Before going into Ride 'em Low, you must realize and accept that it is a low budget niche title. The production values are very low, and the mechanics are quite limited for a racing/driving game. Being a fan of racing games and having grown up in a city where modified cars were a part of its culture, this game quickly caught my attention. Sadly, it did not fully satisfy my expectations. The pleasant surprise arrived when I noticed the many parallels to the Street Rod 1 and Street Rod 2 DOS games I played many hours as a kid. The premise and mechanics are very similar, and all three games also share similar problems and limitations. You start the game with a lump sum of cash, head over to the car dealer, and buy a classic muscle car of your choice. From there, you will begin racing other drivers and then modifying your vehicle with your race earnings. You will also be able to gain respect points with each race win. On the other hand, races that are lost will decrease your respect points and decrease your savings. I have found little to no value of having any amount of respect. What matters most in Ride 'em Low is money. It will get you part upgrades, new cars, cosmetic changes, and best of all, it will move you up the drivers' ranking. The game relies heavily on your income while driving skills have nearly zero impact on the outcome of races, unless you are competing in the top ten. In addition, car part upgrades do not scale well at all in comparison to your direct competitors in the driver ranking. Because of these flaws, progression in Ride 'em Low means you will be forced to grind wins for money against lower ranked drivers with much inferior cars in comparison to yours. After a few hours of grinding, the game suddenly clicks together, and you will be progressing through the ranks and acquiring upgrades enjoyably. After much racing and climbing up the ranks, you will quickly realize that maxing out all available upgrades for your current car are not enough, and you must purchase a better automobile. The feeling of improvement as you buy new parts or upgrade your existing ones is satisfying. There are even subtle audio differences depending on what parts you have equipped. Edging out an opponent for a win that you have lost to previously is quite fun and rewarding. As I mentioned before, winning races has very little to do with your gained skills as a driver, but everything to do with how expensive and powerful your vehicle has become through part upgrades. With that said, there is some minor experimenting with tweaking your car's gear differential in order to achieve better overall performance. As you calibrate this, you will be able to go on test drives and find out how well the changes have impacted the car's acceleration. This can be fun after each major upgrade, and depending on the parts, differential configurations do make a difference in beating an opponent in certain events. Which introduces another major flaw in the game. There is a severe lack of tracks to race on. Even though there are four different race modes, each utilizing alternate track variations, they are far from exciting, and do not feel like an actual event. There aren't any city drivers around, ever. If the developers had added city drivers throughout the tracks and some interaction with the police, the game would have been so much better. This goes in line with the rest of the game's lack of polish and content. It's also very clear that there is much to be desired graphically. The car models have had the most attention, while the tracks and other objects around them have low resolutions and look like they are about fifteen years out of date. Competing against your opponents as you go up to the number one rank can be fun, but not in all race modes. Strangely enough, drag racing is the race mode I prefer to take part in. It's fast, satisfying, and puts your parts tweaking to the test in their purest of forms. There are three other longer race modes around very bland and uninteresting tracks, but I resentfully participated in them. The cars available to the players are all very large and heavy beasts of classic machinery. They handle, feel, and move like massively heavy boats on quicksand, and racing them around tight corners and chicanes is not fun in any way. The car physics while racing are decent, but the weight and feel of the cars as you turn are not fitting to how they should handle and perform after being fine tuned with expensive, maximum performance parts and engines. In Ride 'em Low the only simulation aspect is left to car part modification and upgrades. I have hit a solid cement wall going over 215 miles per hour a few times, backed up, and continued on the race without any problems. I have also been involved in or witnessed some extremely unrealistic but funny crashes, only to see the cars land back on the road and continue driving to win the race. Going back to the game not requiring very much of your driver skills and track experience, the true opponent challenges will only exist when you reach each of the events' top ten driver ranking. Then, the developers opted to provide you with some artificial difficulty, as many of your opponents will be driving the exact same or inferior cars and go much faster than you, even if your top of the line car has maximum upgrades and the absolute best parts. There is also some senseless performance instability coming from your opponents. Sometimes you will have to drive the same challenger more than once, and their performance will become better or worse, seemingly at random even though they are the same driver with the same car as before. The uninspired tracks also suffer from some bugs. Sometimes your car will be stuck to a light post or even a sidewalk. The only way to continue is to go to the menu and restart the race. The game client itself also has some awful problems regarding the occasional crash and the operating system's sound. After each time I play Ride 'em Low, it causes severe issues with the system sound, completely muting most of the channels, in addition to producing some very strange noises during gameplay. The only way to get the system's sound back to normal is to restart Windows. This is clearly an issue tied to Ride 'em Low alone, as I have not experienced anything like it from any other game or software. Besides the main racing events, there is also a hydraulics competition. In this event, there is no racing involved at all. Your task is to equip your vehicle with hydraulic suspensions and perform for a high score. While the idea is novel and there aren't that many games that provide the player with such a genuine lowrider experience, once you do three or four of these, there isn't really a reason to participate again. The main event in the game is truly the actual racing, and your objective is to reach the number one spot in all four racing competitions. There is a surprising amount of fun to be had tuning and racing classic muscle cars, and the game thankfully does not outstay its welcome. If you can ignore and overlook some serious flaws, and if you liked Street Rod 1 and Street Rod 2, then Ride 'em Low is at least worth a try.
Ride 'em Low is okay.