RIDE 5 review: Ride or ragdoll

RIDE 5 review: Ride or ragdoll
Image via Milestone

Written by 

Joshua Boyles

Published 

21st Aug 2023 08:00

RIDE 5 is developer Milestone’s rendition of a more accessible motorbike racing sim. While the MotoGP series from the same studio targets the most hardcore of the hardcore, this series is touted as one that’s better suited for wider audiences. Complete with a full set of driving aids, more forgiving AI, and all the customisation and toys you could ever want, RIDE 5 bears all the hallmarks of success - at least on paper.

However, as a seasoned racer that’s very much used to driving on four wheels, picking up RIDE 5 was a humbling experience. With many years of braking point and apex-hitting muscle memory primed at the ready, most of it is thrown out of the window when making the transition to two wheels.

Despite its efforts, RIDE 5 will very much remain an experience of extremes. There’s everything here that a veteran bike racing sim fan could ever want, but still plenty left to be desired from an onboarding perspective of new players.

GGRecon Verdict

If you’re committed, RIDE 5 can be a helluva lot of fun. Its challenging yet rewarding racing mechanics are best in class for this genre of game, and the selection of tracks and bikes on offer are second to none.

Despite being marketed as easy to learn and hard to master, Milestone still has a long road ahead if it truly wants to make the RIDE series properly accessible to the wider market. A lack of a training mode is a sore oversight for the fifth iteration of the series.

However, if you’re deadset on becoming the best motorcycle racer you can possibly be, then you’ll find no better game to get your knee down in.

  • Here's what we thought of RIDE 5 in our preview

Let’s burn some rubber

A bike racing through the night in RIDE 5
Click to enlarge

RIDE 5 doesn’t mess around - there are a few modes of play, all of which put racing front and centre. 

Career mode starts you out as a junior rookie with a basic bike, ready to prove themselves in the lower racing leagues. After completing a few races and getting to grips with your bike, it’s not long before you’re earning plenty of credits to either buy new bikes or upgrade your current one. 

It’s not like you’ll struggle for choice, either. With over 270 bikes from 20 official manufacturers such as BMW, Honda and Triumph, it’s like walking into a bike candy shop, with enough options to rival Gran Tourismo.

RIDE 5 doesn’t make the mistake of making the powerful bikes unrealistically difficult to unlock, either. Sure - those big bikes will cost you more. But it’s only a matter of completing a few more races to save up, rather than knowing you’ll need to trudge through 50 hours of bends to get there.

The career mode will take you all over the globe to some of the most iconic biking locations out there. The Isle of Man Southern 100 makes an appearance, as do plenty of more traditional racing circuits like Monza and Imola. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to stand trackside at these locations, it’s exciting to be able to pick out exactly where you were given how remarkably accurately they’re recreated.

Of course, there’s also an extensive multiplayer offering, complete with competitive leaderboards. Alternatively, you can load up any course you like and race your way - just like any good arcade racer. Couch co-op mode returns for the first time since RIDE 2, which lets another player race alongside for those competitive gaming evenings.

However you want to experience your motorbike racing, RIDE 5 is unapologetic in letting you race without limits.

  • If you're looking for other games to play on PlayStation, check out this list

Not just a pretty face

A bike turning around a tight corner
Click to enlarge

Tracks are beautifully realised with an all-new cloud and weather system really bringing the world to life as it races past your corneas. It’s an exhilarating experience to watch these 3D clouds roll in as water droplets begin to paint paths down your visor.

The audio design contributes heavily to this, too. There’s an almost comforting feeling to that low drone as 20 bikes charge their way around a track, and hearing those engines rev around you only fires you up further to make up those extra positions.

The RIDE series has been praised highly for its almost photorealistic presentation in the past, and this iteration is no different. Built specifically for new-generation consoles only, it’s clear to see where that extra horsepower is being put to use.

Those stunning visuals are brought out even further with the intuitive and featureful photo mode that lets players capture the exact moment of an overtake - or more likely, the exact moment it all goes head over heels.

