This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.
Riders Republic Review
An exhilarating and fun time, reminiscent of the golden era of extreme sports games, mixed with modern technology and an evolving, online world.
I was sceptical about an always-online multiplayer extreme sports game at first. Not only are action sport titles less common in the modern era, but an MMO? It’s never been done. Thankfully, Riders Republic manages to deliver on what it set out to do.
It brought me back to the wistful days of PS2-era extreme sports titles, while still managing to benefit from next-gen visuals and physics, as well as its online elements. Mostly.
Riders Republic Review: Gameplay
Riders Republic is an always-online extreme sports title featuring biking, skiing, snowboarding, paragliding, wingsuiting and jetpack flying, with BMX set to release within the first year of the game. It was developed by Ubisoft Annecy, the same team that released 2016’s winter sports game, Steep, and takes heavy inspiration as a pseudo-sequel.
Players can seamlessly switch between any of these sports out in the open world, no matter where they are, even mid-jump. Want to fly up to the highest snowcapped mountain you can find, frontflip down it on a bike and land directly on a snowboard? You can! The game also features a ‘Career’ mode for each of the different sports, side activities, multiplayer modes, challenges and more.
The open world is known as “The Riders Republic”, or just “The Republic”, which is where the game gets its namesake. The map is separated into seven regions and can be fully traversed in any way you desire. There’s Yosemite, which features a plethora of different biomes contrasted together. Mammoth Mountain, full of snow-covered peaks and areas perfect for snowboarding and skiing. Grand Teton, which features an incredibly high mountain and glaciers. Sequoia, which is decorated with tall pine trees and incredibly fun to scale on one of the game’s many bikes. Zion is hilly, steep and a blast to glide through. Bryce Canyon features tricky and dangerous landscapes, while the Canyonlands serve as an arid, flat region for cruising around.
The Republic can be freely and casually explored offline in the game’s Zen Mode, but any main or side activities require the player to be actively online. Side activities include ‘Landmarks’, which are picturesque locations perfect for the game’s Photo Mode, ‘Stunts’, technical courses for each sport, ‘Relics’, Easter eggs that award ‘Funkie Gear’ (fun tools to be used in the Republic) and ‘Collectibles’, which are balloons hidden across the map. Every activity in the game, including side activities and multiplayer modes, awards Stars. The lifetime total of Stars appears permanently next to every player’s name and unlock new opportunities, items and Gear at different milestones.
After a while of exploring between Events (more on that later), I felt like these side activities were completely outshone by the Career and Multiplayer options. Landmarks looked good, but are mostly scenes you would see in the Events, regardless. The collectables mostly felt weak and pointless to collect, especially since they all look exactly the same and don’t outright detail what you get from collecting them. Relics were worth doing to get fun Gear to use in the open world, but I didn’t find myself actively going to look for them. Stunts weren’t my cup of tea, either, but I could definitely see them appealing to more technical players.
You will see other people absolutely everywhere throughout The Republic, however, the riders you see are mostly ghost data forged from the gameplay of real players. They’re essentially real people, just not playing in real-time. It’s impressive technology and still manages to make the world feel alive and even the simplest of tasks more exciting. Cycling along a mountain while a player in a unicorn suit on a jetpack faceplants into the ground in front of me definitely spices things up. Don’t worry, you’ll also come across plenty of players playing in real-time, too, and Riders Ridge, the game’s hub is always full of them. Being unable to play the majority of the game offline may be a downside to some, but I felt that the sense of an active world and individuality truly make it worth it.
To get to the bread and butter of the game, the Career Events, players will have to traverse through The Republic to reach them. Fast travel is an option, but the player still needs to have reached the area before they can take advantage of that. You can use Helicopter Tickets to go absolutely wherever you want on the map, but at the cost of 1000 Bucks, the game’s currency earned from playing. It may sound inconvenient, but I found that it actually works very well. The time spent travelling between events was enjoyable and allowed me to appreciate the beautiful landscapes crafted by the game’s developers at a slower pace, which I probably would’ve otherwise ignored to progress in my career.
