Futuristic and illegal Jet Ski racing at it's finest
The Jet Ski racing genre isn't exactly the most flourishing style of video games nowadays. It seems that racing Jet Skis is - for the most part - a relic of the past. However, back in the 90s there really was no cooler way to ride the waves, and this was well represented in video game form most notably by the Wave Race franchise. Fortunately, there may be hope for a resurgence as Developer Vector Unit now brings us Riptide GP Renegade, a Jet Ski racing game set in the future. So how does it deliver?
From the beginning you’ll immediately be placed in a race, acting as both a quick tutorial and setup for the story. You see, in the future where everything is flooded and robots and humans race Jet Ski s throughout the city, the police (who also use Jet Skis) still have a big priority to stop these wringing-wet ruffians at all costs. And to top it off, apparently some jerk set you up on some sort of a "sting" race, and you are put in prison for 2 years. But the water in your blood still runs thick, for the moment you are released you get right back on that Jet Ski and continue to ride rebelliously.
The Jet Ski feels great to maneuver throughout each level. When hitting every wave and crest the water physics will dip and plunge you all around, giving a very real sensation that you are actually driving a Jet Ski Ramps are placed l over the maps and give you the opportunity to pull off radical moves while racing your way to the goal (or escaping the futuristic water police). Every time a trick is successfully landed a little bit of boost goes into the boost meter, so it's very important to be "far out" as much as possible - for it could be the deciding factor between winning and losing.
The main campaign is called Career, and has a simple mission-based setup to play through. Every world (or cup) has around 4 levels, each with different styles of missions to complete. When finishing a round you are ranked up to 3 stars and awarded some cold hard cash to spend upgrading your ride. "Races" are exactly what you'd expect, trying to place 1st against 7 others. "Elimination" is an alternate take on the Race mode, as every few seconds the player in last place is eliminated from the round. "Freestyle" is where you have to use your different tricks to get as many points as you can in a certain time limit, so spamming the same trick won't work here if you want to get a 3 star rating.
As previously mentioned, the whole game takes place in a futuristic city that's been flooded. While cruising through the streets you'll see abandoned cars below you and city buses eroded into the hills, all while dodging street lamps and buildings. The levels really do look great and are varied up enough to keep the momentum going, but also have some tricky parts to pass through as well to keep things interesting and difficult. Sometimes you'll be swimming through thunder storms with gigantic waves to surmount. Another time the cops were chasing me and my fellow Jet Ski delinquents as battleships were attacking the very same city we were racing through, making for quite the exciting and daring experience indeed.
Riptide GP Renegade runs well on the Switch, that is if you're playing in docked mode. When playing handheld however the frame rate drops consistently, and can be a little annoying to play when trying to get 1st place. Even though some slowdown occurs, it doesn't completely ruin the experience when playing on the go, and some levels do handle better than others.
The upgrade system is very well executed, and you're gonna need to use it as the overall difficulty is pretty intense from the get-go (this can be changed set to Easy, Normal or Hard in the settings). As you earn XP from each race you progressively level up, earning BP that can buy you new moves and upgrades to your Jet Ski . This made me want to replay levels to not only get more familiar with each map, but also level up my player so I could actually have a better performing vehicle. The new tricks you can purchase also help during the "Freestyle" segments by giving you more options and higher scoring moves.
Included alongside the Career and Online modes is also a local up to 4 person Multiplayer split screen mode. As you can imagine, the Switch's detachable Joy-Con ability can come in quite handy for an on-the-go multiplayer session. Fortunately the developers made the split screen horizontal, making the playing field peripheral easy to see and enjoyable to play on. Surprisingly we didn't encounter much lag or frame rate drops while playing locally. Unfortunately during pre-release we weren't able to find any matches to play online, but we will update this review post release to make sure everything checks out.
Overall Riptide GP Renegade provides a nice experience on the Switch. The XP and BP upgrade system provides a great amount of replayability, while the online and local split screen multiplayer means you can always play with other people whenever and wherever. Be warned though - the choppy frame rate in handheld mode can be a damper on the overall fluid dynamic, so you may want to plan on playing this docked. Otherwise, if you're a fan of Wave Race or racing games in general Riptide GP Renegade would be a great addition to your Switch library.