Sports games

Riders Republic review: A renaissance for extreme sports games

Riders Republic: Specifications

Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Amazon Luna, Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Price: $60
Release date: October 28, 2021
Gender: Sports action/simulation

Riders Republic is a new entry in the extreme sports genre of video games. Once a dominant force in the gaming landscape, the genre has been largely overlooked over the past decade as a glut of online shooters and open-world action games flooded the market.

In that regard, Riders Republic feels like a welcome throwback. It’s the type of game you might have expected to see on the PS2. However, it packs more than enough modern gameplay sensibilities to play like a current-gen title.

The game is a spiritual sequel to Ubisoft’s 2016 snowboarding title Steep, and it takes its predecessor’s formula and works with it. Riders Republic adds more than just extra stuff to do, but a welcome level of customization that’s nearly unmatched in the genre.

There are a few imperfections, most of which only become apparent the more you play, but even when the grind borders on the tedious Riders Republic continues to win you over as it nails the core fundamentals. Read on for our full Riders Republic review.

Riders Republic review: gameplay

Variety is the name of the game in Riders Republic. While most games in the genre focus on a single extreme sport, Riders Republic gives you the ability to ride mountain bikes, snowboards, skis, wingsuits, and even rocket-powered jetpacks.

A chaotic skydiving scene from Riders Republic

(Image credit: Ubisoft Annecy)

Bikes are definitely the most fun option available to you. There’s something about pedaling furiously down a dusty track picking up enough speed to outrun a car that never gets old. The default controls are also remarkably easy to pick up, within minutes you’ll be drifting around tight turns and performing double backflips.

Riders Republic Bike Game

(Image credit: Ubisoft Annecy)

The use of a snowboard or a pair of skis is naturally similar. These transport methods are mainly useful when you want to perform over-the-top tricks and grinds. Sculpting powder is fun, but you don’t feel as vulnerable at breakneck speeds as on a bike frame, which makes snowsports much less exciting.

Riders Republic ski

(Image credit: Ubisoft Annecy)

Wingsuits ignore the laws of physics in the name of fun. By holding down a button, you can essentially stop and restart your momentum. This makes wingsuits extremely arcadey and often behaves annoyingly and unpredictably. Rocket-powered suits don’t have the same problem, but are just annoying to control. Boredom is not something you should feel when using a jetpack.

At any time, you can instantly switch to a first-person mode with the press of a button. While you’ll likely choose to play the majority of Riders Republic in third-person, first-person is a fun novelty. Bunny-hopping off a cliff on a BMX and down the near-guiding incline in first-person is hugely exhilarating and just might make your stomach churn.

Riders Republic is to be commended for customizing its controls. Initially, you choose between two control schemes: runner and trickster. There is also a preset that mimics Steep’s layout. You can further adjust settings such as how much assistance the game gives you when landing towers or whether you want to automatically engage to grind rails.

Snowboarding at Riders Republic

(Image credit: Ubisoft Annecy)

These settings can be quickly adjusted in the menus if you find things too difficult or too easy. I started out with the game automatically adjusting my landings to avoid frequent rollovers, but after a few hours I was confident enough to control things manually. This feeling of progression was extremely gratifying.

Riders Republic review: Career mode

Riders Republic immerses you in a huge open world that mixes seven real-world US national parks, including Bryce Canyon, Yosemite Valley and Zion. In just a few hours of play, your world map will be dotted with dozens of points of interest, events, and collectibles.

Mountain biking at Riders Republic

(Image credit: Ubisoft Annecy)

Before you can start exploring, you’re forced to complete the game’s frustrating and restrictive tutorial. Luckily, it only takes about an hour to complete, but it feels endless. It walks you through the basics, but you’re on an extremely tight leash. Please don’t judge Riders Republic by its opening hours.

