Since its reveal last year, Riders Republic has always intrigued me. With a resurgence in skateboarding and snowboarding games, the time seemed right to revisit the extreme sports genre. With a premise evocative of ESPN Extreme Games with the developers of Steep, there was frankly a lot to be hopeful for.
Recently, Ubisoft has presented a beta for the title. Initially presented behind closed doors, it later expanded to the public. During this beta period, I was able to take on events on both turf and snow. I learned how to ski, bike and rocket boost my way through races. I pulled off some gnarly tricks. Got a new outfit or two. Even took part in a crazy race with more than 50 players.
After all this mayhem, I am pleased to report that Riders Republic makes a strong first impression. For those unaware, this title is developed by Ubisoft Annecy, the developer of Steep. Riders Republic is in many ways Steep but built upon further. The game retains the excellent controls and animation of Steep and builds upon it with a bigger world and plenty of new sports. The end result is a title that is chaotic, living and fun.
Beginning with biking, the mechanics of it felt very solid. Pulling off tricks, drifting around corners and going into crazy jumps is incredibly fun, but arguably the best part of it is how realistic it seems. This is biking through and through, and you can get tired between spurts of energy. You can lose your grip on a corner. This is not a motorcycle in a bike’s skin, and I feel this adds to the immersion.
The snow sports, skiing and snowboarding felt straight from Steep and were a joy to control. The snow biomes in the game were fun to explore, including a trick park with a giant, grindable woolly mammoth head. This makes snowboarding and skiing some of the most fun activities in the game.
Finally, the rocket-powered sports were fun across the board. Evocative in some ways of Pilotwings, flying through hoops with the jet pack was immensely satisfying. That said, of the three core sports, I feel this was my least favourite, as controlling it can take some getting used to.
It is worth mentioning that in a few key cases, these sports were mixed and matched for fun results. For example, in one race I was able to use rocket-powered skis, which lead to some zany moments.
Moving on from the sports, the presentation across the board seemed very solid. The graphics, while not mind-shattering, were clean. The voice work was surprisingly strong, and there are some killer tracks in the soundtrack. The UI itself was highly evocative of Forza Horizon’s, down to the events.
The game also surprisingly takes advantage of next-gen hardware in some key ways. Namely, fast travelling feels nearly instantaneous, meaning jumping across the map is not a big hassle. The performance was solid across the board as well, running a smooth 60fps with no noticeable bugs or dropped frames.
The live elements of the game were strong as well. During my time, I met players out on the slopes, on challenging obstacle courses and in the game’s hub area. However, the real claim to fame is the breathtaking mass races. Taking part at scheduled times similar to Forza Horizon 4‘s Forzathon Lives, these events are a blast to play. They are 60 player races wherein you get to play around with all of the different sports, and quickly have to change them on the fly (i.e. jumping into your jetpack after flying off the ski slopes).
Finally, one of the absolute best parts of the demo was the sheer amount of customization available. From control styles to character outfits and beyond, the number of options at your disposal can be staggering. If you want to play as a goofy dancing panda mascot on a comically small bike, you can. If you want to play as a cool hipster chick with a love for plaid, you can. If you wanna play as a fire-breathing unicorn that communicates in dabs, well… who knows with DLC these days. The point is, there are a ton of options at your disposal, and mixing and matching to find your right fit is incredibly fun.
All in all, Riders Republic has made a strong first impression. The game is just a blast to play and I think its blend of extreme sports edge and crazy customization will go over very well. In many ways it feels like it looked to Steep and built upon it, resulting in an exciting next step for developer Ubisoft Annecy. While the game’s longevity remains to be seen, especially releasing close to Forza Horizon 5, early indications for the game are promising.
Above all, it’s just a fun time, and I look forward to hitting the republic again come October 28th when the game launches for real on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5, Google Stadia and PC.
We’ll be sure to follow with full review nearer the time, but if you wish to get prepared for the action Riders Republic will bring, head to the Xbox Store and pick up a pre-order for the game – it’s present in Standard Edition (£59.99), Gold Edition (£84.99) and Ultimate Edition (£89.99).