Back in the early 2000’s I became enamored with a little game called Wave Race: Blue Storm on the GameCube. It became my entry into a genre of water based racers that unfortunately died a slow death as the years went by. Vector Unit has thankfully been keeping the genre alive since their 2010 release of Hydro Thunder Hurricane, and now they are porting over their latest release to the Switch, 2016’s Riptide GP: Renegade. Will this game make a splash (sorry) or will it sink (sorry again)?
There isn’t much of a story here. You choose a character, and are promptly set up by a competitor and arrested for illegal hydro jet racing. After a two year stint in prison, you are released and set about working your way back into the official GP circuit, strangely enough by building a name and crew through the illegal racing circuit. This seems a little bizarre seeing as you were arrested for illegal hydro jet racing already but hey, the story does manage to get you from race to race which is all it really needs to do.
I hope I don’t get busted for this illegal race…
Riptide GP: Renegade is essentially a futuristic jet ski racing game, where you compete in races to earn money to buy upgrades for your vehicles and level up your racer to unlock new tricks. The controls are tight, which makes it feel great to throw your racer around corners and bounce over waves. Pulling off tricks fills a boost meter, which when activated accelerates you at a faster pace (surprise). Overall it is very simple to learn, and you will be winning races in no time.
Pyta only likes naked party people
There are a few different race modes you must compete in during the career. Race is your standard racing mode, where you try to place against 7 other hydro jet racers. Slalom has you riding alone in a time attack, where you must weave to the left and right of markers strewn throughout the track. Elimination has a 15 second timer tick down, and when it hits zero the racer in last place is eliminated. This happens until there is only one racer left, and was my favorite mode out of all of them.
Then there is the Freestyle mode. In these races, you have one minute to get the highest score you can by doing tricks. This is by far the least fun part of this game. I’ll say it, I hate these stages. They set you off on a section of track, and you can find sometimes that you only come across 6 jumps, which means most of your time is spent racing around a track trying to find the next jump, rather than doing tricks. This would be a lot more fun and make more sense if they set up separate trick arenas, but unfortunately you must endure these annoying races to progress the story and unlock new racers and vehicles.
Surfs up, but enjoyment is down
Weirdly enough, these different game types are not available outside of the career mode, as quick race and multiplayer only have the basic race mode you can compete in. The game is pretty light on features as well, offering you a career mode, quick race, and your local and online multiplayer modes. Luckily there are quite a few tracks, giving you a fair bit of variety there at least.
Another frustration the game has is the presence of police vehicles. You are all conducting in an illegal race, yet the law only seems to care about taking you out. This isn’t fun at all, as you’ll be rammed and harassed by police vehicles endlessly. Some of the races can be hard enough without this “feature” getting in the way of the fun.
A glorious part of the game is the crash animations. Trying to do a trick and not sticking the landing will result in your character rag dolling across the water in spectacular fashion. I couldn’t help but laugh as my racer flailed across the water, sinking helplessly until I reset myself.
The music has a hard edge and futuristic vibe to it, which I thought fit the game nicely and helped accentuate the sense of speed the game presents. The sound is equally good, with the engine noises helping to make you feel you are operating a fast and powerful piece of equipment. As for the graphics, they are ok at best, definitely not the game’s strong point.
She isn’t pretty, but she gets the job done
I did run into some technical issues. On the tracks with intense weather or explosions, the game would slow down considerably, becoming choppier than the seas you race on (sorry). It never becomes unplayable, but it is an annoyance you will have to deal with from time to time.
Despite this game’s flaws, there is certainly enough here for me to recommend this to any high-speed water racer fan. The tight controls, well designed tracks, solid music and amazing crash animations had me smiling. Unfortunately, the Freestyle mode and police vehicles sour the experience considerably, and the performance issues certainly don’t help. Overall Riptide GP: Renegade is a solid racer worth picking up.
A code for the game was supplied for review purposes.