Many crashes in Ridge Racer Unbounded are spectacular.

Many crashes in Ridge Racer Unbounded are spectacular.

Japan's ailing video game publishers know they must now appeal to the West, and are increasingly entrusting even their most cherished franchises to faraway developers. Even Nintendo now regularly works with Western studios.

Ridge Racer Unbounded from Namco is the latest example, and is a bold reinvention of the classic arcade racing series. Available now for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, the game was created by BugBear Entertainment, the Finnish makers of Flatout, and is a big departure from previous Ridge Racer games.

Wild powerslides are still necessary for success, but are now primarily a tool to fill up a power meter that allows access to a turbo boost reward. The game's focus is using the boost to spectacularly crash into opponents and hurtle through roadside scenery and even entire buildings.

The Shatter Bay setting is an amalgam of American cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Your sightseeing through the town is broken up by a series of challenges slowly unlocked by accumulating points.

The demanding events include domination races where the objective is to cause mayhem as well as finish first, drift contests where it is all about careering sideways around corners, "frag attacks" that concentrate on rival takedowns, and time-based challenges that feature crazy, ramp-filled courses.

Progress is difficult because the speedy computer-controlled foes are incredibly aggressive and the art of powersliding cars featuring such heavy handling is challenging to master.

It can also be difficult to judge what parts of the environment are destructible and what will bring about your vehicle's dramatic demise. 

Rewards include varied new rides and additional pieces for the terrific track editor which allows you to publish your own circuits, complete with obstacles and jumps. You can also set your own challenges for players around the world to attempt to beat.

Unbounded provides some thrilling moments, but unfortunately is likely to frustrate as often as it entertains. 

What have you been playing lately?

 

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