All-new motorcycle simulators from fresh studios do not appear very often. Over the past decade, aside from Milestone’s range of ever-present Ride and MotoGP titles, there’s been TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge, TrackDayR, and, well, that’s about it.
Created by the new Milanese team RaceWard Studios, RiMS Racing is here to expand the genre, delivering competition to the long-established outfits.
But, simply being a motorcycle game from a different developer alone is not worthy of conversation. So, RiMS Racing goes to great lengths to differentiate itself. I’m not exaggerating when I say there’s nothing else quite like it.
If variety is the spice of life, then RiMS Racing is the atomic hot wing of the motorcycle game space.
In essence, RiMS Racing is a road motorcycle simulator. The bike handling and braking are authentic, the vehicles are expertly recreated and you predominantly spend your time playing a 70-event long career mode aiming to become the Pro Champion.
However, what makes this release stand out is not just the serious focus of the on-track antics, but the incredible detail off track as well. Each motorbike has over 50 parts that have been modelled and after each event, certain elements will have received wear. It’s up to you to make sure your ride is in tip-top condition at all times, otherwise, performance will suffer.
If that sounds a little weird, that’s because it is.
But hey, in principle, I’m down for that. After all, weird gave us Pablo Picasso, Elton John and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Unlike most racing game reviews, we’ll start with the admin. Upon diving into the career for the first time, you are presented with the task of selecting any one motorcycle from the game. And for free too.
The catch is that there are only eight motorcycles in the game. Eight. Which isn’t a bad thing. No, really, it’s refreshing.
Instead of including a seemingly never-ending list of vehicles that you mostly will not ride, the idea here is to make each the very best possible representation. Quality over quality.
In this respect, RiMS Racing is a triumph. With over 500 licenced parts across the eight bikes, you get to learn which chain manufacturer delivers the best performance, or you can simply select your favourite purveyor of brake fluid, if you do indeed have a favourite.
An Aprilia RSV4 not only looks different to a Suzuki GSXR-1000 but there is also a specific range of parts for each. Adding a new exhaust to your steed makes it sound different, letting the clutch wear out results in slower race starts and worn tyres lead to the front end washing out and your rider eating the asphalt. Each bike handles and stops with a distinct character too.
To switch out parts, you must first buy them from an in-game store, using credits you have earned thanks to successful race results. After removing the old parts through a series of often lengthy quick time events, you can sell them for a paltry return before affixing the fresh upgrades.
At first, this is new and different – how exciting. Until you realise that asset management is boring. Sorry if that’s your career.
After a few races, the upkeep becomes more hectic than drying a Border Collie after a swim. Everything is worn out, you don’t have the requisite funds to fix it all and there’s endless stick twiddling to do.
Thankfully, you also gain resource points, and this can be spent to unlock ‘Fast Mount’ that at least saves you from the attachment process. Once you work your way around the slightly cumbersome shop design and don’t buy parts that don’t work with your motorcycle – ooops – then I suppose, if you’re in the right frame of mind, there’s something calming to part swapping like one of those TV shows where they polish antique furniture.
Perhaps what encapsulates the attention to detail the most is the fairing. Not only does it get dirty after multiple races, but when you fall off – and you will fall off – it is scratched. Those scratches stay there for each subsequent race until to replace the necessary parts.
Even when you do make it onto a circuit, the fastidious nature carries across. Sparks fly from your rider’s knee protection, you can select how many fingers they brake with and they stick their leg out in panic should you leave your braking until the last possible second as the bike squirms around.
The rider animations have evolved significantly from the early build we tested in the preview, with the whole entry phase of a corner much more fluid and reactive. When you watch replays back, movements aren’t perfectly smooth, but they are more grounded in reality than most other bike games.
It’s sad then that it’s here where the positive vibe gets left behind like Valentino Rossi during a race in 2021. It’s painful because you know it could be so much better.
During a race, you can access the Motorbike Status Check (MSC), upon where the option to cycle through various parameters and check wear rates presents itself. Except trying to select the ECU or the tyres is so difficult. The parts are split into two sections, left and right. But pressing right on the D-pad or analogue stick doesn’t move the menu across to the right, but instead down. Sometimes. And other times you press right and it moves left.
Before a race, you can select your tyres. When it rains, you need to choose suitable boots, otherwise, you’ll end up on slicks during a downpour. Except, when I selected a wet rear tyre, my command was ignored. I had to do every wet race with tread upfront and a slick on the rear.
There are bonus objectives to earn extra credits – nice. Except when they don’t make any sense. Here’s one I had: “Mount LIVERY at least 7 time(s) with an equivalent of higher condition value.”
I think it means to change the livery on the bike seven times, but on my BMW – the only motorcycle I had access to at the time – no additional liveries were available…
It’s beset by small inadequacies such as the online multiplayer not being accessible from the headquarters, so I think most players could miss it. The leaderboard for an online challenge doesn’t appear at the end of an event – you have to hunt for it. There’s a man with a beard talking on an invisible phone.
The career is simply one event after another. There’s no gathering event types into areas. Just complete one, enter the next. You can’t skip forward any events either, apart from the very occasional option to have a rest week. So, if the next challenge is an endurance event, tough. You cannot progress any other way, unlike chief rival Ride 4 which does a much better job of spreading out events.
The performance of the game is rough too. In 2021, on a current-generation console, an unstable frame rate isn’t really acceptable. So, when it slows noticeably, it becomes more than a little irksome. Replays are even worse.
The texture pop-in on the million Dollar Highway reminds me of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Both pain points afflicted the game when played on the PC version too – and the Switch release, tellingly, has been delayed at the last minute.
Oh wait, and how could I forget the AI?! Madder than a box of frogs. They will brake in the middle of a corner, wildly over-react when an AI rider crashes, but also ride straight into the back of you. They simply cannot handle Monsanto.
There is zero rhyme or reason to their behaviour, and provided you can navigate past them, you will be mercifully left to your own devices. Jason Statham had a better time taming a megalodon in The Meg than I did trying to overtake my rivals around the Nürburgring.
Finally, there’s the soundtrack by EDM stars The Bloody Beetroots. I like it, I listened to one of their tracks while writing this review – but it’s at odds with the serious simulation tone of the game. Imagine if Calvin Harris performed at a child’s birthday party, it just doesn’t feel right.
There’s real heart in RiMS Racing. RaceWard Studio is clearly filled with talented and passionate individuals who really care about motorcycles. But I can’t help but feel it needs another year in the oven. I hope they don’t get disheartened because the potential is here for a game that is not just different, but enjoyable too.
It’s just that at times, I found it to be gruelling, and for me, that’s not what video games are about.
|Release date||19th August 2021|
|Available platforms||PC (Steam and Epic), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S.|
Nintendo Switch at a later date.
|Version/s tested||PS5 and PC|
|Best played with||Controller|
Full disclosure: A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Here is our review policy.