RIDE 4, the fourth installment in the Gran Turismo-esc bike racing simulator series from Milestone, cruises onto the scene this month on October 8th. It’s a graphical masterpiece, a candy shop for bike lovers, but how does it fare in gameplay? Read on to find out.

From boot-up – you’re thrown into a simplistic, but wealthy enough, rider creator. The choice is fair, but frankly, it has little to do with anything much after you grab a helmet and go. There is a brief glimpse of a control layout (which you can’t choose to stay on) before you find yourself at the ever great Tsukuba track. It’s time to ride.

There is no instruction or tutorial here, just three times to beat and a bike. Get on it, get used to it and go. Even as someone who has played the RIDE series before, you’re going to come off at the first corner and here is where the first issues come to light. Within this initial push into the deep end, the only help you’re given is the track line and braking markers, which prove as useful as a motorbike on a sinking ship. Not only is the guidance poor, the controls show what is arguably the biggest let down – the understeering. Even with riding aides off, it’s painful, and provides a full challenge to even get used to. What doesn’t help is that this initial time trial will make your lap invalid if you even slightly clip off the track, so you’ll find yourself repeating lap after lap as you get used to the understeer, in search of the perfect lap to continue. It’s a double edged sword – you’ll leave this first race with a great understanding of the control and game, but there is a risk you won’t want to carry on.

Upon showing RIDE 4 you understand how to control a two wheeled beast, the game opens up. You can continue into the career mode, where an initial licence area awaits you, or the casual rides and multiplayer can be found in the main menus. The career has a great assortment of races, time attacks and other items, where you can drive across the globe, earn points and money, purchase and upgrade your bikes and experience a deep career mode, akin to most racing simulators. The races themselves are a great improvement on previous installments, in no small part due to the new AI system, ANNA. Opposing bikers are much less likely to collide with themselves or the player, have a seemingly good amount of strategy, but seem slightly stiff in regards to the race line and speed. 

Taking a detour into a casual race on the main menu uncovers the vast sea of Motorbikes, tracks, customisation and events that RIDE 4 has waiting for you.  There are 176 fully licenced rides, all of which are both mechanically and cosmetically customisable, to choose from, or even just to look at. The attention to detail is a sight to be seen for any piston-head, nothing has been missed in these loving re-creations. Not only are the bikes modelled to a tee, the real life tracks across EU, Asia and the Americas are phenomenal, as are the created tracks that have been included. The environments are all able to be tweaked, allowing you to see drastic weather conditions, full-day cycles (in those 24-hour endurance events) give a crescendo of daybreak into the glow of the moonlight bouncing off rain drops. You can set up a small Grand Prix, jump around the globe performing short individual races or take on a mammoth endurance race, the game is full of options outside of the initial career mode. 

As stated, there is a lot to find in RIDE 4, with a gruesomely difficult learning curve which is somewhat glorious to master. It can sink its claws into you quickly with its glorious graphics but with a promised free next generation upgrade and an extensive career mode, RIDE 4 is a title that will last and have you coming back to perfect those laps, despite the control issues. A solid 7 out of 10.