Motorbike games are notoriously tricky. Whether that be the MotoGP series, the RIDE franchise or even that which gives us the chance to prove our worth on the toughest track of them all, the Isle of Man TT, they have chewed up and spat out many a gamer.
RIMS Racing though is attempting a different tact. It’s not got the biggest bike roster (in fact the list of bikes available is very small), it’s not got a huge franchise backing it and there’s not even a massive amount of tracks and circuits to pit your wits against.
Nope, this one is more interested in providing players the chance to tinker just as much as they race, fettling the finest parts from some of the biggest manufacturers in the world, safe in the knowledge that every upgrade to even the smallest part will bring some marginal gains out on the tarmac.
There’s absolutely no debating that NACON and Raceward Studio know their stuff when it comes to the subject material, but for all the depth and intricacy that they have allowed in RIMS Racing, they’ve forgotten the main reason we game. To have fun.
I’m not sure how to put this other than to state it in the most simplest of terms: RIMS Racing rarely allows for proper enjoyment. It rarely lets you forget about the best bits of bike racing – hitting the straights at speed – and is more concerned about trying to teach the player everything they need to know, and lots that they don’t, about how a motorcycle goes together. In fact, it verges on the fine line between being a racing simulator and a bike mechanic’s ‘how to’ book of knowledge. For the layperson, that’s going to be a serious issue.
There are two distinct elements to RIMS: the racing out on the circuit and the ‘behind the scenes’ faff that keeps a race team ticking. But whilst the former will be what 99% of gamers are looking for, RIMS focuses too much time and effort on the flip side of the coin. And even then, it goes into such detail that confusion reigns and boredom kicks in.
The single player is the most prominent of options on RIMS, and whilst detailed Racing Tutorial, Private Testing and Academy products let you hone the skills you need, for most players it’ll be the career or single races which will mostly appeal. The latter of these kicks around just like in every other racer, letting you choose the motorbike of your choice (from a mere 8 in all), any of 19 circuits or tracks, through a variety of weather and track conditions and with all the rules you could ever need. There’s nothing overly fancy here and will be of standard fare to anyone who has jumped onto a racer in recent years.
The career though is an altogether different beast. Extremely detailed (we’re going to say it’s too detailed,) it allows the chance for you to work your way through an entire calendar of events from specific brand races, through academy showcases, 1-on1 face-offs, cups, championship races and more. With each coming with their own unique objectives, and the chance for the player to sit astride some of the fastest bikes in the world from BMW, Aprilia, Kawasaki, Suzuki and more, there’s certainly a decent amount of variation in what you’ll be subjected to.
The career will also let you make the most of earnt team points, invested through a management skill tree to provide helpful add-ons, across similar research based skill trees which will ensure you’re kept in the know about various events and conditions, and in the motorbike stand.
It’s this motorbike stand which is where RIMS Racing differentiates itself from every other bike racer (read: every other racer), providing in-depth access and knowledge to the nth degree. Changing up your bike components and performance levels, tuning near on every little element and keeping a track on your engineering team are all things you need to consider. And yes, yet another skill tree is present for this.
But whilst the ideas behind RIMS, and this intricacy it brings is welcome, the way it has been implemented is nothing but confusing. There’s more reading here than a visual novel and more features to keep a check on than your standard RPG. In fact, you’re constantly left to check, double check and triple check every last component on your bike, whipping out old worn gear, buying new stuff and hoping they’ll give an advantage when on track. Silly little button holding/mashing, thumbstick twirling mini games have been put into place to make you feel like even more of a mechanic – or at least in an attempt to remove some of the boredom – and whilst these are much better than just hitting some old confirm and upgrade button, it’s not long before they feel old hat. Throw in the utter despair that is had when you purchase an item that can’t be used or fitted to your bike, wasting time, energy and in-game cash because you misread the situation, and the whole mechanical side of RIMS just feels like a slog.
There are good bits though and I have been fairly impressed with how RIMS looks. The technical stuff is well detailed, and every little part on the bike, and that which powers the main career, looks decent enough on Xbox Series X|S. However due to the depth it brings there are a significant amount of menus, sub-menus, text boxes and stats to gaze over. It’s super confusing to navigate through these and even though Raceward have implemented some ‘fun’ – term used super loosely – mini games into the equation when it’s time to switch up parts and wotnot, it soon becomes an experience you’ll want to gloss over quickly.
Out on the track and things are better. Bikes look great, rider models are okay and should you be able to ignore the rather dodgy ragdolls that roll around every time you drop the bike and go rolling down the road, you’ll be relatively pleased with what is in place. But like every motorbike title ever, there’s a difficulty curve that starts high and climbs far too steeply for anyone to ever find enjoyment. Tank slapping and wobble is common place should you so dare to touch the throttle more than need be, time penalty calls seem harsh when all you’re trying to do is find a racing line, and collisions between yourself and the AI are very commonplace – no more so than when you think you’ve slowed down just enough to take a corner, only to find some maniac on a bike come tearing up behind you, slamming into you and knocking you flying. We’ve played enough motorcycle racing titles to know that staying upright and pointing in the right direction is a challenge in itself, but in RIMS it just feels even more of one, leaving you totally on edge.
However, manage to get it together, learn the exact lines needed, discover when you can and can’t floor the throttle and hunt down the most precise of braking points and *whisper it* RIMS Racing can occasionally feel great. But occasionally isn’t enough when you’re put up against a wall of pain at all other times.
Similar thoughts surround the audio and it’s admittedly lovely to be able to open the throttle and listen to your bike, and those of your competitors, as they scream down the longest straights. But that’s pretty much the only real highlight worth mentioning. Aside from that, voice overs in the tutorial and career are well detailed, covering pretty much every base you need, and then some.
There are also multiplayer elements to RIMS Racing, yet you probably won’t be surprised to hear that the online side of things here is totally dead. It’s obvious that this is a fairly niche game, but even then you’d expect there to be the odd racer leathered up, helmet in hand ready for some action. That’s absolutely not the case though and over the course of numerous weeks, and more attempts at matchmaking or fellow racer finding than we care to acknowledge, we’ve come to the conclusion that the online side of RIMS is a total wasteland. There’s no one playing so if you want some online race meets, your best bet will be to urge a friend or two to open their wallet and pay up for the privilege, or head into one of the other, more accomplished bike racers on the market.
Granted there are a few online challenges that anyone can partake in, but on the whole this should be seen as a solo affair.
More bike mechanic than bike racer, RIMS Racing is going to appeal to a very niche player base. If you’re looking for a reason to grab the leathers and show the world your finest bike handling skills, there are better options out there. But if all you’re bothered about is fettling your parts and learning more about what makes those bikes tick, RIMS will gladly open up the complex avenues you need. Just don’t expect it to provide much in the way of fun.
Hop on to RIMS Racing by visiting the Xbox Store