I’ve never hated a game that I also really enjoy, but somehow Riders Republic made it happen. Ubisoft’s open-world action sports game begins with a promising premise: you, a voiceless action sports enthusiast, arrive at Riders Ridge, a mecca for shredders everywhere. Somehow, in violation of all national park laws and state regulations, multiple state national parks — including Mammoth and Yosemite — have been re-appropriated by the action sports industry for the explicit purpose of dragging ass.
Rider’s Republic’s map looks about as good as any other open world from Ubisoft – that is, it’s visually easy on the eyes, but without much meaningful or interesting depth. Giant mountains and deep valleys occupy the map and give a great sense of different verticality throughout the game. Multiple biomes—forest, desert, snowy, and so on—allow for visual variety as you move back and forth between targets.
And you go back and forth a lot. While Rider’s Republic offers a ton of collectibles on the map, such as discovering landmarks or popping balloons (…for some reason?) – the world isn’t all that captivating. I rarely felt the need to go off the beaten track, as my curiosity was never rewarded with anything but ordinary collectibles – ways to tick endless boxes on various checklists. After a while I got bored of going from place to place and started traveling fast to save time. The Riders Republic map is very large, so getting from one end to the other for a race can take more than 10 minutes. Since that trip is always boring, I thought it was best to skip it. This beautiful world was just a decoration rather than something I wanted to occupy myself with.
Whether in time trials or in the 64-person mass races, I raced the myriad roads and trails of the open world at breakneck speeds, sometimes down what feels like a 90-degree drop, conveying a sense of speed that have few games. Every time I raced through a race I felt like I was barely in control, that one wrong move would send me to disaster, and it was exhilarating. This was especially true for wingsuit and rocketsuit races, where you navigate the air and try to get through checkpoints. During these intense races you will fly up and down at vastly different heights, constantly creating near misses and collisions with the ground and the mountains around you. I loved taking on the races in the game and testing my skills as Riders Republic slowly ramped up the challenge. Coming first always felt good.
I also enjoyed the races that combine the different action sports of Riders Republic. Many long races force you to alternate between your bikes, snowboards, wingsuits and rocketsuits as you fly, putting your skills to the test and punishing every mistake. As I got better at the game, these races have increased my understanding of Riders mechanics in an increasingly satisfying way. I always jumped at the chance to do a new multisport race when it was unlocked.
Trick challenge races, where you try to get a score of points by completing aerial maneuvers, aren’t nearly as exciting. Performing these tricks doesn’t feel rewarding and you are not encouraged to master complex maneuvers as you can get this by simply performing the same basic tricks over and over. I often made my way through these races, so I rarely knew what trick I would pull if I hit a slope. Trick challenge races failed to test my knowledge or skills with the trick systems, so I largely ignored the system. Especially considering the number of these different trick races out there in Riders Republic – dozens or more for each sport – this ended up becoming a repetitive slog as I ran out of the more standard race events to play.
After almost every race you get a new bike or vehicle. With this constant flow of new equipment, I have never become attached to a single piece of equipment. As such, I wasn’t forced to search through my gear. I just chose the one with the greatest number and went about my day. These are minor complaints in the grand scheme of things, but in a game as long as Riders Republic carried these minor issues with me.
Riders Republic’s biggest problem is: how it betrays everything well about the gameplay with non-stop unpleasantness. This game is desperate to make you think it’s cool. At all times, it bombards you with its endlessly long script, full of incredibly annoying characters, spewing out an endless series of annoying jokes and one-liners. Some notable highlights include “You work on these events like a pork rib! Nummies”, and you break out “a whole new level of steeze”, constantly repeated in non-skippable dialogue prompts that play every time you go over a certain part of the game. the map of the game or traverse the world. These lines are not cool the first time; they are unbearably unbearable after a dozen times.
The soundtrack has the same problem, with an incredible cover of Coolio’s song “Gangsta’s Paradise”, performed softly by Les Ukulélés Girls, featuring artist Zita. This is honestly one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard. Pick from Green Day’s latest record, “Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa, and you’ve got a soundtrack completely out of touch with today’s popular music. The soundtrack is such a big sticking point for me because Riders shoves it down your throat. There is an in-game radio with different genres and stations, but once you get into the race, the game has a predetermined soundtrack. Play a dozen races and chances are you’ll be listening to the same three songs a dozen times.
Rider’s Republic offers an experience that, while fun and exciting, gets under my skin in a way that no other game has. It does one or two things that I love, but that doesn’t outweigh the things I can’t stand. Eventually Riders Republic dies from a million cuts. I can only hear the same song or dialogue so many times before it stops becoming annoying and infuriating. Riders Republic is a missed opportunity at a unique and fun action sports game – a genre I grew up with and miss dearly. It’s a game I don’t see myself returning to anytime soon.