Ride 5 Review
Many of us could probably imagine — and perhaps have actually experienced (legally or not) — the thrill of high speed auto racing. We’ve all been there, on an empty stretch of highway, giving it a little more gas than the situation strictly requires. While high-end Formula 1 cars are their own beast, we sort of get how they work. Four wheels, steering, braking. Got it. When it comes to motorcycle racing, Ride 5 reminds me that I’d have zero business being anywhere near a bike. I wouldn’t last a lap.
For its fifth entry — Ride 4 appeared in 2020 — developer Milestone takes an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach and makes few wholesale changes to the game. In case it isn’t obvious, Ride 5 is a hyper-realistic motorcycle racing sim. It has been called the “Gran Turismo of motorcycle sims,” and that’s a pretty fair assessment.
Ride 5 is full of small enhancements that make the game richer to series veterans. It’s still missing several features that would make the game even more welcoming to novices. Chief among these is an actual, moto-racing for dummies type tutorial, breaking down each component into small, repeatable segments. There are text-based explanations of everything but these don’t replace a well-crafted tutorial mode. At least this time, though, the game isn’t entirely locked behind a qualifying race.
As a result of there being no patient tutorial, Ride 5 — like its predecessors — is probably most enjoyable to those with experience in the previous games, if not real-world racing chops. Minute changes to every component of the bike have an impact, sometimes significant. These are superbly and faithfully modeled.
Your Bike Your Way
But let’s look at the big picture first. Ride 5 might not have all the bells, whistles, and modes of a game like Forza but there’s still a lot of content to explore. For starters, there’s a substantial career mode with the usual array of main and optional races. Part of the career mode is the rivals system, where specific competitors provide an ongoing rivalry and a bit of tension. You’re not going to find anything like the daytime drama of racers talking trash as in some 4-wheel racing games, but the career mode does a good job of pushing the player through the tracks. The career mode is the heart of the game. It’s the primary way to earn cash to unlock new parts and buy new bikes. Aside from the career track, Ride 5 offers highly customizable single races, couch and online multiplayer competitions, and endurance races which can be paused.
There are at least two areas in which Ride 5 has always crossed the finish line first, at least in the world of video game motorcycle sims.
The first is in its depth of customization, and its modeling of the impact of those components on performance. While motorcycles aren’t quite as complex as automobiles, there are plenty of parts to tinker with. Shocks, tires, brakes, and of course every nut, bolt, and valve of the engine can mean success or failure on the track. Those changes in the garage wouldn’t mean much if the tracks, weather conditions, and rider position weren’t also faithfully rendered. Track temperature impacts tire performance, which impacts braking, which influences the ability to hit the optimal drive line. Everything in Ride 5 works as it should.
There are an astounding 200 licensed cycles from the usual makers like Suzuki, BMW, Ducati, and Triumph. What you won’t find is oddball historical motorcycles or other motorized two-wheelers like scooters. It’s disappointing, but it makes sense. Ride 5 is not aiming for Forza-like inclusivity, but Gran Turismo real-world, moto racing cred. But maybe your garage is a little empty. For the one-off races, you can rent any bike in the game, for a price. Likewise, the tracks are a blend of the real — like Brands Hatch, and Sonoma — and imagined. As in Ride 4, the tracks, the weather, and the bikes look and sound absolutely fantastic. In particular the real-time changes in weather are very effective.
Ride 5’s other strong component is the player’s ability to customize nearly every aspect of the experience. In addition to changing up components, repainting the bike, and customizing the driver’s apparel, Ride 5 can go from arcade racer to uber-realistic sim. Yes, there is fun to be had for even total novices to the sport. But finding that fun means some patience, lots of reading, and even more practice and experimentation.
Ride 5 is not a huge, evolutionary leap from the last game in 2020. Instead, Ride 5 continues to refine and add depth, options, and polish to an already excellent racer. The continued lack of a thorough, step-by-step tutorial is puzzling. Ride 5 has options for inexperienced riders, but it’s clearly leaning hard into being an exacting motorcycle sim for fans of the sport.
***PS5 code provided by the publisher for review***
- Highly customizable
- Very realistic
- Stellar graphics and effects
- Fun, with practice
- No thorough tutorial
- Can be punishingly difficult
- Not a huge upgrade from Ride 4