Unbounded is deliberately different from previous Ridge Racers in its' look and feel. Instead of weaving past objects, you're now accelerating through them.
The notion takes a while to properly sink in after being conditioned with more conservative driving in other games, not to mention over fifteen years of Ridge Racer conditioning. In Unbounded, you can't even make it to parts of the track without ploughing through pillars, hot dog stands and other players, all of which add to the all-important boost bar.
With it charged you can make your own shortcuts through office buildings, or collapse bridges on top of pursuers. After a few laps you automatically start scanning the environment in hopes of spotting a new route, or bunched up café chairs and tables.
During the hands-on event we got to drive one game mode (Destruction Race) with three different cars on three tracks. The cars were crudely divided into a trio of categories. American muscle was big on raw horsepower and prone to tail slides. The low curves of the sports car stuck to the pavement and had to be forced into a powerslide. Sitting between the two in terms of cornering was the European four-wheeler.
Be it the Ridge Racer name itself, but most journalists present steered towards the muscle car when asked about their favourite. It gave the longest power slides of the bunch, and even though the length of those fell short of the Ridge Racer standard, there's enough to denote which series this title has spun out from.
The feel of the road and cars soon came a second nature. And while visually exhilarating, the underlying physics make sure the cars act more naturally than in their arcade competitors. That in turn translates into an enjoyable driving experience, were you can predict the use of the handbrake or acceleration coming out of a corner. Crash spectacularily into a wall, it's likely your mistake.
The AI was tough to beat, and didn't shy from ramming opponents against the wall or into a railing. The final version should include several different AI profiles to keep the players' on their toes, though there's some rubber-banding in place to keep things tight on the race track. Shame then the opposition wasn't personalised more in terms of avatars, custom paint jobs and such; there's a battle of wits here that harks back to the one-on-ones with the franchise's Devil car back in the day.
One surprise was the inclusion of City Creator. This easy-to-use track editor allows players to create racers from pre-generated "tiles" in a few minutes. You can mix and match different themes (like Docks and Downtown) freely, with the end result feeling much more natural as a continuous track than just the sum of its parts.Deeper customization was also promised, but the extensiveness remains to be seen.
The brutal feel of the races felt really engaging during the test session. Cars reacted to each other, to the road and environment better than expected of an arcade racer. Destructible environments are spectacular to look at, especially in slow motion. Without more information about the campaign mode the longevity of the title will be put to the test at a later date. But even at its current alpha version Unbounded shows a lot of promise to become one of the best arcade racers around.