If you’re a fan of arcade racers, it’s very possible that you’ve heard of Vector Unit. After all, the California-based indie developer made a noticeable splash when it released its debut title, Hydro Thunder Hurricane, back in 2010. In fact, not only did the game receive rather positive reviews, it was also often featured as one of the Xbox Live Arcade’s top sellers and was made part of various sales throughout the years.
Following the success of Hydro Thunder, Vector Unit changed its focus and attacked the mobile racing space with Riptide GP, a water-jet racer that hit iOS, Android and Windows phones during the next calendar year. It’s the spawn of that new IP that we’re talking about now, as the third game in its incredibly fast, adrenaline fueled franchise has just made its way to the Xbox One platform after previous stops on iOS, Android, Steam and PS4.
Dubbed Riptide GP: Renegade, this sequel is not only fast and competitive, but also challenging to an occasionally cheap degree. That’s the type of gameplay experience that this series has become known for, though, as its previous release (Riptide GP2) presented the same type of challenge, albeit without the difficulty options that its sequel now offers.
Things begin with a very light story that exists throughout the game’s basic campaign. As one of two generic racers (one male and one female), you’ll find yourself imprisoned for two years after being screwed over during a high stakes race. Left to the cops by your opposition, you were made the scapegoat for an illegal race that wasn’t supposed to happen and paid the resulting price. Now, though, two years have passed and you’re out with a chip on your shoulder and revenge in your mind.
Although different characters (most of which are bosses) tend to chatter before or after races, the aforementioned story isn’t overtly noticeable throughout Renegade‘s several hour-long campaign. Generally speaking, it’s more of an afterthought and a reason for racing than anything else, though it at least has a serviceable and fitting conclusion to look forward to. Plus, it’s not often that you get a plot in a game such as this, so the effort is appreciated.
This is still very much a Riptide game, though, meaning that you can look forward to a gameplay experience akin to what the previous title(s) offered. There’s lots of challenging racing, with a more robust set of modes to be found this time around, including traditional races, timed elimination events, mobility testing slalom courses and trick attack engagements. It’s the slalom course that seems to take the place of Riptide GP2‘s hot lap game type, and that’s a trade that I would make any day of the week.
Of course, the general gist here is that you’re a supercharged hydro-jet pilot, and one that must risk his or her life in order to earn the checkered flag. This means pushing the pedal to the metal and keeping it there, as you race through futuristic courses that take their inspiration from power plants, as well as doomsday scenarios like flooded city ruins, burning swamps and the like. The result is some decent track variety, although one or two more would have definitely helped Riptide GP: Renegade‘s cause, by reducing the repetition that comes from its overuse of each individual track.
In fact, one caveat of this lengthy career mode is how repetitive it can become. Sure, the racing it offers is fast, fluid and mostly fun, but when you’re repeatedly racing through the same courses repetition is bound to set in. This is confounded by the fact that the game promotes going back and replaying completed events in order to earn extra money, which can then be put towards purchasing new upgrades for your unlocked jets’ speed, acceleration, turbo or handling. Necessary upgrades that will make it possible to beat the game, because, without them, you’re screwed.
Therein lays the only other notable problem with Riptide GP: Renegade, that being its difficulty level, which becomes frustratingly high as you approach its endgame events. Then again, this series has never been known for being easy, and that is definitely not the case here. Hell, even some of the earlier races were somewhat challenging at the time, although going back with an unlocked and fully upgraded super jet made them become a piece of cake.
While Googling this game, I came across a Steam thread that Vector Unit had created, in which they asked players what they thought about the PC version’s difficulty level. Their reasoning for this system was that third should be achievable, second more difficult, and first a real test, which is something that they’ve definitely achieved. However, even with the inclusion of easy, normal and hard difficulty options, its end game is a much more frustrating engagement than one would hope for in a fun, arcade racer.
I’ll admit that I ended up dropping things to easy near the conclusion of the campaign, and that, even then the final boss and previous final championship where quite the test. Reason being is the game’s opponents, who practically take the term catch-up AI to a new level. They’re hard to get away from, and will hunt you down with reckless abandon if you do get ahead, especially in later events.
This is something that reared its ugly head most during the final, six event championship, where I kept going up against one yellow and black clad foe in a battle for first place. He often seemed to be a step ahead of me, and overtook me in some very frustrating ways, despite me entering into the engagement with the best jet possible, and a fully upgraded one at that. I’d used tricks to my advantage (in order to earn boost), and boosted as much as possible, yet he was almost always there, with a surprising lead or the ability to overtake me at the last possible moment.
Needless to say, after all that time spent with the game, and all that effort put towards fully upgrading my jet, I wondered if I would end up being able to beat it on its easiest of difficulties. I did, though, after a while, and faced a similar challenge against the final boss. That final championship was so difficult, though, because it was the first time that the game required me to get first place, and did everything possible to try to prevent that from happening. Previous championships had only required third or, at worst, second.
Coming from a genre that promotes accessibility and replayability, Renegade is a title that should be more accessible than it is. After all, it’s not advertised as being Trials on water. As such, it’s hard not to dock it for being this way, especially since the newly included difficulty levels don’t make enough of a difference.
There’s definite replay value here for those who seek it, though, including multiple series filled with optional challenges, many of which seem to unlock only after the final boss has been bested. These secondary objectives provide a tougher challenge, and lead to other ‘boss fights’ that you can opt to play or avoid. Beating them, though, will give you access to even better hydro jets, which can then be upgraded to full beast mode if you please.
In addition to the above, those who enter into this water-filled gauntlet will find a challenge mode, as well as both local and online multiplayer. It’s the local option that is most important here, however, because despite looking for others to play with I was unable to find another soul online. This is the type of game that will make for a good, fun and very competitive party game, though, for those who enjoy playing racing games against their friends and family.
Expectedly, Riptide GP: Renegade once again feels like a port of a mobile game, even if it’s been improved upon visually. The included menu system is pretty basic, and its campaign’s star-based progression system is yet another clue. That said, this is a rather solid affair, with visuals that show obvious improvements over its predecessor, especially when it comes to its character models, water and fluid effects. More work could have been put into the animations, however, as there’s a noticeable dearth of rider poses. In fact, I’m finding it hard to remember my rider doing anything different outside of moving her arm like a snake while looking backwards prior to the start of most races.
The audio, on the other hand, is fine but nothing to write home about. While its effects are solid and believable, its music tends to become stale and repetitive, which will likely lead to a lot of gamers turning it off or muting things altogether so that they can listen to their own tunes.
In conclusion, Riptide GP: Renegade is a solid but unremarkable game that doesn’t push the genre’s envelope as much as it could have. It starts out fun and offers a good challenge, but eventually becomes too frustrating and difficult for its own good.
This review is based on the Xbox One port of the game, which we were provided with.
- Fast, fluid and challenging
- Upgradeable hydro jets and player customization
- Local multiplayer
- Far too challenging at its endgame
- Difficulty options don't provide enough accessibility
- Gets repetitive