I’m used to reviewing racing games but most of them are on dry land. However, not all racing and racing games are on dry land. The Riptide series sees you race on futuristic jet-powered jet-skis. Typically, developer Vector Unit keeps its games on mobile platforms with the occasional console release. Riptide GP Renegade is the first in its flagship Riptide series to make its way to PC. So how does this mobile / console game fare on the PC? Well, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
It’s important to note at the start that RGP:R’s water physics edge more to realism than arcade. You’ll get buffeted around by waves. Racing gets a little choppy in people’s wakes. Hard turns will scrub all your speed off just like a hard turn on a real jet-ski. So if you’ve played karting games like Sega & Sonic All-Stars that put you in the water, you’re in for a different experience.
The premise of the game is that you play a mute protagonist who was one of the top Grand Prix racers. However, your rival, Krex, goaded you into the aquatic racing equivalent of an illegal street race. It’s actually a trap to get you arrested and out of his way. In this futuristic world, illegal racing is worth a couple years in prison. As a result, you’re booted out of the Grand Prix championship and have to claw your way back to the GP ranks to take out your rival.
While the game is buoyed by some pretty funny writing of various characters, the writing doesn’t make any sense. The premise is that you and your friend (you’re given an option of playing a male or female character and the other gender is automatically your speaking BFF) have to assemble a crew to take on Krex in the GP championship. You do this by defeating other crew bosses in outlaw races so they will join your crew so you can get into a newly founded tryout circuit for the GP Championship to get into that top level of water-sport and take on Krex.
If that sounds convoluted, that’s because it is. Your crew doesn’t really impact anything. They chip in with the occasional funny line during cutscenes and you win their faster ride when they join your crew. Other than that, they don’t show up in races. They don’t give you any sort of boost. The crew is only really there for funny dialogue (all written with no spoken lines) and moral support.
But you’re probably not playing a racing game for the story mode. The game has a career mode (with the above mentioned story), quick race, time trial, online multiplayer and couch/local multiplayer. That’s a pretty standard selection for a racing game. You also have a variety of game modes. There is the standard race, freestyle trick competitions and an elimination race. These are interspersed throughout the career mode randomly but the final GP championship is solely races.
It all builds up rather well, though not inspiringly innovative, but falls apart quite quickly when you actually get into the racing.
The biggest problem with the racing is the police presence during the races. If you’ve ever played the old not open-world Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit games (especially Hot Pursuit 2 which was awesome), it’s similar to that. It’s closed circuit racing but the police are trying to pull you over. Emphasis on you because no matter who is around you and where you are in the race, you’re always the priority target. First, last or a boring 5th, the local constabulary wants to take you down before anyone else.
Actually, the AI in races is the biggest problem in this game. Aside from the cops, the AI has better boosting capability in that they have faster and longer boosts than you. Their jet-skis (the game calls them “hydrojets” but they’re jumped up, futuristic jet-skis) handle better than yours. They have an amazing catch-up (AKA rubber banding) ability that only really works when you’re well in front. If you’re in the back, you’re out of luck so don’t wipe out doing a trick or it’s race over. Also, the AI seems to be programmed to be competitive relative to you which is probably a function of the catch-up programming. Even if you use the in-game currency to upgrade your jet-ski, it’ll make you faster which will keep you out of the back of the pack. It won’t guarantee the win since the front of the field can get considerably faster. I tested this on early races in the game with a fully upgraded ride and still had to fight for race wins.
The Freestyle events are the biggest pain in the game. Trick are worth 100 or 200 or onwards up by hundreds (with point values halved for doing the same trick twice) but the AI scores often have scores like 1090 or other impossible to achieve scores. Well, that’s just from a mathematical perspective as the top scores are nearly impossible to beat because the AI has an uncanny ability to do their best tricks faster than you can do them which apparently allows them to run up their scores in Freestyle and obviously get bigger boosts in races. You’ll often see the AI do moves involving multiple spins and flips while you’re just barely able to do the most basic tricks in the game.
The graphics and sound effects aren’t much to write home about. I will give the devs credit in that all the tracks are lovingly crafted. They’re all alive with various individual ticks. There are levels in a city park, a military base in the middle of a training exercise, a couple of power plant or factory looking level and the flooded ruins of a city. While the point-to-point tracks don’t change, the lap tracks do change from lap to lap, be it course direction changes, changes in obstacles and changes to the waves you’ll bounce over. While there are only nine tracks in the game, Vector Unit did put some attention to the detail of each circuit.
I should note that there are a lot of complaints about the difficulty of the game. I didn’t notice it being too bad in the actual races but I also frequently play racing games. My issue was with the occasionally impossible Freestyle events that are mandatory in career mode. One boss fight was a Freestyle event and I nearly gave up on the game because there weren’t enough jumps for you to do enough tricks to win that fight. I had to turn down the difficulty to pass it but that’s the only instance when I found the game frustratingly difficult.
Riptide GP: Renegade is an okay game. I’ve played better and worse racing games and this falls somewhere in the middle. It’s competently enough but together but the racing isn’t interesting enough to keep me glued to it. Maybe if I played it on mobile, I’d find it a lot more exciting because of how it stacks up to the competition. On PC, there are a lot of great racing games that RGP:R has to compete with. It can compete on price but it doesn’t stack up in terms of fun or quality with the rest of what you can find on Steam.
Riptide GP: Renegade was reviewed on PC but is also available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS and Android. The review code for this game was provided by Vector Unit. Your impressions of the game may change depending on platform played on, PC specs and if you want to play Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit on the water.