Riders Republic review – Addictive thrill-ride that’s only just begun

Riders Republic gameplayUbisoft

Ubisoft’s latest attempt at a vast online sports game is off to a blistering start as Riders Republic fills out a technically stunning open-world with thrilling and highly-replayable activities. There might just be enough momentum behind this title to keep you gliding downhill for years to come.

It’s been quite some time since an extreme sports game held my attention like Riders Republic. Long gone are the days where a fresh Tony Hawk’s sequel or SSX entry would have us glued to the screens trying to set a new combo or beat the time of a previous run. 

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While the gaming industry has obviously evolved a great deal since those early 2000s glory days, mostly leaving the genre behind in recent generations, Ubisoft has managed to tap into that familiar energy here with Riders Republic. Only, this new take expands the vision to a sprawling online experience and does so with more flair than any attempt before it.

Whether you’re rushing down a snow-covered mountainside with 50 rivals at your heels or flipping through the skies on your BMX in a trick showdown, it’s impossible not to feel a similar rush of adrenaline that made those earlier inspirations so iconic.

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With hundreds of activities to clear, a wide array of equipment and vehicles to master, and a genuinely impressive open-world to boot, Riders Republic is a fun ride that’s seemingly only just at the starting line.

Riders Republic – Key details

  • Price (Standard Edition): $99.95 (AUD) | $59.98 (USD) | £54.99 (GBP)
  • Developer: Ubisoft Annecy
  • Release date: October 28, 2021
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One, Stadia, & PC

Riders Republic trailer

The best open-world game this year

Following a brief set of tutorials to help get your bearings, Riders Republic quickly lets you loose in its enormous open world. What you choose to do, where you choose to do it, and who you choose to do it with, are entirely up to you.

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Freedom is paramount as Ubisoft takes its hands off the wheel, so to speak, and gives you a diverse playground to run amok in. There’s a set of structured campaigns for each form of transportation, dozens of unique races and trick competitions are littered across each region, hundreds of collectibles and quirky side missions are hidden throughout, and each bit of content comes with multiple reasons to play it again.

While you can just focus on placing first in each activity, there’s far more to keep you going than a spot on the podium. Whether it’s ramping the difficulty up for some more XP, or tracking a specific challenge for bonus stars, completionists certainly have their hands full in Riders Republic.

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But if none of that appeals to you, that’s more than fine as well. After the intro sequence, you could technically never participate in another structured event again. If all you want is to cruise through the land at your own pace with a few friends at your side, discovering your own lines, crafting your own makeshift competitions, and just taking in the sights, Riders Republic fully embraces and supports that style of play as well. 

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Riders Republic gameplayUbisoft
Riders Republic’s many diverse regions are filled with dozens of uniquely exciting challenges.

Perhaps the most surprising feature packed into Ubisoft’s latest open-world is its map. Simply put, the technological achievement on display with Riders Republic’s map is one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in a game this year.

At a glance with the 2D setting enabled, it’s just a simple overhead look at the map with dozens of icons and landmarks scattered throughout. Not unlike any other map you’d see in a typical Ubisoft release. 

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But switching to the 3D setting reveals something quite astonishing. Not only can you fly through the entire map without restrictions, but it’s a live, active version of the map updating in real-time. Every single player in your instance, no matter how far they might be from your current location, can be tracked with remarkable detail. Zooming in on this 3D model lets you watch races from a new perspective and even view trick animations along the way.

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It’s a ridiculous level of detail and something I’ve never seen done with this level of accuracy in an online title. The technology feels like a huge leap forward and not something you’d expect to see first in a sports game. Here’s hoping this translates across to any open-world multiplayer offering from Ubisoft moving forward.

Combined with lightning-quick fast-travel speeds, Riders Republic may just have the most seamless and lively open world I’ve ever seen in a multiplayer game. At least on PS5, there was no loading time whatsoever following the initial boot-up. You can effortlessly teleport from one corner of the giant map to another, with local assets and players all appearing in the blink of an eye.

