I have never hated a game that I also find immensely fun, but somehow Riders Republic pulled this off. Ubisoft’s open-world action sports game begins with a promising premise: you, a voiceless action sports aficionado, arrive at Riders Ridge, a mecca for shredders everywhere. Somehow, against all laws of national parks and state regulations, multiple states’ worth of national parks – including Mammoth and Yosemite – have been reappropriated by the action sports industry for the explicit purpose of hauling ass.
Rider’s Republic’s map looks about as great as any other Ubisoft open world – which is to say it’s visually easy on the eyes, but without much meaningful or interesting depth. Giant mountains and deep valleys consume the map, giving the entire game a great sense of varying verticality. Multiple biomes – forest, desert, snowy, et cetera – do a decent job of adding visual variety as you go back and forth between objectives.
And, you go back and forth a lot. While Rider’s Republic offers a bunch of collectibles throughout its map – such as discovering landmarks or popping balloons (… for some reason?) – the world isn’t all that engaging. I rarely felt the need to go off the beaten path, because my curiosity was never rewarded with anything other than menial collectibles – ways to cross off never-ending boxes on various checklists. After a while, I grew bored going from place to place and started fast-traveling to save time. Riders Republic’s map is really big, so going from one end to the other for a race can take 10-plus minutes. Since that journey is always boring, I felt it was best skipped. This beautiful world was just set dressing rather than something I wanted to engage with.
Whether I was in time trials or in its 64-person mass races, barreling down the open-world’s numerous roads and pathways at breakneck speeds, sometimes down what feels like a 90-degree decline, captures a sense of speed that few games have. Every time I blazed through a race, I felt I was barely in control, that one wrong move would send me to disaster, and it was thrilling. This was especially true of wingsuit and rocketsuit races, where you navigate through the air trying to get through checkpoints. During these intense races, you fly up and down at wildly different altitudes, creating constant near-misses and collisions with the ground and mountains around you. I loved taking on the races in the game, testing my skills as Riders Republic slowly increased the challenge. Coming in first place always felt great.
I also enjoyed the races that mix Riders Republic’s various action sports together. Many long races force you to alternate between your bikes, snowboards, wingsuits, and rocketsuits on the fly, testing your skill and punishing every mistake. As I got better at the game, these races pushed my understanding of Riders’ mechanics in constantly satisfying ways. I always jumped at the opportunity to do a new multi-sport race when it unlocked.
Trick challenge races, where you try to rack up a score of points by completing aerial maneuvers, aren’t nearly as engaging. Pulling off these tricks doesn’t feel rewarding and you’re not incentivized to master complex maneuvers because you can get by simply performing the same basic tricks over and over again. I often button-mashed my way through these races, so I rarely knew what trick I was going to pull off when hitting a ramp. Trick challenge races failed to test my knowledge or skills with the trick systems, leading me to largely ignore the system. Especially considering the number of these various trick races there are in Riders Republic – dozens or more for each sport – this eventually became a repetitive slog when I’d run out the more standard race events to play.
After nearly every race, you gain some new bike or vehicle. With this constant stream of new equipment, I never grew attached to any one piece of gear. As such, I wasn’t compelled to search through my gear. I just picked the one with the biggest number and went about my day. These are small complaints in the grand scheme of things, but in a game as long as Riders Republic these little issues wore on me.
Riders Republic’s biggest issue is how it betrays everything good about the gameplay with non-stop obnoxiousness. This game is desperate to make you think it’s cool. At all times, it bombards you with its endlessly long script, full of unbelievably annoying characters, spouting a neverending slew of irritating jokes and one-liners. A few choice standouts include, “You’re working these events like a pork rib! Nummies,” and you’re breaking out “a whole new level of steeze,” repeated constantly in unskippable dialogue prompts that play every time you scroll over a certain part of the game’s map or traverse the world. These lines aren’t cool the first time; they’re unbearably insufferable after a dozen times.
The soundtrack has the same problem, which unbelievably features a cover of Coolio’s song “Gangsta’s Paradise,” softly performed by Les Ukulélés Girls, featuring the artist Zita. This is truly one of the worst songs I have ever heard. Sprinkle choice cuts from Green Day’s latest record, “Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa, and you have a soundtrack completely out of touch with music popular today. 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 enter the race, the game has a predetermined soundtrack. Play a dozen races and there’s a really good chance you’re going to listen to the same three songs a dozen times.
Rider’s Republic offers an experience that, while fun and exhilarating, gets under my skin in ways no other game has. It does one or two things that I think are great, but that doesn’t outweigh the things I can’t stand. In the end, Riders Republic dies by a million cuts. I can only hear the same song or dialogue so many times before it stops being annoying and becomes infuriating. Riders Republic is a missed opportunity at a unique and fun action sports game – a genre I grew up on that I sorely miss. It’s a game I don’t see myself returning to anytime soon.