The ‘Careers’ themselves feature a number of ‘Events’ and a few ‘Big Events’, which are identical to real-world major sporting events of the same name, such as Red Bull Homerun. Events are unique courses that usually just require getting to the finish line, but also have ‘Secondary Objectives’, such as finishing a course with a certain number of points or pulling off a trick without crashing, that reward extra Stars for completing them.
Every course in the game was enjoyable and although some were similar to each other, they were never too repetitive. There are currently 5 different careers: Bike Race, Bike Tricks, Snow Race, Snow Tricks and Air, with a combined total of 114 Events and 22 Big Events. The ‘Stars’ system works well and had me challenging myself to earn more through side objectives. Through this, I also noticed how well I was improving and progressing.
The players you compete against consist purely of ghost data of other players that have taken part in the same event in the past. I was a little disappointed when I first found this out, but ended up preferring it, eventually. The ghosts feel like real players, making mistakes and crashing into things only a human could, and mean that you don’t have to wait for matchmaking every time you want to try an Event. You can, however, play against friends if you invite them to your party, even cross-platform, which can be turned off for whatever reason.
The rewards for playing Careers were mostly straightforward upgrades of the respective Gear, but do have some variety in their pros and cons. It doesn’t overcomplicate things for the casual player, but still provides the fine-tuning more hardcore players would expect.
Multiplayer, Extra Modes & Challenges
‘Riders Ridge’, the area bang-smack in the middle of the map, serves as a hub. Here, the player can access all current multiplayer modes, as well the ‘Tricks Academy’, which both teaches and allows the player the practice tricks, which was extremely useful.
The first multiplayer mode is ‘Free For All’, which is a 12 player FFA racing event. There’s currently also a ‘Welcome Playlist’ that features Shackdaddy Bandit events, which are over-the-top races featuring Funkies and special scenarios.
Matchmaking can take a good few minutes between games, sometimes up to 10, which can be frustrating when you just want to get out there and race, but you can explore The Republic while you wait. Players are placed into ‘Divisions’ based on their experience and skill, but you’re often forced to expand your matchmaking parameters anyway to find a match. There’s also a weekly level, with different rewards each week, providing an incentive to come back to the mode.
I found myself mostly staying away from Free For All. It became monotonous and much less exhilarating than simply playing a racing Event. In all truth, the active players felt no different to their ghost counterparts. The limited-time Shackdaddy playlist is definitely fun, though. Racing down incredibly steep slopes with 11 other people in Panda costumes with planks of wood on their feet is always a great time.
‘Tricks Battle’ is another multiplayer mode, which is surprisingly similar to Turf Wars in Splatoon. Two teams of 6 face off against each other to claim parts of a map by performing tricks on them. The overall trick score is what determines the winner, but capturing districts multiplies the number of points gained for your team. This was an entertaining and unique mode, but suffered the same fate as Free For All due to long matchmaking times and the singular map at launch.
Finally, in the multiplayer department, there’s Mass Race. Every so often, you’ll get a message that a Mass Race is about to start and have around 4 minutes to enter by travelling to Riders Ridge. This is a colossal scale race with up to 64 people on current generation consoles and PC, while Xbox One and PS4 are stuck with a maximum 20. This race covers every current sport in the game, switching between each one at ‘switch gates’ mid-race and lasts 3 rounds.
Mass Race is something every Riders Republic player should experience at least once. It’s absolute maniacal chaos and the most fun I’ve had in the game this far. Unfortunately, however, it wears off. Mass Race is practically identical every time, from the courses to the commentator, who is still brilliantly energetic and hilarious, repeating the exact same lines. Whereas I used to drop whatever I was doing to join, I now tend to ignore it, unless my current Contract or Challenge requires me to play.
All multiplayer modes undeniably have huge potential but are suffering from a limited launch. I have no doubt the future seasons will amend this, though. The current roadmap looks promising and the majority of content will be free for owners of the base game.
Players are able to pick up Sponsors from real-world brands, such as Red Bull and Ford. Each offers three daily Contracts, which are passive objectives that reward Bucks. Completing enough contracts will result in ranking up, which rewards exclusive cosmetics, Gear or missions from that company, on top of even more Bucks.
