Riptide GP: Renegade is a futuristic jet-ski racer by indy developer Vector Unit. The team of three have a decent pedigree, having previously worked for numerous big name studios in the past, and promise a triple A quality gaming experience with an indy feel and price.
The game has the usual assortment of play modes: Career Mode, Single Race, Online Multi-Player and local Multi-Player; as well as a sub menu for statistics and options (although bizarrely, there’s no difficulty setting that I could find).
Riptide GP: Renegade’s career mode begins with a tutorial level, which also serves as the game’s backstory. You’re given the choice of two Riptide GP hydro-jet racers – a male called Impact, or a female named Poison. Your chosen racer meets up with their arch nemesis Krex, who goads them into an illegal, non-GP sanctioned hydro-jet race. The game walks you through the basics – steering, acceleration, speed boosts and trick moves. Unbeknown to your racer, Krex has alerted the authorities in advance – leading to your racer’s arrest and imprisonment.
The game cuts to your racer’s release from prison two years later, where you immediately find yourself back on a hydro-jet, trying to regain your former glory. The aim is to work your way through lower leagues, back into the GP and a final redemptive showdown with Krex. The storyline is progressed through static images of the characters and on-screen text, with no voice performances whatsoever.
Earlier in the game, the races are single lap affairs, progressing onto multi-lap races later on. Standard races are interspersed with slalom and elimination race (where the last placed racer is eliminated as a countdown timer expires). Information is displayed clearly at the top of the screen – with a mini-map in the left corner, boost meter in the middle and positioning and lap time occupying the right corner.
Controls are industry standard for a racing game – the left thumbstick controls steering, left and right shoulder buttons control brake and acceleration respectively. Tricks can be pulled off by pulling both thumbstick is specific directions whilst in mid-air; successfully completed tricks fill the racer’s boost meter, fail and you’ll wipe out and have to recover. A single face button acts as both the boost and recovery. The boost meter doesn’t have to been completely full to be used, which comes in handy should you need a quick burst of speed to overtake a rival in the last few moments of a race.
Money and XP are earned at the end of every race, with them amounts based on your placing. Money can be used to upgrade your hydro-jets attributes and XP can be used to learn new tricks and techniques. You also have the option to change the colour scheme of your racer’s suit and their vehicle, and also change the decals on the vehicle (some of which are unlocked as you progress). Beating a league’s top racer gives you their hydro-jet, which you can then modify and improve.
Graphically, Renegade GP looks fairly pretty, with decent draw distances and some cool water effects as they splash onto the screen. Everything looks fairly bright, even in some of the more industrial looking tracks. Music in game is the normal techno / dance, used to get the adrenaline pumping, and is ratcheted up to ear drum bursting levels, which drowns out the majority of the sound effects.
Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn’t match up to the game’s looks. The decision to map the recovery button to the same one used for boosting is odd. I lost count of the amount of times that I waited the boost meter that I’d built up because I’d wiped out – the decision is even stranger when you consider that the other three face buttons serve no purpose other than to skip dialogue and back up through menu selections. The racer rag dolls during wipe out animations, with their limbs flailing in impossible directions and quite often clip scenery.
The hydro-jets handling is really spongy, with anything other than course correction requiring the thumbstick to be pushed hard over to the left or right; even then you’re unlikely to make some of the sharper turns, which causes you to shunt into the scenery and lose speed. Despite maxing out the handling attribute for my hydro-jet I found I was still regularly crashing into barriers and obstacles.
Although some of the tracks look good, such as the submerged ruins of a city, the tracks don’t have much variation early on in the game – closer inspection reveals some blocky scenery; racing around the same three courses over and over again gets a little boring once you’ve taken in the vistas, as new courses don’t present themselves until you reach the next league.
Riptide GP: Renegade smacks of mediocracy. The futuristic racer setting has been done many times, and a lot better, in the past. The mid-air tricks are cool, but again other games have used this before. The game feels like a console’s launch title – one of those games that you buy early on in a console’s life that looks amazing, but doesn’t have the playability to back those looks up. The sad fact is that Riptide GP: Renegade doesn’t do much to stand out from the crowd.