I really don’t care much for racing games. There’s nothing wrong with the genre, but my inability to play well tends to affect my overall enjoyment of them. Despite my amateur ability, there are some titles that click with me and I genuinely adore.
Riptide GP: Renegade is one of those games.
MAKING A SPLASH
As a disgraced hydro jet (basically a fancy Jet Ski) rider, you are tasked with earning back your reputation by competing in illegal races to show off your racing skills. It’s a nonsensical setup, but the story is only really there to explain why you’re racing in areas that are clearly not made for racing. Not that they don’t try, however, as story segments pop up between races in order to help things move along. It’s all pointlessly ridiculous, but it never gets in the way due to being short and to the point – along with being entirely skippable. Whilst I did enjoy the dialogue at first, it does get old rather quickly so I was appreciative of being able to skip it all with the press of a button.
What you are really here for, of course, is the racing. And this is where the game truly shines. As I say, I’m not a huge fan of the genre, but I do have a soft spot for certain arcade-style racing games. Beetle Adventure Racing and Hydro Thunder (both on the N64) are not only my favourite racing games, but some of my favourite games of all time. I am pleased to say that Riptide GP: Renegade is quite reminiscent of the latter in many ways. It may not have the same level of charm as the Midway classic, but that’s not to say that it’s a pale imitator.
WATER WAY TO GO
The game controls pretty much exactly as you would expect from an arcade racer. Hold the right trigger to accelerate, left to brake, and the A button activates your turbo. This boost is charged by pulling off tricks that can be performed either mid air or on land. The more complicated the trick, the more boost you will gain; they’re not difficult to pull off, but the animation for the harder tricks takes more time to finish. If you land in the water before the trick finishes, you will ragdoll off the bike in a comically painful manner. The risk / reward system is really well done and I’ve screwed up many a race by being overly cocky.
There are nine tracks in total, which you will be continually playing across the five chapters. There are a variety of themes present across each one, from a theme park to a flooded city. They all have alternate routes and shortcuts for you to discover, which can help give you the edge over your competitors. Oftentimes, these alternate routes open up as a result of the track shifting: water fountains in the theme park level, for example, can push your hydro jet upwards onto another section of the course allowing you to bypass a short area of the track. All the levels have a lot going on, from battling dreadnoughts (which you can use as ramps) to relentless water police that try to ram you off-course. The latter are a fun distraction until you realise that they are targeting exclusively you, and no others. I’m not sure if that’s because the other racers are normally robotic, but their persecution seems noticeably unfair. Regardless, having such dynamic courses makes them a joy to play and there weren’t any tracks I hated. They’re visually nice too for a 2017 indie title. The courses have some solid water effects, with waves bobbing up and down providing you with the occasional extra airtime. Unfortunately the accompanying music tends to be slightly generic; there’s the occasional drum & bass track that reminds me of Pendulum, but most of the music tracks are just forgettable.
HYDRO JET FUEL CAN’T MELT STEEL BEAMS
With that being said, the career mode is long. With over a hundred events, expect to be replaying these tracks again. And again. And again. As you progress through the chapters, you keep expecting new tracks to appear but they just don’t. It’s a real shame too since everything else is so good. Even though I can’t say I tired of the courses by the end, I did find myself wanting more. Perhaps the game could have included variants of the tracks that were mirrored, played in reverse, or had different weather effects, in order to spice things up a little.
What the game does do to keep you invested is incorporate a ranking and upgrade system. Levelling up will earn you skill points that you can use to learn more tricks or to improve your boost ability, whereas money earned from races can be used to upgrade your ride. Fully upgrading your hydro jet won’t take too long, but you unlock new vehicles by beating the boss of each chapter. Since these are usually better than your current one, it incentivises you into switching rides and start upgrading anew. It’s quite an engaging loop, although I wish the hydro jets looked a little different to each other – many of them blend together if you are using the same colour palette.
Completing each chapter will also unlock bonus events that provide a harder challenge than before. Beating these can unlock you new jets, but none of them are better than the one gained from beating the final boss, making the added difficulty the only real incentive to play through them. To further replayability, there’s local multiplayer for up to four players and online for up to eight – online is as dead as you would expect, but local should provide you and your friends with hours of fun.
The game offers a variety of events to help mix things up a little:
RACEYour bread and butter races. Race against a group of opponents and try to get in the top 3.
Riptide GP: Renegade is a surprising gem on the eshop. It could do with a little more track variety, but it still offers some tight and fun arcade racing action. Fans of the old arcade racing classics, like Hydro Thunder or Wave Race should get a kick out of the game. It also regularly goes on sale for peanuts, so stick it on your wishlist and give it a shot – you might just love it!