Around the turn of the century, there was a bizarre trend of water-based racing games that seemed mostly to exist because consoles could render actual water, all of a sudden. They were all completely ridiculous and absurdly entertaining, and Riptide GP: Renegade is a throwback to every completely daft one of these games.
Riptide GP: Renegade (PC and PS4, Xbox One and mobile versions August)
If you were a gamer during the late ’90s or early ’00s, you’ll wonder if perhaps this was secretly a remaster of a game you only knew from the cover at EB Games. The game is almost absurdly sunny in tone and style, despite taking place in what seems to be a dystopia where everyone gets around on jet skis thanks to… um, climate change? The game isn’t terribly concerned with plot, let’s put it that way. For a tiny, tiny studio, though, it’s a surprisingly good-looking game, although some animations are a bit stiff, and the music has plenty of chunky guitar riffs and Sandstorm-esque bloops. If they were hoping to evoke a certain era of gaming, they more than pulled it off.
This is the third Riptide GP game, and little seems to have changed; you’re on a jetski, you race around. It’s fun, but it’s not envelope-pushing.
Racing games, especially arcade-style games like this one, live and die on their handling and Vector Unit nailed it. Everything makes sense, the steering feels smooth and fluid, the acceleration is simple, and, most importantly, it’s fun to race. Pulling off stunts is a simple matter of hitting thumbstick combinations, and the game’s mechanic of earning a boost by stunting adds a nice layer of strategy. Learning the more advanced stunts will take a little practice, but the game has a nice, relentless push where you can earn experience points to buy tricks and skills, and cash to upgrade your various racing jets, even if you lose a race.
As you play through career mode on this game, the seams do show a bit. While the tracks are well constructed and fun to whip through, and the multiple types of races vary things up, there’s still only eight tracks. The AI, which can range from soft on you to brutal, doesn’t help. The game also does a poor job of telling you some important data like when you’ve finished a lap that’s crucial to the whole “racing” process.