Racing games can be a bit odd at times. The objective is to go around in laps, but whether they are cars, motorcycles, planes, boats or something else, it's always going to be about the same experience. Powerups, passing, hidden shortcuts, taking out other players, upgrades, or some combination of those. Riptide GP: Renegade does many of those things, but has a few tricks up its sleeve as well.
In the near-future, the most popular form of underground racing is on hydrojets – think motorcycles for water. I was in career mode for a while for the story here, but it basically is the same story as always: you're a new racer who needs to make it up the ladder. Outside of career is better – just racing. There's not much of a story or characters (I honestly can't remember their names), but once the focus is on racing, that's really story enough. It's like saying there's a story at the Indy 500. You need to do well enough to get better rankings.
Playing on Windows, the controls were pretty good. Any controls that make you feel like you're there when you're not are good in my book. It got a little harder at some parts – when I turned, sometimes it would do this weird thing and go from a gentle turn to a sharp turn almost immediately, even though I was barely touching anything. Other things like tricks were also easy to perform, though. Altogether – not bad.
The mechanics and gameplay were also not terrible. Riding on water handles like real water. Some creative game types, like elimination (if you're in last at a certain point in the race, you're out) were included and proved to be mildly addicting. If you've played other racing games, you know what to expect otherwise. But the computer players are unfortunately a killjoy. I get that they need to be good, but I swear these guys cheat. Several times I was going what I thought was the max speed only for them to blaze past, as if they wanted an exciting finish or to win first for some reason. It's almost too good, or at the very least, frustrating. They could have been a little bit above the average, but the computer here makes it too challenging at times for the sake of making it exciting.
The first thing I noticed about the graphics were how dated they were. Some objects were a bit rendered and it felt like I was playing it on a last gen system. It felt like a higher production value version of Daytona USA, but with hydrojets. Some of the settings are similar – one map was literally catching on fire, for example. The tricks also look painfully samey each time, and being thrown off looks laughably fake – your racer never even looks like he's falling off. Both reminded me even more of an arcade game. It felt really weak graphically, which is a shame because some parts, like seeing futuristic traffic floating past above you while racing, felt really cool to be in.
The music in Riptide is this futuristic techno/rock. It's pretty enjoyable, and gets you excited for the races. On most maps it sets the tone, and on every map it makes you want to race. The sounds are good as well; the roar of the hydrojets is pretty good. Some nice effects, like the hollower sounds they make going through a tunnel, add a smack of realism. I don't like the computer pings on things like “hacking” course shortcuts because it feels extremely dated, but in the actual race, sounds are great. Nothing wrong at all here.
Finally there are some other problems in-game. I mentioned the AI being a bastard at times, but it's a bit deeper than that too. When you hit the water, sometimes the water fails to acknowledge it and stays still with no splash. When you reset on the map you pulse for a few seconds – but when another player passed through me as soon as I lost my respawn invincibility, I clipped out next to the player right off course in a split. Some maps also had effects placed incorrectly – like fire clearly burning with nothing underneath it at certain points.
Riptide GP: Renegade should have been a straight to arcade game. It has the lesser graphics, the nice control handling, the music/sounds and works best in a straight race. On Windows, it's just a sub-par racing game. It has a lot going for it, but also a lot against it. If you like racing games and and can stand last-gen graphics, you'll find plenty to like. It's a bit customizable, and again, the control handling is great. But overall it felt like it should have come out in an arcade. That's where all of its strengths shone best – as if it was there.
Final Score: 7 out of 10
A copy of this game software was provided for the purpose of review.