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This keeps the experience flowing, allowing you to focus on what’s next and immediately get another fix of high-octane thrills if you so choose. There’s nothing in the way and no barriers that may have you rolling your eyes after 15 or so hours like in other open-world experiences.

A genuinely fun time

There’s clearly a lot to keep you busy in Riders Republic, but the sheer substance wouldn’t equate to a good game if it was all mindless tedium. Fortunately, every unique track, the countless secrets hidden away, and all the wacky side content you’ll experience in this game is of great quality.

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Races are a good time whether you’re blitzing down a fairly simple track or timing every movement with the utmost precision along a difficult line. Trick battles are a neat way to mix things up and while the initial control system won’t keep you engaged for long, manually timing tricks, completing rotations, and executing your landings is an awesome feeling.

Riders Republic gameplayUbisoft
The map in Riders Republic is enormous. You won’t be running out of things to do anytime soon.

Though the absolute highlight with Riders Republic are the Mass Races. These appear at random intervals but when they do, every player in the lobby is alerted and encouraged to jump in. As a result, you get hundreds of eager competitors all flocking to one singular spot with their best gear at the ready.

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Upwards of 50 players are loaded into each instance and it’s in these overly chaotic activities where the game shines brightest. Mass Races are essentially extreme triathlons. You may start on your BMX but in the blink of an eye the track might transition to some icy terrain, forcing a swap to your snowboard instead. 

Throwing yourself through each marker as fast as possible, all while cycling through various pieces of equipment on the fly, feels like a true challenge for every player. Your skills are put to the test across the board making victory – or even just reaching the finish line – all the more sweet.

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While player collision and visibility are certainly problematic in these giant competitions, this can all be tweaked over time as Riders Republic continues to find its footing. Out of the box, these are certainly issues, but they won’t outright ruin your experience.

Riders Republic gameplayUbisoft
Mass Races are some of the most fun I’ve had in an online game this year.

One of the other downsides at this point in time is the progression system in Riders Republic. It’s nothing too outrageous for now, but it certainly could become a big issue over the coming weeks. Upon completing activities, earning XP, and leveling up, you’re handed new equipment along the way.

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New bikes, new snowboards, you name it. Rather than providing different stats, or just a unique appearance, however, these unlocks are almost always an outright improvement on your current set. 

On paper, if everyone in a race is of equal skill, this means you could be losing purely because someone else has unlocked a better ride.

Moreover, if you’re trying to beat the clock on an extremely challenging time trial, gear can be a huge setback. You might physically master the course, have every twist and turn down to muscle memory with no improvements left to shave extra seconds off, but it still won’t be enough. Without top-tier equipment, some challenges just require you to come back later, which can obviously be quite demoralizing.

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Being an evolving platform, with new seasons and major updates already locked in for year one, this progression could mean new gear follows the same pattern.

You may have to play the latest premium content and unlock the newest equipment just to keep up in standard activities across the base game. We’ll just have to wait and see how this all pans out when upcoming content rolls into effect.

Riders Republic gameplayUbisoft
Leveling up lands you a new piece of equipment that’s typically an instant upgrade to your current gear.

The value out of the box in Riders Republic is immense. There’s plenty to keep you occupied and with a stacked post-launch roadmap, it seems like there’s always going to be something fresh on the horizon. It’s a great thing then, that every bit of content in the sprawling open sandbox has been an absolute treat thus far.

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With such an incredible amount packed into the base game, it’s a testament to the dev team that none of it ever felt repetitive or became tedious.

Each new track is just as thrilling as the last, and every challenge is just as addicting as the one before. If you hop into Riders Republic expecting a quick session, you’ll need to be wary of the hours just flying by as you get lost in the playground.

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No matter what you have your sights set on, be it a casual, aimless session with friends, or a dedicated grind through a mapped-out campaign, Riders Republic is just a blast. Ubisoft’s new action sports game is the most thrilling the genre has seen in years and we don’t see Riders Republic pumping the brakes anytime soon.

Reviewed on PS5.

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