Riders Republic is one of my biggest surprises of 2021, and after roughly five hours of hands-on time with the game, it’s easily one of my most anticipated Fall releases. If this game wasn’t previously on your radar by chance, let me get you up to speed. Riders Republic is self-described as a massively multiplayer playground. This sports adventure title features a giant open world that is fully explorable by bikes, skis, snowboards, rocket wingsuits, paragliders, and more. You can group up with friends to compete in downhill races, freestyle trick events, team battles, and cross-country endurance tests that combine multiple playstyles.
Sports games are nothing without game feel, that tactile sensation that provides in-game feedback in response to player action, and Ubisoft nails it. Your vision blurs at high speeds, the camera shakes naturally with every jump, colors desaturate when you’ve sustained a rough landing, and controller vibrations make drifting into tight curves feel amazing. Even when hazards like rocks and trees are whizzing by at breakneck speeds, the game’s controls remain precise; if you do wipe out at a crucial moment, the Backtrack system allows you to rewind to a previous position and get back in action.
While I’m usually not a huge fan of Ubisoft’s open worlds, the company’s commitment to crafting massive levels pays off here, as the game’s multitude of landscapes is a joy to investigate. The Riders Republic map amalgams iconic U.S. geography, including Mammoth Mountain, Grand Teton, Bryce Canyon, Yosemite Valley, Sequoia Park, and Zion National Park. Whether by mountain bike, paraglider, or backcountry ski, you can explore these massive areas in any way you like; and while its NPCs may gently guide you towards nearby activities that will net you new gear and unique cosmetics, the game mostly gets out of your way and lets you enjoy your time traversing its peaks and valleys. I love scouting steep trails from the air with the Rocket Wingsuit and then landing and riding downhill while soaking in the sights in the first-person mode.
Riders Republic offers various races and freestyle exhibitions, but none of those activities provide as much spectacle as the game’s Mass Races. Players can join these massive multiplayer events by visiting Riders Ridge, the in-game social hub, a few times per hour. These three-round races are absolute chaos, featuring up to 64 players depending on which system you’re playing on, and require players to switch between different traversal modes throughout each leg. One race starts on a downhill trail of dizzying turns, transitions into a rocket-powered ski section through a heavily wooded ravine, and finally requires players to race through the skies to the finish line. While they aren’t the most dignified form of competition, Mass Races provide a level of crazy fun reminiscent of last year’s Fall Guys.
I was initially hesitant to get my hopes up for a new sports game following the company’s lackluster release of Steep in 2016; but after playing the game for myself, I’m confident that Ubisoft has a hit on its hands. While aspects of the game still need some fine-tuning – grinding on rails feels a bit floaty and lacks a balancing mechanic – I can’t stop thinking about Riders Republic. Regardless of how you explore its topography, this is an extreme sports game for anyone, thanks to its abundance of playstyles and progression systems. Ubisoft is taking a leap of faith by doubling down on the extreme sports genre, and to my pleasant surprise, Riders Republic sticks the landing.
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