Riders Republic review for PS5, Xbox Series X, PC

Platform: PS5
Also On: Xbox Series X, PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Annecy
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: Multi
Online: Yes

I have no lack of experience with Ubisoft’s brand of online sandbox titles (and their open world-style games in general), and have put in enough time and effort to acquire Platinum Trophies for both Steep and The Crew over the past few years. So obviously the reveal of Riders Republic piqued my interest quite a bit, especially with the promise of multiple sport types, a plethora of diverse environments and events, and the promise of 50 player live activities. Now that it’s here and I’ve had the chance to put in dozens of hours across the beta, Trial Week and the retail product, I have some final thoughts on the experience.

“Final” for an ever-evolving live, open world sandbox game is relative of course. The product we have right now at launch may differ from the product we will be playing in subsequent seasons — for better or for worse.  Riders Republic thankfully feels fairly complete in this launch version and being delayed a bit probably didn’t hurt it at all.  The content roadmap has a couple of interesting things in the works including a whole new BMX sport add-on, themed seasons and no doubt some additional licensed events. So in that respect I’m pretty happy with the amount of things to see and do in the game “at launch”.

The aspect that pulls Riders Republic together is certainly the social, sports and music festival atmosphere.  Steep tried it to an extent, though here it’s a lot more “XTREME!” almost bordering on a cringe-inducing at first, although it’s definitely more self-aware than it seems initially and leans into it as more tongue-in-cheek than seriously. So needless to say there’s a goofy cast of characters, some silly and impractical costumes, “Funkie” style sports equipment, and a few very unrealistic events, challenges and courses, but it somehow all works.

The social aspect of Riders Republic is an extremely important part of the package as well, and as I referred to in my Trial Week impressions, you always feel as though you’re interacting with others while participating in events or even just exploring.   The map shows icons of both live players and AI players and no matter what activity you’re involved in there seems to be players doing their own thing and keeping busy.  Even solo events appear to have a mixture of AI and ghost efforts of live players seamlessly blended together, either as part of the actual sport/event or just populating the world around you.  It’s a neat effect regardless and keeps the experience fun and lively.

By default the game supports online cross play with other platforms and it makes a huge difference in the amount of other live players you’ll bump into.  This affects matchmaking as well for competitive free-for-all races, co-op tricks battles and especially the 50 player Mass Race events which pop up every 30 mins or so.

The sports in Riders Republic are broken into biking, wingsuit and snow categories, with various variations of each all of which take place throughout the US national parks.  Biking, which is a sport I’m most into in real life, covers on and off-road racing, downhill and a couple of stunt and trick-based events across many surfaces and environments.  “Road racing” in the game is more multi-surface cyclocross and trail racing but that’s me just being picky.  Skiing/snowboarding also touches on some familiar events including downhill racing, deep snow and trick.    Wingsuit/rocket wingsuit events are generally air races or proximity and points-based gliding events which reward players for skimming close to the ground or perilously close to obstacles and trees before reaching a finish line or time limit.   My personal favorite activities involve all 3 disciplines in sequence and there are more than a few of them accessible at a given time — including the insane and chaotic Mass Race events. Seriously, 50 players lined up on a bike or snowboards/skis all heading down a hill together at the same time is a crazy, but usually very fun mess.

Riders Republic really does a nice job seamlessly mixing together career progression with just free roaming side events and open world exploration.  Pretty much any activity a player participates in will earn them XP, bucks and/or stars, and usually a reward of some type: better gear, cosmetics and access to special events such as the Red Bull Rampage or X Games, etc.  Like any modern live, season-based massively multiplayer online type game there are daily/weekly/seasonal side-tasks you can optionally pick up and work towards completing, in this case the ShackDaddy Bandits or sponsor-specific challenges with can unlock unique rewards and additional bucks, stars, XP and more.

While Riders Republic doesn’t have perfectly geographically accurate versions of Bryce Canyon, Yosemite Valley, Sequoia, Zion, Canyonlands, Mammoth Mountain and Grand Teton national parks, Ubisoft have somehow mashed them up in such a way where they feel like they are part of a giant contiguous playground of extreme sports activities. Activities which can take place in/on/over snow, desert, lush (and unfortunately also burned out) forests, canyons, mountains, grasslands, rivers and many, many recognizable and discoverable landmarks. There’s definitely enough diverse, gorgeous biomes to provide for some fantastic visuals especially with time of day and weather effects happening and super long draw distances. Having only played on the PS5 it’s easy to take lightning quick load times and the nearly solid 60fps framerate for granted even though they both add a lot to the overall player experience.

The gameplay in Riders Republic caters to casual players and the more advanced by offering a couple of control schemes and options, which do affect progression a bit, but makes the game much more accessible. Those who want to manually perform advanced tricks and have full control of flips, rotations and landings will earn more XP compared to players utilizing the auto-landing option and simplified trick system, for example. Either way the gameplay controls are fine tuned and more polished as compared to Steep and it’s fairly easy to keep in control of the bikes, skis/snowboards and wingsuits. I found obstacle hit detection to be a tad more lenient too which comes into play during fast paced and multiplayer events through dense environments and other players. For those who want to take it really casual there’s a Zen mode which just turns everything down and allows players to just enjoy the environments with little to no distractions using sports equipment/vehicles of their choice.

Riders Republic definitely does check most of the boxes for what I would like to see in an open world extreme sports title. My only real criticism is that with all the variety of sports, events, equipment and environments, it still starts to feel a bit repetitive after reaching a certain level. The Big/Boss and Sponsor events help to overcome that to an extent and I’m hoping the addition of new sports, fresh live events, and themed seasonal/limited events will as well when they roll out in the future. For now, Riders Republic is a super fun pick up and play multiplayer outdoor sports experience with plenty to see and do right out of the box.

Note: Ubisoft provided us with a Riders Republic PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: A-