Riders Republic is Ubisoft Annecy’s second attempt at an extreme sports game. Steep, released in 2016, was the first title for the south-eastern France studio situated in the Alps – the game’s open world was initially restricted to the highest mountain range in Europe as well. But the Alps are gone in Riders Republic, and Ubisoft also got rid of the Steep moniker. The option for a brand change signals that the video game giant is hoping for a fresh start after Steep’s mixed reception. It’s expanding beyond winter sports and jumping across the lake, while Riders Republic is nestled between US National Parks that are fused into one giant map. You can go from Yosemite Valley to the Grand Canyon and Mammoth Mountain in a matter of minutes.
While Riders Republic will only take a few months – the release date is October 28 – Ubisoft released an invite-only beta earlier this week that was available for two days. On the face of it, almost nothing is changing under the hood. After all, he has the same developer, many of the same sports, even a legacy control scheme, and Steep’s biggest annoyance is still here. Like its predecessor, Riders Republic is an always online title. This will disconnect you if you step away a bit, forcing you to pick up where you were, pick a quick travel location, and then travel slowly to the starting point of the next race. Because it’s like this? It’s not exactly clear, although Ubisoft seems to be pushing for an open world where you can meet other players in freedom.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The multiplayer activities in Riders Republic are structured anyway – you must go to a specific location in Riders Ridge’s main hub to participate in “Mass Races” involving 32 players on current generation consoles and 64 players on PC and consoles next generation ( PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S / X). Mass races alternate between sports in the middle of the event, using The Crew 2 open world racer style. Or you can open the “Social” tab in the menus where you can create groups of up to six friends and participate Team Modes 6v6 , performing maneuvers and capturing districts. There are free multiplayer events for all for 12 players also in Riders Republic, where you will battle each other in a series of events. And oh, there is full support for crossplay.
Ultimately, what matters is how the game works. Riders Republic’s beta offers access to three main sports: cycling, skiing/snowboarding, and flying in a rocket-wing jumpsuit. Except for the last one, you’ll find yourself walking down the hill. And each type of race is based on checkpoints – and losing them is costly. Riders Republic has a rewind option called “Backtrack”, but it doesn’t work like other racing games like Dirt and Forza Horizon. Here, as you rewind, other players will continue to advance, even when you are playing with other players’ ghost versions. Is it because you are always online? It might be. You can’t rely on backtrack to maximize performance the way I use rewind in Forza, but it makes the transition to PvP easier, I have to admit.
The reason you’ll find yourself using “Backtrack” is because Riders Republic is a high-speed arcade adventure. At some events, my bike or skis reach over 110 km/h – that’s Olympic level for the latter, and beyond Olympic level for the former. I’m not sure the pedals can turn that fast in reality. Riders Republic has arcade controls to go with that too, with my bike’s rear tire skidding crazily as I hit the brake button, reminding me of the madness derived from Need for Speed idiot ‘Heat. It’s crazy that your rider can keep his balance, only unbalanced when you bump into something. Going back is simply pushing a button, you don’t have to manually walk back to the vehicle, don’t worry – this is not Road Rash.
You will also be pushed to “Backtrack” since most races don’t have barricades*. And add to that the fact that you’re crossing all types of terrain during Riders Republic events. If you’re not careful, you’ll get lost easily – this used to happen to me usually because I was trying to maximize my speed with the help of “Boost”, available for cycling and flying the rocket suit. It involves rockets (duh) or superhuman pedaling. To make matters worse, Riders Republic doesn’t always reset you when you go off track, so you could end up wasting a lot of time. But it redefines you in races where you can gain an advantage by skipping control points. I prefer the automated option over the manual, although it’s about choosing between lost time (previous) or moment (later).
* At the same time, some breeds have rigid barriers like wire mesh that you think are destructible but strangely aren’t.
Ubisoft is undoubtedly pushing for a fast-paced Riders Republic because it adds to the fun. But skiing in a massive race with 30 other players online, I felt it was impossible to drive and I never really felt in control. With rocks and trees passing quickly, it was inevitable that I would bump into one every now and then. This similar feeling resurfaced at a special event where Riders Republic stacked two rocket-powered thrusters next to my bike. Sometimes it’s like Forza Horizon’s cross country with a few extra shots of adrenaline.
Fortunately, Riders Republic is not all about speed. There are game modes where it’s all about scoring points – in the beta, snowboarding was the only one. You have to do tricks in the air, grind the rails and land in style to build a high score. Riders Republic offers three control presets: use the buttons (“Racer”), use the right stick (“Trickster”), or use the trigger for throwing and the left stick for maneuvers (“Steep”). The last one is made for Steep fans and veterans, naturally. You can also decide whether you want to automate the landing (easier) or find out yourself (more difficult). Bad landings are more frequent with the latter, but that means higher scores if you can. With “Steep”, you get an assisted landing bonus, but you need to cast tricks to activate the assist.
When you’re not busy racing, you can roam the huge Riders Republic map using whatever gear is available – including just your feet. There is also a Zen Mode to relax, but that wasn’t available in the beta version. You can also spend time in “Creative Mode” making tracks and challenges for other players, which will be voted on by the community and featured in-game. Another way to make noise is to dive into Riders Republic’s photo mode and click on photos that impress others. Photo mode lets you play with filters, depth of field, time of day, solar azimuth and amount of fog, dust, rain, snow and humidity. You can adjust brightness, contrast and saturation. It’s not as extensive as what I’ve seen elsewhere, but it should satisfy casual photographers.
We’ll find out more about Riders Republic when it arrives on October 28th on PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Xbox One and Xbox Series S/X with full cross-platform gaming support. Hopefully it won’t be delayed again. It was initially set to drop in early September, but then, in July, Ubisoft announced that it was delaying nearly two months to give developers more time to refine the experience.