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Riptide GP 2 / 7th of April 2016

Riptide GP 2 is futuristic jet ski racer that recalls the likes of Wave Race, Hydro Thunder and, to a lesser extent, Criterion’s phenomenal, Trickstyle. It is racing experience that seeks to not only emulate the tricky physics of a water based playground, but combine speed and style to create a thoroughly enjoyable whole. And whilst it was never really going to live up to the likes of the games that I’ve just mentioned, it certainly does have enough about it to ensure that this might just be the budget racer that you’re looking for.

In Riptide, players compete in races either against the clock or AI opponents (you can also play split-screen multiplayer) whilst riding the absolute hell out of jet skis across near-future based courses. But like many before it, Riptide GP 2 seeks to challenge players to combine both speed and style together, utilising combinations of stick movements to pull off a vast array of different skill moves when mid-air in order to generate a vital speed boost and improve one’s times. It’s certainly nothing new, but that’s not reason enough to entirely dismiss the game out of hand, it’s developer, Vector Unit, have created a wholly solid, if unspectacular racer that pretty much ticks all of the right boxes and manages to offer a fairly substantial amount of bang for its buck, this is a low priced indie release after all.

The bulk of the game’s offerings come in the form of a career mode that spans nine different cups, with each offering a selection of races that steadily grow in difficulty. Each successive group of challenges is unlocked by acquiring a sufficient amount of stars which are themselves garnered by finishing in the top three places on each race, to make it slightly less taxing to unlock those more challenging tournaments, the number of races within them also increase, meaning that the harder the cup is to complete, the more stars it has to offer. Simple, right? Well, not really, you see, the opponent AI is actually rather taxing, right from the off as it seems to always have a degree of speed and handling that the player can only dream about, though there are ways to get around this and end the CPU’s dominance on the track.

For a start there are ten different vehicles that can be purchased from the in-game store, these vary wildly in price from fairly affordable to ludicrously expensive, meaning that players will undoubtedly have to backtrack to earlier races in order to grind their way up the ranks. Racing offers XP as well as cash rewards, this allows the player to level up, earning skill points to buy upgrades and skill moves, whilst additional bonus sums of cash are also dumped into one’s savings account upon reaching a new milestone. On top of this, each of the game’s vehicles (including the basic one that players are given upon completing the tutorial) are upgradeable, with four different rated areas to improve upon, these being; acceleration, top speed, handling and boost (this affects how much boost can be earned from stunts). Upgrades offer a cost effective means of making a vehicle more competitive, yet whilst improving the inaugural jet ski does allow the player to become more than competitive on the first two available cups, it does mean that grinding becomes a staple part of the game very early on.

In addition to the main game mode, there’s also what’s known as VR Challenge; a series of races across Riptide’s fourteen tracks to set the fastest time over a two lap race. This particular facet of the game is remarkably similar to Forza Motorsport’s Rivals in that ultimately, the idea is that players will compete against each other’s times, and the more opponents that one bests, the better the rewards will be. And much like Forza, what’s on offer is an additional boost to both driver XP and cash that can be used to fuel one’s progress through the career, so the more friends that one can convince to pick this game up, the more swiftly success on the track will come.

In terms of its audio and visuals, the game does exactly what one would expect, it’s fairly basic though certainly not unattractive, the water physics seem to be fine and it’s clearly all running in a rather sharp 1080p. However, there is a real lack of trackside detail, and what is there is rather basic, but still what does one expect in a budget title like this? And that goes double for a title that started life as a mobile/tablet release. Audio is much the same, firing out functional sound effects and music, with the latter being primarily made up of homogenous dance and dub-step offerings, they’re fairly inoffensive on the whole at sit perfectly well with the style of game.

Some parts of Riptide GP 2 aren’t quite up to snuff, however, it must be said. As mentioned earlier, the game requires players to spend a great deal of time grinding, bulking out their XP and cash by replaying past races repeatedly in order to purchase the new vehicles or upgrades necessary to compete with the AI. This, sadly, is made all the worse by the fact that racers must finish within the top three in order to earn any stars, which means that even with a fully upgraded vehicle (based on my own experience with the Stingray), tackling the career mode’s third series is close to impossible, meaning that all of the money that I spent upgrading it was effectively wasted. Sure, it allowed me to easily dominate the opining two cups, but had I known how sharply the difficulty was set to increase, I would have instead spent the money on an entirely new vehicle, this left me little choice but to effectively start again. With a gentler difficulty curve, this problem would have been averted, it’s just lucky for Vector Unit that I don’t mind grinding all that much, but it will surely put off a number of players, so learn from my mistake, save up straight away for a new vehicle if you end up buying this.

Also, I found that the game had great difficulty in recognising what tricks I was attempting to pull off in the races, particularly with those that involved upward motions with the analogue sticks, leaving me struggling to earn my much needed speed boosts, whilst rendering it impossible for me to finish any higher than third in the early freestyle events. This issue happened with an alarming regularity, but hopefully Vector Unit will have a patch ready to correct this soon.

On the whole, Riptide GP 2 is a pretty solid near-future racer, and one that fans of Midway’s Hydro Thunder will surely want to check out, for whilst the gameplay can undoubtedly be a bit of a slog, overall I think the whole experience just manages to come together. Of course, on consoles with a fairly decent smattering of driving games on offer, it’s unlikely to draw too much attention, but for those looking for a cost effective way to dip their toe into a style of game that has seemingly been all-but forgotten, Riptide certainly provides food for thought, but just don’t expect it to blow your socks off.
James Paton
 
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