The game’s career mode features five different paths: bike race, bike tricks, snow race, snow tricks, and aerial events. They’re all pretty self-explanatory, and as you progress through each, you’ll unlock ‘Grand Events’ that will really challenge you to prove your mastery of each discipline.

Riders Republic ski game

(Image credit: Ubisoft Annecy)

The problem is that career events are extremely repetitive. Take the snow trick career, for example, each event is just another course for you to pull off grabs, grinds, and flips in hopes of getting a high score. Luckily, you can switch between career modes at will, which increases some of the repetition. It is my policy to never do more than two consecutive events in the same career path to avoid burnout.

Luckily, it’s not all races and tricks events. There are side events outside of the career paths that present wackier goals. One asks you to deliver pizzas within a time limit, while another straps you to a rocket-powered bike. These challenges are a real highlight, and I wish there were more to mix things up between the belly of identical competitions.

Progression in Riders Republic is mostly tied to collecting Stars, which you’ll earn for just about anything. While stars might be awarded a bit too often, you’re never forced to complete activities you don’t like. Instead, you can choose what to focus on.

A chaotic scene from Riders Republic

(Image credit: Ubisoft Annecy)

If you get bored of career mode, you’re free to wander the world aimlessly in search of hidden collectibles or special relics, which unlock novelty vehicles like a surfboard. There’s even a Zen mode that drops you on the map without any objective and allows you to travel around the world admiring the (often beautiful) sights.

Riders Republic review: Online modes

Riders Republic is a very socially connected game. There are a multitude of ways to play with and against other players. The best of these is the vaunted mass races.

These chaotic online events pit up to 64 players against each other in a single race. The results are utter carnage as you bounce off each other and jostle for a spot on the podium. Ultra-competitive gamers may find them frustrating, but if you’re willing to play for fun, you’ll find them great.

A chaotic scene from Riders Republic

(Image credit: Ubisoft Annecy)

It’s rather disconcerting that you can’t play Mass Races whenever you want. You have to wait for the game to make a call telling you that the game is about to start. It happens frequently enough that you don’t have to wait long, but why you can’t just meet on demand is a real mystery.

Another enjoyable multiplayer mode is Trick Battle. This team mode requires you to land tricks on specific objects in order to take control of them and score points. It’s a lot more fun than a standard trick competition, but there’s not a whole lot of variety in the mode.

As you’d expect, you can also participate in standard races and online trick events, and you can travel the world with friends if you’re starting to feel a little lonely in the republic.

Riders Republic: visuals and sound

I played Riders Republic on PS5 and found its huge open world a real sight to behold. It is an extremely geographically diverse place, offering everything from snow-capped peaks to desert canyons. You’ll often be driving too fast to take in the scenery, but when you stop for a moment, the beautiful scenery is sure to catch your eye.

A chaotic scene from Riders Republic

(Image credit: Ubisoft Annecy)

Some clipping and animation issues prevent the game from looking as good in motion. It’s not uncommon to get stuck on a large rock or clump of trees, but your unlimited-use rewind ability can get you out of a jam in the blink of an eye – even though I had to restart some racing events because my competition had already passed by the time I took off.

Sadly, Riders Republic isn’t that easy on the ears. Occasionally you’ll be forced to suffer NPC’s cringe-inducing dialogue that would’ve been outdated even in the early 2000s. There’s also a custom soundtrack filled with licensed songs, but Riders Republic is best when you listen to your own music. I spend a lot of my time playing around with the sound muted and a favorite podcast, which I found far preferable.

Riders Republic Review: Verdict

Riders Republic’s combination of a massive open world you can explore at will and a huge variety of gameplay is compelling. The career mode can get a bit repetitive as you progress, but the game never punishes you for switching gears and doing something else when boredom sets in.

Developer Ubisoft Annecy has confirmed that more content is on the way, and with such a promising base already in place, Riders Republic could be rolled into something really special. They don’t really make games like Riders Republic anymore, but I’m glad Ubisoft did.