Don't play on Easy mode!But despite that drawback, there are some obvious benefits. You can ride any bike on any track at any given hour or season without fearing death. Maybe I'm just getting old and feeling an increased sense of responsibility. Or things are becoming increasingly hectic on public roads every day. All I know is that I was happy to learn that I would get to test Milestone's newest title: Ride 5.
While MotoGP 23 is nicely put together, deep down, I wanted to return to the Ride series. I've mastered Ride 3, where I was close to breaking the six-minute barrier on the Nordschleife with a race-spec BMW S1000RR. But somehow, I never got around to playing the fourth installment of the series. Eager to get going, I skipped over all the intros and settings and went straight for some action.
I quickly realized the same thing as with MotoGP 23. It's not worth playing on Easy Mode. Open up YouTube and look at someone else riding bikes instead. As I deactivated all the silly rider aids, I feared the worst. Was I about to crash multiple times, just like with MotoGP? Ride 5 feels more user-friendly, and I can navigate through the corners without feeling the urge to throw my controller at the TV screen.
The excellency of every art is its intensityMilestone would probably be better off creating a game with street bikes and MotoGP bikes inside instead of developing separate titles, but that's just my perception. From the get-go, the riding experience feels quite intense, and you almost be tempted to ignore how beautiful and detailed the world around you is. I was thrilled that the game provides "an on-spot photographer" for each race.
That way, you can skip photo mode and browse through a selection of shots at the end of each event. If you have a keen eye for photography and have seen pros do it before, you won't be stunned by the results, but it's still an excellent feature to have. I was also happy to see images from cities around each track where you're about to compete, which is an almost educational game component.
The intro shot outside of a fictional garage with the bike loaded on the trailer tends to become boring after a while, though. I wish game developers would find a way to mix things up occasionally, but that would probably complicate things beyond reason. I soon found myself riding a Honda CBR600, and the same feeling returned: Ride 5 provides an intense gaming experience!
Forget about Fast CharlieThe bike acts crazy under certain circumstances, and I can see that this was an attempt to mimic real-life behavior, but it almost feels like a glitch. I have mixed feelings about the exhaust note: it sometimes feels fantastic, but there's so much more nuance to it in real life. I wonder if game developers will ever be able to capture the way a motorcycle sounds and replicate that for their products.
Playing Ride 3, I often felt that there was no real sense of speed. Even doing over 200 mph (320 kph) down the main straight didn't feel intense. But Ride 5 is impressive from that perspective, and I soon realized that mastering this game will require time and effort. For starters, there are over 230 motorcycles included, but there's a good chance that number will rise to just under 300 with upcoming DLCs.
Still, it's sad that many touring and naked bikes are missing, at least for now. Also, can someone please acknowledge how unique the Crighton Rotary CR700W motorcycle is and add it to the game soon? Any other old rotary-powered bike would be great, but including Brian Crighton's newest creation will be unique.
It's almost as good as the real thingI've never raced this circuit on two wheels before, and I'll repeat the experience more often than not. I had trouble finding the "tuning corner" in the game, but I finally upgraded my old S1000RR to make it even faster. If you feel like turning up the heat, switch to the POV camera and deactivate all the remaining rider electronics: anti-wheelie, traction control, and ABS.
Sure, there aren't any G-forces involved, and there's no risk of dying, but the gaming experience is almost as good as the real thing. And I was pleasantly surprised to enter an endurance race. While running towards your bike is an automated sequence, you must pay attention to fuel and tire management!
I found myself going a bit over the edge while racing my competitors, only to discover I was quickly running out of fuel. The AI planned to run the full 20 minutes with no pitstop, but that wasn't an option for me. These minor tweaks have made the endurance mode a lot more exciting than it was back in Ride 3, and I'll have to play more to discover whether it becomes boring or not.
There's a long list of bikes to choose from, but I wish there were more tracks, too. The only thing that would make the Ride series perfect would be an open-world setting like you have in the Grand Theft Auto series. That's one, and having modding capabilities like Assetto Corsa would be second. Even so, Ride 5 will keep you busy for at least a few months, while hardcore enthusiasts could keep at it for a few years. One thing's for sure: this title gets my vote for the best racing game of 2023!