The real-world Isle of Man TT event includes the most visceral races on the planet. Rider and machine, a gnat’s whisker away from disaster, flying over a bumpy closed-road route, whipping by cottages and defying the laws of physics.
The racing equivalent of bare-knuckle fighting, it’s so hardcore that the orange or blue plastic wrapping around the track-side lamp posts isn’t to provide crash padding for competitors, but instead to help protect the street furniture.
It deserves an equally unique, punishing and brutal video game. With TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge 3, that’s exactly what Milanese studio RaceWard has set out to achieve.
So, when we were able to play an early preview build of the upcoming game recently, were intrigued to see if it had created an authentic experience and were surprised by what we found…
The current state of play
Before we dive into the changes and new features for this new game, one of which was a big surprise to us (more on that later) let’s quickly recap where the TT Isle of Man game series is at.
The Isle of Man TT first ran in 1907 on the Irish Sea island and first received a video game in 1995 by Sega – Manx TT Super Bike. However, things really advanced with the PlayStation 2 title TT Superbikes Real Road Racing in 2005 which recreated the full course and also received two sequels.
We then scream like a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR at 14,000 rpm into 2018 with a rebooted official TT game – the original Ride on the Edge.
Developed by French team Kylotonn, using its proprietary KT Engine technology, it featured the most accurately modelled version of the Snaefell Mountain Course and its surroundings ever.
With the aim of being a simulator, the bike physics were uncompromising. The same was true of the expanded sequel two years later.
The actual event went through turmoil too, cancelled in both 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, now the event is back, alongside a new video game, and this time by the former developers of RiMS Racing, the aforementioned RaceWard. While Ride on the Edge 3 uses the same fundamental technology as the previous two releases, it has a different motorcycle physics system and a feature that’s a shock to the system…
It’s open world
We could sugar-coat this, but instead, we’ll just put it out there. It’s still a serious platform, but TT Isle of Man: Ridge on the Edge 3 is open-world.
Yes, open-world. The Forza Horizon of biking simulators, if you will.
The previous game had an area of fictionalised Ireland but that’s now been jettisoned. In fact, now, there are no locations other than the Isle of Man itself.
However, not only is there the main, laser-scanned, track, but also the interlinking roads. That means that you ride not just around, but through the island.
So, off you go from the start line towards Bray Hill, but then you can turn right at St. John’s and down a different public road. At first, it feels unnatural, like Guy Martin in a leotard.
But, it turns out there’s something calming about being alone on the moors and discovering unknown areas, almost evoking memories of the Manx International Rally. We wanted to explore more, long after our limited-time preview was complete.
If you’d like to learn more about the game’s development, the key decisions and what a bona fide Isle of Man TT competitor thinks about Ride on the Edge 3, then we have a new podcast episode available now via your favourite app.
As you explore you must find challenges, such as time attacks, face-off races and task events – the latter a race with three objectives to meet such as exceeding a set speed or not crashing.
The nature of having over 200km of roads now means that these smaller events take place on parts of the island that you’ve never seen before. As a result, it seems as if there are more route possibilities than in previous Isle of Man games, despite the lack of Irish and British tracks. They are just all set within the confines of one larger location.
It also allows for the recreation of historic tracks, such as St. John’s Course, used between 1907 and 1910 for racing and Clypse Course, used in the 1950s for certain TT categories.
The challenges are optional, but you will earn XP to rank up levels – no doubt unlocking Trophies and Achievements, plus showcasing your ability online – and also, crucially, upgrade points.
These are then used to purchase, yes you guessed it, new parts for your machine, in an interface that looks remarkably similar to that of RiMS Racing’s. However, there are some changes, namely the mini-games used to remove parts are not present.
But, what about the main career? Well, the open world is the main career, however, within it, you can run a Supersport and Superbike season, in one linear progression. These are the orange events on the map, and you don’t have to discover them to progress, fast travel is available or select from within the pause menu.
Simply complete one race after the other, which uses parts of the island, before building up to the main event – the Isle of Man TT.
The ability to run a season for both bike classes simultaneously is possible – after all, many real-world competitors compete in multiple classes during a TT weekend, although it’s a shame that there are just two motorcycle categories this time around.
Your rivals are at least licenced, with representative riders, teams, manufacturers and sponsors from the 2022 event, with a 2023 event update currently slated for later this year in September.
Visceral riding experience
New game, same technology and physics from a different title – so the key element of Ride on the Edge 3, then, is how it feels.
We’re happy to say, a significant step up from 2020’s second title, in our opinion.
The motorcycles have an improved sense of weight, planted to the ground. Granted, hit a kerb at 120mph, and you’re still having a plane crash.
But the prior games had a tendency to make the bike feel unruly, writhing around over small bumps like a bucking bronco.
It made for a tense ride, sure, but was it as realistic as it could be? Perhaps not. It also led to a steep learning curve.
We found this new game to be much more approachable, with three pre-sets for physics difficulty:
For those worried it sounds a bit too hemmed in, fret not. You can tweak each to your own personal recipe, your rival’s abilities remain independent and you can now alter aids such as traction control or the anti-wheelie system on the fly with the directional pad.
When game developers discuss reducing the barriers to entry and making something sound easier, then the hardcore fans can throw a wobbly in the comments section.
But, so far, the realistic physics setting is difficult to master, and rewarding when you do so. It’s just that there are now stabilisers to ease newcomers in.
The main differentiator here is the suspension. It’s more pliant. With the yump-strewn streets ready to catch out the unwary, there’s just a few percentiles greater leeway as impacts are absorbed by the forks.
One element that the RaceWard team has worked hard on is the audio design, visiting the races last year to record the sights and sounds. Ahead of release, playing a pre-launch build, we did note a lack wind noise, which in the second game added to the sense of speed.
You should also know that…
This is an ambitious project. We were expecting a quick polish of the previous instalment, but instead this feels like a new beginning for the series. Yes, it has the number ‘3’ in the name, but it’s best to think of this as something ground-up.
Which, we understand is tricky to get your head around when visually, it looks rather similar to the outgoing title due to its shared technology base. The newer consoles and PC tech help make it a step-forward unquestionably, but you can still see the quirks of the KT Engine.
In addition to the open-world area, new career structure and vastly different physics, there’s a photo mode now plus the ability for it to rain. During the main TT event, it will remain dry to match real life, but in the smaller events and free roaming, it can be wet which makes the island feel like an living, breathing, entity somewhat.
Online multiplayer is present, for up to 10 players, and while not cross-platform, it is at least cross-generational with a free upgrade from older platforms to the current-spec machines. Apart from on the Switch, of course, which we’ve yet to see in action.
Publisher NACON also plans for an esports competition, with the finalists making an in-person showdown at next year’s TT event.
As for your AI-controlled rival’s performance, we’ll await final judgment for a full review closer to launch, similarly with the replication of the big finale and if the career progression lasts the duration. Certainly, all the right ingredients are there to take home the Senior trophy.
TT Isle of Man: Ridge on the Edge 3 will launch on 11th May 2023 for PC (Epic and Steam), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, the aforementioned Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S.