Game: Riptide GP: Renegade
Release Date: February 24, 2017
Platform: Xbox One, Windows 10 (Also available on PS4, Steam, iOS and Android)
Riptide GP: Renegade is the latest watercraft-based racing game from developer Vector Unit. Vector Unit has found their niche with the racing genre, and it seems to be a comfortable groove for them. Renegade is a ‘back to their roots’ release which harkens back to their popular release Hydro Thunder Hurricane and the two previous Riptide GP games.
Whereas Hydro Thunder Hurricane included jet boats (and a rubber ducky), the Riptide series revolves around personal watercraft called hydrojets (think jet skis on steroids). The move to personal watercraft with prominently visible riders is welcome. It adds a bit of thrill when you pull a risky move knowing that it’s not just a personified boat that’s crashing, it’s a guy!
On top of the features of the prequel, Riptide GP2, Renegade packs in online play and some improved visuals for the Xbox One and Windows 10 versions.
Yes, Riptide GP: Renegade has a story. Does it need a story? No. But it doesn’t get in the way either; you can skip right by if you choose. Some games you play for the story, some games you play for the gameplay. Renegade is in the second category. It can be nice to have a simple story as a “vehicle” to move the game along, so here is the gist.
You are a talented hydrojet racer. Some jerk named Krex is jealous of your skills and baits you into an unsanctioned race. Then he rats you out to the cops. He’s probably just upset that his name sounds like it should be a prescription laxative.
Anyway, after your incarceration, Krex is the king of the racing circuit. It’s time to earn your way back to the top to take him down. As you earn respect from other racers, they will join your crew.
Now that you know your “motivation” for winning these races, let’s talk about the races themselves.
Players pilot vehicles called hydrojets, which are super juiced-up personal watercraft (think jet skis). The goal is to finish the race before the other players. There is a healthy variety of race types including standard races, elimination (don’t be last when the timer runs out), slalom, and stunt. During some of these races the police will try to pull you over. They don’t actually pull you over, they are just a nuisance. They basically become clutter in your way to the finish line, though sometimes they crash pretty hard and that’s amusing.
As you move through the course, you will approach jumps, waves and mounds that give you opportunity to do stunts. The stunts, while looking somewhat cool, exist specifically to give you boost. For every stunt successfully executed you earn boost. Boost makes you go faster. You will need boost to win at the higher levels.
There isn’t much to say about the controls. They are simple and easy to learn. The handling isn’t floaty or loose, which is kind of strange considering it’s a water-based racing game. Rather, it’s “bouncy”. That is, since your hydrojet is always trying to rise to the top of the water, you have a tendency to bounce when landing from larger jumps. Still, the controls are forgiving. The game doesn’t punish you for side-swiping wall at high speeds. If you have never played a water-based racer before, Renegade is a great way to get your feet wet.
I am impressed with the controls across different platforms. Because the Riptide series is mobile-minded, Renegade feels completely natural on a tablet. I tested it on a Surface Pro 2 with the type cover detached. Controls were as you’d expect on a mobile device with a touch screen. The acceleration is automatic and you tilt the tablet to steer. Attach a keyboard, and now you use the arrow keys to control your hydrojet. Plug in a controller and the controls map naturally. I commend Vector Unit for adapting Renegade to so many different control schemes, all in a $10 title.
Riptide GP: Renegade has a pretty standard upgrade path. You win money for finishing races, and you win more for actually winning. Money lets you buy hydrojet improvements like better acceleration, higher top speed, better handling. Along with earning money you also earn experience. Experience accumulates and when you level up, you unlock Skill Points which are used to buy better tricks or passive boosts. Beating a “boss” unlocks their hydrojet and them as a playable character.
If you are losing a lot, it can start to feel like a grind. Fortunately, you earn money even when you lose. This ensures that even mediocre racers can still unlock some higher tier hydrojets.
If you’ve played Riptide GP2, you know what you are getting. Renegade is very much “more of the same, but better”. If you enjoyed Riptide GP2, or even Hydro Thunder, you will almost certainly find something to like about Renegade. Unfortunately, the amount of care that went into Hydro Thunder Hurricane’s level design seems to be missing in the Riptide series. With the exception of a few courses, there is a lack of flair. Hydro Thunder Hurricane has many branching paths that reward exploration by shaving moments off of the race time. Renegade tends to stick to a more obvious route. There are a few of these “shortcuts”, but for the most part they are unnecessary. It’s a little thing, but I feel the level design is missing something.
I like the risk/reward mechanic of needing to pull off tricks to earn boost. It’s not innovative, but it’s well executed.
Riptide GP: Renegade is an Xbox One and Windows 10 Play Anywhere title. That means if you buy it on either platform, you can download it and play it on the other platform too. And your save is cross-compatible. Fallout Shelter employed this and it is a compelling feature. You can play on Xbox One when at home and on a Surface tablet or a laptop while away. It’s a great feature and I’m pleased to see Vector Unit offer it.
In the case of Renegade, since it has online multiplayer, Play Anywhere also means that Xbox One players and Windows 10 players are all in the same pool. A larger player base is better for the players. More players means an easier time finding a game. The line between PC and Console is getting a little blurrier.
You can’t judge Riptide GP: Renegade too harshly in the visual department. It’s a 10 dollar game and made with mobile in mind. Plus, the Xbox One version is less than 500MB, which is refreshing. Not every game needs to be a 50 Gig download. Regardless, Renegade brings some of the best looking water to Xbox One and runs at a smooth 60 frames per second (the Windows 10 version will depend on your system specs). There is a nice effect of water getting on the “camera” and it runs in streaks like on a car windshield.
For reference, I fired up Riptide GP2 on Xbox One. Vector Unit has brought the Riptide series up a couple of notches with Renegade.
There are some cool touches to the environments that are worth noting, little animated sequences that give a little life to the course. A tree falling as you approach, a spinning turbine as you drive through. These additions help give the levels some character. A level late in the game has massive jumps and multiple elevations, making it worth going through the career mode just to play it.
As a musician and producer, sound is one of my favorite things to listen to and critique. On mobile, I play most games with the sound completely off. On my Xbox One, I play with a surround sound gaming headset. Being that Renegade has its roots in mobile, I expected the sound to be forgettable. Yet there is a lot going on in the soundscape that I found immersive. You can hear each hydrojet and its interaction with the water, the police sirens, the machinery in the levels, etc. One level has you racing past warships firing cannons. It sounded fantastic and intense.
While I enjoyed the sound effects, they seem to be in stereo but not surround. That is just my ear, I haven’t verified that.
The music in GP2 was a guilty pleasure of mine. I find myself nodding to the grooves just the same in Renegade. It’s mostly electronic, all upbeat jams designed to make your blood pump. Some people will probably mute the music first thing. I like it and think it fits the rest of the vibe nicely.
At 10 dollars, Riptide GP: Renegade is a simple purchase decision. It basically comes down to, “do you like arcade (not sim) racers in the water?”. If you liked GP2 or the Hydro Thunder series, you will probably like Renegade. If you haven’t played either of those but you like cart racers, Renegade plays well with others. With support for up to 6 player split screen and 8 player online, there is plenty to do after you’ve worked through the career mode.
God bless and game on!
Vector Unit provided a review copy of Riptide GP: Renegade in exchange for my thoughts.