It's been a long time since I have last ridden on virtual waves. The water racing genre has seen classics such as Wave Race 64 back in the late 90's, but lately it has pretty much dried out. Hydrojet racer Riptide GP: Renegade made its debut last summer on PC, PS4 and smart phones, and this fresh Xbox One conversion is a welcome addition to splash some much needed fun around.
The body and soul of Riptide GP: Renegade is its extensive career mode. Initially the player has only one hydrojet and two drivers to choose from. As the story of illegal hydrojet races proceeds, more colorful characters join the roster. New hydrojets become available and are progressively more powerful. The characters themselves don't possess any individual skills so it's purely cosmetic who you prefer to race as.
Whether you hit the podium or not, races give money and experience points to spend on hydrojet upgrades, from speed to handling, and on various driving skills, like new tricks and boosts. A podium finish is required to advance in the career though, and the key to success is to keep upgrading both hydrojets and skillsets. The learning curve and challenge are spot on. What could easily be a boring grindfest is actually fun. Everything in the game is unlocked through natural progress. It never feels like you are racing for vain even if you need to go for an extra spin in order to earn some dosh to buy crucial upgrades.
There aren't many tracks, but they all look great. Mixing them up in different race events helps to keep things interesting. In addition to the traditional races, there's an elimination mode where competitors are ruled out one by one and a solo slalom where you need to pass colored flags. In freestyle, you also go solo and score by doing tricks with both thumbsticks. Successfully landed tricks increase the boost meter, and a well-timed speed burst propel can mean the difference between winning and losing.
When I had played Riptide GP: Renegade for some time I thought it might lack certain oomph so omnipresent in the genre classics of the past. The visuals are pretty, and the sense of speed is exhilarating in a silky-smooth 60fps. But I wasn't so sure about intensity, that extra something that separates the okay from the good. I'm glad I was proven wrong. The challenge amped up further in the story. And in some of the boss events and later races I trembled inside out, squeezing the controller in my tensed up palms, knowing a slight mistake would mean a cold retry. You could say the game won me over by wetting my armpits.
The best thing about Riptide GP: Renegade is it's foremost an unadulterated video game. The sheer playability and gripping content hook you in. It's simple how little is needed for an exciting experience. You'd never guess Riptide series originated on smartphones by the game's effortless gameplay and impressive water physics. Controls are instantaneous, responsive and loose. Most of the time, you're playing on instinct when riding high upon swaying waves.
While the career mode alone gives enough content to chew on, the multiplayer can extend the lifebar of any game if executed properly. Local multiplayer certainly does it as up to six players can compete on a split-screen. I can imagine Ripdtide GP: Renegade being a hilarious party game where you're not even punished for some drink and driving. Online multiplayer is another story though. The lobbies were sparsely populated with players of variable eagerness. Some idled, someone quit by the slightest mishap, and only the remaining few took it seriously. Play Anywhere compatibility between Xbox One and Windows 10 computers should expand the game's potential player base though.
Judging by the lack of online activity, I fear many players will simply overlook the fun this game can offer. I for one enjoyed the pure gameplay and the progressive challenge. We need more games like this, good, old-fashioned, professionally delivered fun. Simply put Riptide GP: Renegade is the best arcade-style racer I've played in quite a while. For a measly tenner, it should be a no-brainer to jump on the waves.
Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.