Following in the footsteps of Ubisoft’s The Crew series before it, Rider’s Republic aims to cram the engine of a high-octane arcade racer under the hood of a sprawling online open world – except this time the engine is your legs and the hood is a bunch of extreme sports events so over the top it would make the late ‘90s blush. It’s a somewhat familiar formula, but what’s really impressive is that (with the notable and occasional game crash aside) it overwhelmingly succeeds at providing the ultimate downhill sports fantasy. Whether I was blasting into the sky in my rocket-powered wingsuit or sweating bullets as I completed obstacle courses on my bike, Riders Republic awoke the extreme sports fanatic inside me and kept me hooked for over 60 hours and counting.
Riders Republic uses a structure that will be very recognizable if you’ve played any of The Crew or Forza Horizon games: you explore a beautiful open-world, participate in exciting races and trick contests, search for collectibles, and unlock better gear and more difficult activities as you go – only instead of driving vehicles cross-country, you’ll be swapping between a bicycle, wingsuit, snowboard, and pair of skis to scream down mountains. Riders Republic sticks very closely to the existing open-world racing game formula we’ve seen many times before, but having an extreme sports version of those racers is hardly a bad thing.
Whether you’re catching air in a snowboard trick competition or flying through said air in a wingsuit race, every one of Riders Republic’s sports is an absolute blast to take on. Riding bikes is all about precision and managing your peddling stamina meter, which becomes more challenging depending on your terrain. Riding a bike in the snow, for example, is a recipe for disaster that’s best avoided. Using your skis or a snowboard, on the other hand, is all about controlling your speed and momentum as you slide across more slippery locales. And in contrast to bike riding, skis and snowboards perform pretty terribly on harder terrain like dirt and pavement. Meanwhile, the wingsuit requires you to embrace your inner daredevil and glide or rocket dangerously close to hard objects at a terminal velocity. Mastering each machine of gnarliness Riders Republic offers is challenging, diverse, and guaranteed to result in a few hilarious but nasty spills.
The events you’ll be using them in can be just as varied, throwing you down dozens of mountainsides with plenty of different goals to shake things up. Races make speed the name of the game, and they can be some seriously tense competitions that put your reflexes and guts to the test as you shred downhill, fly over gaps, and dodge obstacles. But you’ll also need to master your showoff skills in stunt contests where the key to success is pulling off tricks and grinding on rails to rack up points in the style of other arcade sports games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.
Mastering each course as I earned better gear, leveled up each of my extreme sport careers, and unlocked even more contests was consistently satisfying, and the incredible amount of things to do meant that loop never got stale. For example, after beating my head against a wall in a particularly challenging rocket wingsuit race, I took a break to play some snowboard trick contests and felt like I’d jumped into an entirely different game. With so much to do, I never felt burnt out with enough of Riders Republic to put it down for very long, and that’s an impressive feat considering how easy it usually is to bore me.
The map is also downright loaded with other things to do as well, whether it’s collectibles to hunt for, lovely sights to see, or organic events to discover like hidden stunt activities – some of which ask you to complete insane task like clearing an impossibly large gap or riding a tiny steel beam across a canyon. Interestingly, the map takes seven real-world national parks and 45 actual landmarks and smashes them all together into one massive location, where the snowy Grand Teton Summit can sit comfortably next to the rocky Angel Arch. This bizarre mishmashing of real-world locations and impossibly diverse biomes all welded together is not only an awesome sight to behold, it makes one map feel like several, each with their own notable features, colorful landscapes, and wildly different paths to bomb down.
Eventually you’ll level up enough to gain access to more difficult activities, including Big Events and Boss Events. Unfortunately, these don’t particularly live up to their name, in that they basically just feel like slightly longer versions of the standard events. Instead of doing something crazy like Forza Horizon’s Showcases, Riders Republic uses these activities as a sort of skill check to confirm you’ve gained enough loot and improved your skill enough to advance to the next bracket of challenges. That’s fine, but not as exciting as I’d hoped from a game that’s constantly shoving its over-the-top qualities in your face.
To help you pass some of Riders Republic’s more challenging undertakings, you’ll unlock new gear as you progress that’ll make the going much easier. A rocket wingsuit with higher stats will make it easier for you to turn and use your rocket boost for longer, while a better snowboard might make you faster in deep snow that would normally slow you down. Getting new gear is essential to be competitive in the most contentious activities and while it’s certainly possible to compete with subpar gear, those who have grinded (literally and figuratively) for better gear have an incredible advantage. Therefore, leveling up and gaining new gear becomes a high priority and an addictive part of a sandbox that already gives you dozens of reasons to keep racing.
While you’ll be buying most of those upgrades with in-game currecny, you can also spend it on cosmetic stuff to make your character match your particular style – which in my case meant dressing up in the most ridiculous costumes I could find, like an elephant in a suit, a giraffe in a tuxedo, or a dumb-looking, purple unicorn. They really go all-out with some of the options so you can make your rider as ridiculous as you want, and seeing other players in all their freakish glory is definitely part of the fun.
There’s a whole host of compelling competitive multiplayer modes as well, including ranked Free for All races that test your skills against a small group of live players, Arena matches that pit two teams of six against each other as you fight for control of a skate park, and most notably: Mass Races. Free for All and 6v6 Arena matches are a good way to pass the time and play competitively if you grow bored of racing against player ghosts, but they’re also run of the mill modes I’ve seen in other games before. Mass Races are a whole new beast entirely.
Mass Races start with a server-wide announcement calling all players to stop what they’re doing and participate. If you answer the call, you’re thrown into a lengthy racing tournament with 64 players and loads of XP and accolades at stake for those who manage to score a podium finish. As you might expect, racing against 63 other players is utter chaos, but the kind of chaos that works perfectly in Riders Republic, which seems to welcome and thrive in it. The absolute horror show of dozens of people all pushing one another out of the way, flying off cliff edges, and smashing into obstacles at terminal velocity is a sight to behold even if you find yourself putting on a tragic showing. And if you actually manage to earn yourself a podium finish, the payoff and bragging rights are immense.
The only drawback from these ambitious events is that, as you might imagine, technical issues sometimes muck things up. Apparently something about cramming 64 players in the same event all at once isn’t an easy task to accomplish, because about 10% of the time I participated in one it would crash to the main menu – though admittedly it seemed to get better over time as the launch server issues resolved themselves. Even so, crashes and goofy glitches are a pretty regular occurrence in Riders Republic, at least on the Xbox Series X where I played. Once I fell through the world map and met an inglorious demise, and another time I crashed into a tree trunk so hard I got stuck inside of it with no way out. But more often than not encountering a bug just meant crashing to the dashboard with only some inscrutable error code to keep me company. Seeing these sorts of things in a large online game like this isn’t exactly surprising, especially close to launch, but they’re still just frequent enough here that it can start to frustrate.