I just couldn't stand it anymore.
That's my short-review of Unbounded.
Is a long-review really necessary? *Sigh*
Well if nothing can be done about it, let's dive in.
I've been a Ridge Racer fan for quite a long time. Aside from Ridge Racer Vita, R: Racing Evolution, and maybe Rave Racer, I've played all the games. I'm extensively familiar with the series, but that's irrelevant. Unbounded is...I don't know what it is. Was it some game Namco bought and then had some RR music and cars included to tie everything together? I don't know. So yeah, if I compare this game to RR, or hell if I so much has even mention that game, then I've lost.
Unbounded takes place in Shatter Bay, where a mysterious group is involved in illegal street racing. Apparently they hate the city almost as much as they hate each other. This is one of those racing games where not only can you obliterate your rivals, but you can also bust through cafes, government buildings, and construction sites for a shortcut. The similarities to Burnout are pretty obvious, though in this game "checking" a rival is a bit more binary.
By catching air, drifting, and/or receiving various in-race awards, the player gets boost. Aside from a temporary increase in speed, anyone you run into during that brief period is going to get wrecked. This is about a 95% chance. If you're grinding next to someone (oh my) and you hit the boost, they're going to turn into flaming wreckage instantly. When not boosting you have a 5% chance of wrecking someone. This is a neat way to reverse all the dirty tricks that can happen in a usual race. Say you're one of two racers making a turn. You're on the outside, and the inside guy is using you as a buffer to avoid hitting the wall. This is a great time to boost because they'll suffer dearly. Also whenever you wreck an opponent, the game auto-corrects your car, so you don't drive into a wall or anything. Exploiting this mechanic can be quite handy.
Your opponents can boost as well, and aside from the red trail there's no obvious indication that they've boosted. Something like a sound effect could have been really useful. As it stands you're better off handling the other racers with kid gloves (especially if they're cheating AI), because they could boost at potentially any moment and take you out. Boosting is also necessary for certain destructable objects. Their usefulness in the actual race varies, and they could just as easily glitch out and cause you to flip over or get turned around. To unlock more races you have to amass a lot of points, destroying stuff is how you get them.
There are no shortage of tracks in this game. That's because they're all created via a track-editor. It's a neat idea but not really fleshed out. Basically each track is divided into sections. Let's say there is a straight-away, a curve to the right, a squiggly line, a hard-angle right, a dip, a long-easy right, a hairpin right, and that's the track. A lot of time in arcade-racers is spent learning the track itself, but with this game it doesn't seem to matter much at all. Instead you familiarize yourself with particular turns (the 1 or 2 difficult ones to be precise). While the track-editor allows further customization by adding objects and other tools, it's not as deep as it could be. Let's call it a limitation of the game-design. It's difficult to create ornate tracks when it's expected that a handful of racers are trying to destroy each other. There are a lot of created tracks floating around, and some are really interesting. Consider spending some time checking things out online.
I don't like the handling. Normally I'd just tack this on to the end of a huge paragraph, but it's the #1 reason why I couldn't take anymore of this game. The main reason I don't like it is because it's inconsistent. With some games drifting has either A) a sizable learning curve, or B) can be picked up in the first few seconds. Both A & B work on their own. Daytona USA** is an A type, while Ridge Racer (I lose!) is a B type. Both games have appropriate learning curves, and mastering them is an exceptional feat despite the wildly different barriers of entry. Unbounded can't be an A type because the tracks aren't nearly as involved and well-designed. There's only so much you can do with such a base-selection of turns. Unbounded isn't a B type either because the cars have more weight, it takes more counter-steering not to lose control, and deciding between what type of brake to use to initiate the drift is more important. Essentially the system just doesn't gel for me, but I guess it doesn't matter.
This game apparently considers good drifting somewhere towards the bottom of "things you should actually be concerned about in a race". In the career mode there are very few time-attack races, and even then they have gimmicks like icons you pick up to freeze the clock. There are drifting events too, but you don't think about applying what you've picked up in an actual race. It's hard to appreciate a good drift in this game, when it's usually more effective to barrel through the opposition with a boost. Sometimes the winner is merely the racer that managed to get away from the chaos. More often than not, driving skill takes a backseat.
Altogether Unbounded just isn't satisfying. It never flicks the "Hell Yeah!" switch in my brain. Quad-kills, surviving a brutally difficult platforming section, or just executing the perfect drift through the hardest turn, these are just some of the many "Hell Yeah!" moments. Unbounded has never in my 7 hours* of play elicited that same response. I do all these supposedly awesome things but it's just not exciting at all.
*Yes I realize that by playing the game for a sizable amount of time, I've opened myself up to comments such as "If you didn't like the game, why'd you play it for that long?" I was ready to quit this game after 2 hours, but that wouldn't be fair would it? Although, I probably should have beat the game, but playing Unbounded for 10+ hours is just too much to ask of me.
**In Daytona USA it's called power-sliding. It's the same but different. DETAILS.