Sponsors are definitely a welcome feature and provide an element of choice and individuality from other players. If you have a favorite brand, you can represent them, or perhaps just want to reap a specific bike you had your eye on. It both helps to keep the game fresh and provides extra incentives throughout your gameplay.
Saving the best for last; Shackdaddy Bandit Challenges and Events. Weekly occurrences of wacky Events and challenges with exclusive, limited-time rewards. Delivering food on a delivery bike, racing rocket-powered Gear across canyons and even an Event that applies an old-timey black and white filter and has the player racing on classic, no-frills skis. Shackdaddy Bandit Events are pure, chaotic fun and with new ones every week, I’m definitely going to be coming back for more.
Tricks and Controls
Players can perform all sorts of tricks intricate tricks on bikes, as well skis and snowboards, either for fun or to rack up points in the game’s various modes. How you perform tricks depends on your controller preset, which can be changed at any time in the settings.
‘Racer’ allows full control of the camera and simple flip and spin tricks can be pulled off with buttons and others by holding either, or both, of the triggers and pushing the left or right stick in one of four directions. ‘Trickster’ offers more control by using the sticks to jump, but with the tradeoff that the player has no camera control and, instead, has to rely on the game’s automatic camera, which I’ve had no trouble with so far. There’s also the ‘Steep’ option, which uses the classic Steep controls of using the triggers and bumpers to jump and the left stick to perform tricks.
Tricks are extremely satisfying to pull off and easy to do, but hard to master, which is a common theme in this game. Improving at performing bike tricks will mean you’ll also get better at ski and snowboard tricks, but in a way that each sport still manages to feel unique.
There are also options for landing, grinding and air control in both bike and snow sports. You can choose automatic grinding or landing, with the punishment of not being given the extra points you would’ve gotten if you did them manually. Air control simply allows you to control your Gear mid-air, which is how the game refers to the tools used in each sport.
Overall, the controls feel near-perfect to me. The handling on all equipment is a delight and tricks are easily pulled off and feel satisfying to land, but still provide a complex element to master, should you choose to. You can choose how you want to play and fine-tune or relax as much as you like.
First and foremost; biking. My favorite part of the game. The bikes feel like bikes should feel. The handling, the speed, the physics, even the sound. It has the perfect amount of realism, without being too realistic to the point where the game suffers because of it. There were times where I wanted to rush downstairs and go out on my own, just not pulling a 1080 off a giant ramp quite just yet.
There are ‘Bike Race’ events, which are either road or downhill races and ‘Bike Trick’ events that focus on building up a score with huge drops or fast tricks. There are also ‘Funkies’, which are mostly just for fun and consist of things like ice cream and even exercise bikes.
Ski and Snowboards are bundled together into the ‘Snow’ category and either can be used in most cases, other than specific Events. The controls from biking pass down to snow sports, but, as mentioned previously, they certainly still feel unique and just as satisfying and enjoyable to control. The pull of the different levels of snow and the way it interacted with Gear was fulfilling and impressive.
Air sports are Riders Republic’s weakest link but can still be fun for the most part. The ‘Rocketwing’, which is essentially a high-speed jetpack, feels fantastic to jet through the sky in at first, especially exploring The Republic, but the novelty slowly wears off after a while. There are no tricks to perform, simply flying through hoops from A to B, while trying to narrowly trying to miss objects to rack up points. The wingsuit has the same gameplay, but is less enjoyable due to the speed and turning. Luckily, it ignores most laws of aerodynamics and physics and can occasionally have courses it excels at, but they’re few and far between.
The great thing about Riders Republic is the amount of choice. If you don’t want to participate in wingsuit Events, you don’t have to. You can focus on what you want to do, while being able to observe what others do around you, too. If you want to relax and cruise around the environment, you can. If you want to focus on the intricacies of tricks and bike stats, the world is your oyster. The ability to get (almost) straight back onto your feet after a crash or rewind if you need to makes the game even more enjoyable and fast-paced, but still punishes where necessary to respect high-skilled players.
