Vector Unit rose to prominence with Hydro Thunder Hurricane on the Xbox 360 and later took what they learned on that game to create their own Riptide series. It dominated mobile charts and gave fans a thrilling on-water racing game anywhere they were, with exceptional controls and easy gamepad support. PC and console versions existed, but didn’t really take full advantage of the hardware. They played better on a native console than a tablet or phone using a gamepad, as playing this kind of game on a TV offers up a better experience, but they didn’t look much better from mobile to console. Riptide GP: Renegade has been developed from the ground up with modern hardware in mind and crafting it with controllers in mind has completely shifted the focus of the core game as well.
Riptide games have featured tricks, but not a huge plethora of them — now you have an encyclopedia’s worth of watercraft tricks at your disposal. Each trick has its little intricacies to it and the tracks are designs with each trick type in mind. Generally speaking, you will have areas to do grind-type tricks — which are few in number and don’t last long, but are low risk. You’re unlikely to fall off your craft doing them, but your boost gains will be minimal. If you want more boost, you’ll have to take chances with mid-air tricks that take more time. Gaining XP enables you to get even crazier tricks — so if you find that you love taking chances, you can just stick to doing big tricks and wind up with things that will fill about half a boost meter with one go. It’s a high risk/high reward setup, but thrilling when it all works out.
The tracks are plentiful and action-packed with their layout. Some are a bit simpler, but you will get some crazy tracks that test you. One of them reminds me of some of the busier F-Zero tracks of all things because of how much is happening at once. You’ll be in a race with thunder and lightning blaring, waves crashing, and still have to content with rivals going after you. There isn’t anything in the way of combat on display, but enemies bumping you in mid-flight will send you flying. Here, being knocked off your craft once will seriously hurt you — so you want to prevent that from happening whenever possible. If it’s the end of a race, your best bet is to just restart. However, if it happens early on, it’s exciting to keep going and seeing how you can rebound — there’s nothing quite like the thrill of victory against all odds and Riptide GP: Renegade executes that well.
Renegade keeps the excellent controls and overall gameplay of the series alive, while adding a slew of new modes. Race-wise, you get traditional races, elimination races, time trials and the like. Wave Race fans are in for a treat though, as there is also a slalom mode that acts exactly like Wave Race 64 and Blue Storm‘s core gameplay. You have to move left and right through bouys and make sure to miss very few — the more you get correctly, and faster you are, the more stars you get. Stars are your gateway to unlocking more content. You’re graded on a scale of one to three stars, with one star finishes getting you some results — but your progress will be slower, while excelling nets you new tracks, and XP for tricks to round out your lineup and maximize boost potential so you aren’t repeating tricks and gaining less boost for each use of it.
Boss battles also stand out quite a bit here. They are something you don’t see often in racing games, and other than Diddy Kong Racing nearly 20 years ago, no game has done them in as memorable a manner as this one. You’ll battle silly things like racing robots who talk smack before the race and then gain them as unlockable characters. Bosses each excel at certain things, so while the default characters can have their skills boosted, they still have a bit of a ceiling to them. Those wanting a higher ceiling on some skillsets should try out some bosses and see if certain characters fit their playing style better.
Visually, Riptide GP: Renegade is easily the best-looking entry in the series to date. The franchise has always been known for pushing mobile hardware and featuring impressive graphics no matter what device you have. My first impression with the series was playing it sideloaded on the OUYA, where it ran like a dream and looked great — with crisp GameCube-esque graphics. Sure, they weren’t cutting edge — but everything looked crisp and pleasing to the eye. The waves in particular looked fantastic, and their physics were on-point. Renegade keeps that alive with an overall boost in visual quality across the board with one notable exception — your failing animations. Flying off your craft due to crashes still looks weird and seems more like an action figure flying off a toy instead of a person flying off something real because there’s no weight to the character. It’s slightly off-putting, but not a huge issue.
While Riptide GP has always delivered the goods when it came to solid graphics and impactful sound effects, its soundtracks left a lot to be desired. Unfortunately, that trend continues with Renegade. The music used throughout most races lacks force and seems far more generic and lifeless than what you would expect a high-octane racing game to use. It’s largely rock, and not particularly memorable in any way. Still, the audio is the game’s only real black mark and the rest of the experience is excellent.
Riptide GP: Renegade improves upon the mobile-centric entries of the series nicely. By adding in more modes, expanding the character progression system and offering up a robust trick system, players wind up with a game they can enjoy for quite some time. Vector Unit has made yet another outstanding aquatic racer and anyone who enjoyed Wave Race or the Hydro Thunder franchise should give it a shot. It’s thrilling, controls like a dream and looks excellent.