Wait, what!? When did Ridge Racer Unbounded start looking amazing?

When Ridge Racer Unbounded was announced last year, the general impression was that of confusion with a touch of disdain.  What is this thing with the Ridge Racer name trying so hard to be Burnout?  The destruction looked nice, but Ridge Racer is about chaos and explosions in the same way Quake is about stealth kills.  And then the game went quiet for a long, long time.

Now Unbounded is nearing release (which, seeing as I’d forgotten the game existed until today, came as a bit of a surprise) and all of a sudden it’s looking fantastic.  In addition to being a fusion of Burnout and Ridge Racer, it seems to have nabbed Trackmania’s course editor on the way by.  I’m still not sure the name “Ridge Racer” fits the resulting frankenstinian beast, but whatever name it goes under is less relevant than how phenomenally fun it looks.

While the video is looking lovely, rarely has a game been in more desperate need of a demo to get a sense of how all the pieces fit together.  Will tracks be able to be shared online?  Friends-only or from a central database with voting enabled?  If it is a central database (this is 2012, there’s no reason for it not to be) will tracks be able to be shared cross-platform?  It all boils down to- Has Ridge Racer absorbed more than just the idea of Trackmania’s editor and embraced all its lessons?

The developer, BugBear, has a long history with the FlatOut series, so they’re no stranger to doing arcade racing right.  While the move to Ridge Racer might not seem the perfect fit, the game they’re transforming it into is fantastically promising.  With next week’s release, we’ll hopefully get a very pleasant surprise when finding out how it all comes together.

There is, however, a bit of confusion with the release date, with Europe getting it next week and the US either getting it at the same time or later in 2012.  Gamestop and Amazon have it listed for 3/30, but a press release from Namco-Bandai said the US will get it later in 2012 to “pack the disc with features” that are apparently just too incredibly awesome for the average European.  We’ll find out next week how that plan worked out, but whether it shows up now or later, Ridge Racer Unbounded has landed firmly on our radar.