropped off the non-mobile gaming grid in 2006 after the launch of the PlayStation 3, returning only recently as a Nintendo 3DS launch title. Fans of the series will be serviced again next year, though Bugbear Entertainment's in-development Ridge Racer Unbounded represents a little bit of a departure, as we learned yesterday during a behind-closed-doors E3 demo.
While the focus in Unbounded continues to be on high speed racing, the setting moves to the post-apocalyptic city of Shatter Bay. The subtitle refers to a gang of car-obsessed gearheads who fill their days zipping around the broken metropolis to determine which driver is the biggest badass. Presiding over them all is Kara Shindu, a mysterious figure who is known by one and all is a "race demon."
Bugbear says that the story isn't a guiding focus for Unbounded, but rather a framework to give players a sense of flow as they move from race to race. As far as the actual gameplay goes, it's all about speeding through urban environments while -- in a first for the series -- making use of highly destructible environments to create shortcuts and set traps. Bugbear is probably known best for its work on the FlatOut series, so the new element in this Ridge Racer isn't entirely unexpected.
There are basically two layers of destruction going on in Ridge Racer Unbounded. On one level you've got basic stuff, like street lamps, statues, pillars and the like. You can ram through these with no problem, shattering them into pretty little bits while adding to your Destruction Meter.
Fill that baby up and markers will pop up in the racing environment, indicating locations that the destruction meter can be expended to open up a shortcut or trigger a trap. While the meter is depleting, your car is also pretty much unstoppable, turning any opposing racer it collides with into a flaming wreck. As for traps, they can take a variety of forms; the one we saw involved a large number of tall, red propane tanks being scattered across the roadway.
If you played FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage then you already know that Bugbear has a knack for this sort of wanton destruction. And if you haven't... well... know that it's very pretty. The section of Shatter Bay being shown at E3 was the downtown area, with cars cruising through store-lined streets, sailing over fountains, through statues and across a variety of indoor locations such as train tunnels and malls.
The focus in the demo was on the game's single player component, though Bugbear offered a few teasing details about the multiplayer. The problem that the team hopes it has overcome is finding a way to encourage racers to play online. Modes will likely focus on straight-up racing and various forms of destruction, both vehicular and environmental.
While nothing was confirmed, it also seems there will be a user-generated content element to the game. Our demo ended with the suggestive hint that players will be able to race in "thousands" of cities, followed by a brief video showing rough models of different race tracks, each one connected with a specific user name. Track creator? Seems likely.
Ridge Racer: Unbounded is currently planned for a 2012 release on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC platforms.