Customisation is a double-edged sword in Riders Republic. Incredible, detailed and fun costumes are available, but the majority of good costumes can only be purchased for ‘Republic Coins’, which are real-world currency microtransactions, or are included with the Gold or Ultimate edition of the game. The cosmetics that are purchasable with Bucks, which are earnable in-game, are mostly generic.
In my 5 days of playing, I’ve only been compelled to purchase one item, which was an admittedly very cool spider backpack for Halloween, but this was an anomaly. Every other cosmetic that appealed to me was locked behind real-world money, which was really disappointing, especially considering the price of the game and Year 1 Pass totalling $99.99 RRP.
Gear is also disappointing in the customisation aspect, but for a different reason. All Gear is one color scheme that is completely unchangeable. There are special “painted” Gear, but the low stats mean they become pushed to never be used again. Having the ability to paint your Gear is something this game desperately needs, especially with the lack of interesting things to spend Bucks on.
Riders Republic Review: Visuals, Audio and Performance
Visuals and Audio
Riders Republic is incredibly visually impressive in 4K HDR. From the individual blades of grass and flowers to the way snow blankets the ground and mountaintops. The environment is interactable and changes depending on the weather; snow sticks to clothes and tires, the ground gets wet from rain and the sun glistens off of it. Tires make marks in the ground and push the snow, dust clouds are kicked up and dry environments make you want to drink an ice-cold glass of water.
Humans are the only place the game suffers visually. Faces are uncanny and don’t differ much and facial hair looks unnatural. Hands are strangely disproportionate, too. Luckily, the majority of players fully cover their heads with the many helmets and head items available, which are all modelled well and are incredibly detailed.
The soundtrack is excellent, with a wide range of rock and hip-hop beats that fit the game’s vibe perfectly and, again, take me back to the PS2-era of sports games, like Tony Hawk Underground, that shaped the music tastes of a lot of us today. The sounds of the environment and Gear are also perfect and aid in the immersion and overall feel of the game. Even individual bikes can differ in sound!
Other than possibly the character dialogue, which sounds like it tries too hard to be ‘hip’ and ‘fresh’, there are absolutely no complaints in the sound department.
I played Riders Republic on Xbox Series X at 4K with HDR enabled on a 60hz monitor. The game was silky smooth with no noticeable drops, even in demanding moments, like Mass Races. However, Xbox Series X suffered from soft-locks and crashes at launch that are still ongoing at the time of writing. Not every player is experiencing them, but I have experienced around eight instances where I’ve had to fully restart my Xbox and just a few crashes since starting the game on the 27th October.
Players that purchased Riders Republic via the Epic Games Store are also experiencing frequent crashes, or aren’t able to launch the game at all. PlayStation 5 and other platforms don’t seem to share these issues, however. This review will be updated with any future developments.
Riders Republic Review: The Verdict
Riders Republic is a fun game that offers a wide range of exhilarating and unique activities that mostly benefit from its ‘always online’ gameplay model, but also suffers from a few shortcomings. The world feels alive, the Events are a blast and the game looks gorgeous. However, some aspects of the game are a little lacking at launch, namely the multiplayer modes, customisation and air sports. Although, the current state of the game, the potential shown and the roadmap planned out leaves me confident that the game can evolve into the ultimate extreme sports title over time.
While the majority of interesting cosmetics are locked behind microtransactions, Riders Republic offers bang for its buck with the polished feel of the different gear, the number of fun events, as well as the content planned ahead.
Riders Republic is available now on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PS4, PS5, Amazon Luna and Google Stadia.
- This article was updated on November 1st, 2021
- Score: 3.5 / 5
- Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Amazon Luna, Google Stadia
- Published By: Ubisoft
- Developed By: Ubisoft Annecy
- Genre: Sports, racing
- US Release Date: October 28, 2021
- Reviewed On: Xbox Series X
- Quote: "Riders Republic is a fun game that offers a wide range of exhilarating and unique activities that mostly benefit from its 'always online' gameplay model, but also suffers from a few shortcomings. The world feels alive, the Events are a blast and the game looks gorgeous. However, some aspects of the game are a little lacking at launch, namely the multiplayer modes, customisation and air sports."