Vector Unit’s jet-ski racer makes a splash on the Xbox One.
Famed for a collection of racing titles, available on Android and iOS devices, including the Beach Buggy series, Vector Unit are no newcomers to the genre. Now 7 titles deep, this tiny studio has become a big performer in the arcade racing genre, especially with their Riptide series.
Riptide GP: Renegade tears onto the Xbox One alongside PS4, Windows and sticking true to their origins, mobile devices (Android and iOS) as well. It’s the third addition to this franchise and alongside some tasty new graphics and awesomely futuristic new jet-skis, there are a handful mechanical changes, but at it’s heart, it’s not a million miles away from what made these games so popular in the first place.
Firstly, the interface of this game is neat, tidy and easy to navigate. It fits with the futuristic themes and lays out the tournaments of career mode clearly. Several competitions, each with different types of races, from traditional laps, dashes between two points, eliminations and stunt modes, make up each part of the tournament. There’s also a 1 vs 1 “boss fight” race at the end of each tournament which ends in the unlocking of another character and jet-ski.
Each jet-ski, or “hyrdojet”, comes with it’s own set of perks to upgrade with the money you win from each race completion. Max speed, handling, acceleration and boost all come together alongside rider upgrades, in the form of new stunts for you to perform whilst hurtling around the track. The more exotic or dangerous the stunt, the more boost you gain. A well executed stunt, performed at the right time, can push you from 8th to 1st and can be critical to winning a race. There’s also an incredible amount of customisation that goes into every racer suit and hyrdojet, alongside unlockable decals awarded at the end of tournaments or upon completing certain milestones.
The environments and tracks you race upon are all pretty large in scale and feature some huge set pieces. Death defying jumps, raging waves of an open ocean, or even incoming missiles from an attacking submarine, all feature in just the first two tournaments! It’s no longer a traditional stadium-based spectator sport, but an angsty rebellion from the cast out GP riders, who now race illegally around the submerged ruins of old cities, factories or even cosmodromes.
The other racers and typical hazards seen around the tracks are not the only dangers to watch out for. The police, also on their own powerful hydrojets, will engage the racers in an attempt to subdue the race. Whilst their attempts are generally futile, they can provide a certain “pain-in-the-ass” dynamic, as an erratic sharp turn right across your path on the final corner of the race can end in disaster, as it did for me on many occasions. I soon found the cops a bigger danger to myself than the stationary, yet very sturdy wreckage of a car or jagged rock face.
Traditional multiplayer elements can be found, including 8-player races, leaderboards and competitive ghost modes. None differ massively from the career mode, only that it’s now people as opposed to the AI you’re racing, so potentially there’s a natural difference in difficulty.
Not that it is a bad point, but the devs have obviously tried to shoe horn in some kind of storyline in which the player takes the position of a disgraced GP Racer fresh out of serving jail time… for racing. Again, it’s not necessarily a bad point but feels a little tongue in cheek, with the language and way the riders hold a conversation. Most bosses are presented as being thugs or badasses, which at times was a little unnecessary, as I would’ve happily whipped their asses around the track regardless. Also, being teased with the cops throughout the game, I would’ve enjoyed a tournament, or career mode from the cops perspective. Just an idea, Vector Unit – you can have that one for next time!
Overall, I’m glad to say Riptide GP: Renegade has not splashed out, but rather ended in an brilliantly well-made, gorgeous and simplistic racer. It has some stunning environments and the water physics are fantastic. The police add a new and exciting dynamic to the races and the upgrading and unlocking mechanics give you something to work towards, be it a new perk for your hydrojet or a new racer for whom to race with. It’s an extraordinarily easy game to pick up, but takes an enjoyable amount of time to really master. It wouldn’t be completely out of place in an amusement arcade and for that reason I’d recommend it to all, regardless of the level of skill.