Sports games

Riders Republic has rekindled the spark I once had for extreme sports games

Republic of the Horsemen is an expansive extreme sports game that effectively builds on the foundation set by 2016 Soak.

I used to spend hours in games like Delicate SSX and Mat Hoffman’s BMX Pro like a kid. The genre of extreme sports games was important to me during my formative years. However, over time my interest waned. Republic of the Horsemen takes the inherent spirit of the classics and modernizes it with contemporary systems and an open world setting.

Ubisoft Annecy first got into the extreme sports genre with Soak. While focusing on snowboarding and skiing, Republic of the Horsemen adds BMX circuits and wingsuits to the mix. This combination added a bit more variety and texture for me. As a newcomer to the Riders Republic, I found myself immersed in a leaderboard-centric career mode in hopes of making it to the Riders Ridge Invitational. The narrative outside of this basic concept is slim. You are flanked by a character who is the embodiment of Steve Buscemi’s “How are you, comrades” meme. The dialogue is stupid and irrelevant. My goal was always to move on to the next track and unlock new aspects of the game.

The game takes place in the expansive social playground comprising of seven regions based around national parks, including Yosemite Valley, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. To make a name for myself and reach these career heights, I had to start tackling five different careers – Bike Race, Bike Tricks, Snow Race, Snow Tricks and Air Sports. As you progress through each career, you unlock new tracks and bigger events. It’s not for a long time that the map is covered in various event icons for you to complete.

The progression system Republic of the Horsemen is built around accumulating stars. To break new ground and unlock additional tracks, circuits and sponsors, I found myself on a mission to earn as many stars as possible. You’ll earn a single star just for completing a track, whether it’s a single race, time trial, or scoring competition. Each event also offers optional challenges to earn more stars. Criteria can range from completing the track within a certain amount of time or accumulating a certain score by performing tricks.

In addition to the multitude of events to complete, you can earn stars by searching for collectibles across the map. Relics reward you with special rides and boards like a pizza delivery bike. Additionally, stars can be earned by completing stunt tracks and finding landmarks.

“At no point did I find Riders Republic demanding about the way they wanted me to approach an event.”

New equipment is obtained by completing events. You will slowly amass a full collection of different boards, bikes, and wingsuits, all with their unique stats. Cosmetics can be purchased using in-game currency earned by completing Sponsor and Weekly Challenges. There are also legendary outfits that can be purchased with real currency in the store.

What I find really compelling about the game is the importance it places on the player’s personal preferences. At no time did I find Republic of the Horsemen demanding in the way he wanted me to approach an event. If you’re like me and feel more drawn to the racing aspects than the tips, you can look into that or vice versa. The game offers two options of Racer and Trickster driving options. The Racer option is more forgiving, while the Trickster option increases the skill gap for advanced players. You can even customize whether the landing tricks are manual or automatic without taking a penalty. There is simply no wrong way to play.

I found the controls to be relatively tight, especially on the tricks on the jumps. Each sport handles a little differently. When you are on a bike, there is a crankset in place which provides a small acceleration in speed. On skis and snowboards you can change your position. While you are in a wingsuit, propulsion systems are in place to help stimulate or slow you down in the air. Throughout my time with Republic of the Horsemen, I have become quite fond of snow and bike paths. Hitting a ramp just to the right and combining a set of tricks for a big score can be very satisfying. The air spots made me want a little more. Of the three, the gameplay in the sky was less dynamic than the others.

“Racing with others can be as chaotic and fun as you might imagine, with one major downside: the game’s inconsistent collision detection.”

The card of Republic of the Horsemen is filled with other players, all of whom are finishing their own careers and showcasing creations in photo mode. Whether you’re taking part in a race or just exploring, you’ll see other players rolling around. It is a great social center which encourages shared experiences. All events can be completed with friends. Every half hour a mass race will appear on the map. Players have a limited time to reach the destination, resulting in a three-race race against around 60 other players.

Racing with others can be as chaotic and fun as you might expect with one major downside: the game’s inconsistent collision detection. I discovered there was no rhyme or reason for which I would be pushed into a rock or thrown off the trail. I could be consistently in the top five and suddenly be thrown off a hill and be in 40th place in seconds. There were times when I could go through another player without resistance. Unfortunately, the collision is not reliable enough to be used competitively.

Play on Xbox Series X, Republic of the Horsemen has blazingly fast load times. The map contains a ton of quick travel locations that are automatically unlocked as soon as new leads are earned. Fast trips only take a second or two and you can take a snowmobile to your destination. Starting a race again takes a little longer, but there isn’t too much delay before you get back into the action. Having said that, I have had the game crash on me several times. I even got the game stuck at the end of a mass race, which is more of a time commitment than standard events.

Globally, Republic of the Horsemen broke the 15-year hiatus I had with extreme sports games. Ubisoft Annecy took what worked with Soak, added modern open world conventions and created a captivating sports game. The game’s greatest success is not taking yourself too seriously. With three huge tracks from The Offspring, you can tell Republic of the Horsemen knows the mood he is aiming for. As dialogue flounders, having agency and player preferences at the forefront more than makes up for it. It’s a casual game that encourages social presence.

Republic of the Horsemen is now available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S, PC and Google Stadia. Physical copies of the game are available at Best buy, Amazon and more.

Image credit: Ubisoft

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