To top it all off, the game makes excellent use of the PS5's DualSense haptic feedback, too. It’s capable of conveying every bit of the track beneath your tyres, and it’s almost possible to feel when a back tyre is slipping out before it actually happens on screen.

  • If you're more of an F1 fan, check out our review of F1 23

Hard to learn, hard to master

A sunset shot in RIDE 5
Click to enlarge

The biggest sticking point with motorbike racing sims is that they’re a completely different kettle of fish to ones that feature cars. With both a front and back brake to consider, plus where the weight of the driver is shifted during corners, there are far more things to consider than you would normally have to on a box with four wheels.

With RIDE 5 pitched as the friendly series from Milestone, it makes sense that it has a bunch of neural aids to assist players with the more tricky mechanics. Braking, accelerating, and turning all have sliders that can be adjusted, letting the game take either more or less control away from you. Trust me - as a beginner rider, you’re going to need all the help you can get.

Frustratingly, while RIDE 5 lets you choose your training wheels before you even hit the main menu, you had best pick carefully. After a brief setup phase, you’re thrown into a 1v1 race on a fictional circuit. However, it’s impossible to alter your neural aids once you’re in the race, and the only way to tweak them is to start the whole thing from scratch.

This likely won’t be an issue for a seasoned player. But as someone who’s curious to learn the ropes first, it was an excruciating experience to trundle three laps around the course at a snail's pace until I was able to change up the difficulty settings once more.

Moreover, once you’re through into the main menu of RIDE 5, there is no training section to be found. While other racing sims might feature a set of challenges to complete to help new players master braking, cornering, and other manoeuvres, RIDE 5 expects players to pick up all of their skills on the track via trial and error.

A training mode feature is something that this series is seriously lacking, especially given how drastically different it is from other arcade racers. Even staying on track can be tough unless you’re completely dialled in and willing to put in the hours to master the game’s nuances.

Thankfully, the ragdoll physics model is expertly calculated, so at least it’s endlessly entertaining when you inevitably fly through the air at every corner.

  • Prefer tactics to wheel-to-wheel action? Check out our review of F1 Manager 2023

Marmite

A green bike powering down the straight in RIDE 5
Click to enlarge

This is where players of RIDE 5 are going to fall into one of two camps, because if you’re able to put in the time and master the way in which the racing mechanics work, you’re going to have a whale of a time. After several hours of trial and error (and likely several thousand broken bones), I was able to get to a point where I could comfortably keep up with the AI, albeit with them set to a relatively low difficulty level.

And let me tell you - when you finally start to nail those braking points, hit that apex while sandwiched between a full pack of other riders, and sail out the other side in front, the feeling is sublime. Exhilarating as much as it is exhausting, as it feels like every fibre of your being has to be 100% focused on making sure your fragile little rider doesn’t go soaring at the faintest shiver of a lapse in judgement.

That said, it makes those wins all that more rewarding. After all, the most fun is to be had in those down-to-the-wire races, as opposed to one racer steaming ahead and taking all the glory (cough, Max Verstappen, cough).

  • If you prefer an arcade experience, Forza Horizon 5 might be more up your street

The Verdict

A close up shot of the front of a racing bike in RIDE 5
Click to enlarge

If you’re committed, RIDE 5 can be a helluva lot of fun. Its challenging yet rewarding racing mechanics are best in class for this genre of game, and the selection of tracks and bikes on offer are second to none.

Despite being marketed as easy to learn and hard to master, Milestone still has a long road ahead if it truly wants to make the RIDE series properly accessible to the wider market. A lack of a training mode is a sore oversight for the fifth iteration of the series.

However, if you’re deadset on becoming the best motorcycle racer you can possibly be, then you’ll find no better game to get your knee down in.

4/5

Reviewed on PS5. Code provided by the publisher.

Joshua Boyles
About the author
Joshua Boyles
Joshua is the Guides Editor at GGRecon. After graduating with a BA (Hons) degree in Broadcast Journalism, he previously wrote for publications such as FragHero and GameByte. You can often find him diving deep into fantasy RPGs such as Skyrim and The Witcher, or tearing it up in Call of Duty and Battlefield. He's also often spotted hiking in the wilderness, usually blasting Arctic Monkeys.
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