Reviews

RiMS Racing Review – Bike Mechanic Sim, With Some Racing

As someone who was raised by a biker and who religiously watches MotoGP, SBK and WSBK, the influx of two-wheeled racing games has been fantastic. This time its developer Raceward Studio rolling onto the grid and looking to pick up a win with the poorly named RiMS Racing, which sounds awfully close to some unspeakable act. With its stated goal of being, “The first motorcycling simulation that combines a realistic riding challenge with engineering and mechanics” how does RiMS Racing fare on the track and in the garage?

The barebones, linear 70-event career mode is obviously the meat of the game, handing you to the keys to one of RiMS eight lovingly recreated motorcycles: the Ducati Panigale V4 R, MV Agusta F4 RC, Aprilia RSV4, BMW M 1000 RR, Suzuki GSX-R1000R, Honda CBR1000RR, Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10RR and the Yamaha YZF-R1. It’s a curated selection of some of the biggest names in the motorcycling world, and while just eight superbikes might seem awfully small, especially compared against Ride 4’s huge roster of two-wheeled machinery, that’s because the developers have opted to go for high levels of detail and dozens of different swappable parts on each bike. I’ll come back to that later, but I think this is a smart choice because with just eight bikes to focus on, Raceward have done a good job of making them feel distinct on the track. And throughout the career you’ll be able to partake in championships where the reward is a set of keys to another bike.

Available On: PC, Xbox, Playstation
Reviewed On: PC
Developed By: Raceward Studio
Published By: Nacon

Review code supplied by the publisher.

Three selectable levels of realism let you tweak the experience to a degree, but even with the most basic and forgiving physics RiMS is still looking to be a relatively realistic sim game. I say relatively because translating the feel of a 200HP machine that screams around corners on two tiny patches of rubber is an impossible task. So instead RiMS just tries to make it feel authentic without being authentic. A big part of that is managing to provide good feedback through the controller, and RiMS does that very well indeed. For example, when you wring the throttle coming out of a corner you can feel that rear tire kicking out and trying to throw you straight into the air. And you can see the front wheel start to fold just before it goes, giving you a tiny window to correct. While I have my doubts that a realistic motorcycle game can truly exist, RiMS does a good job of delivering solid feedback through the controller. I can only imagine how much better it must be on the PS5 with the adaptive triggers and haptic feedback – I did try plugging in a Dualsense to see if any of those fancy Sony tricks would work, but sadly there wasn’t even basic force feedback, making an Xbox One/Series S/Series X controller the best choice for PC gameplay.

Well, actually, the best choice would be one of those big bike machines you find in arcades. You know the one? You can sit on it and actually lean the bike? Yeah. If I could get one of those and a VR headset, then RiMS would be mind-blowingly good. But for now a controller will have to do, a device which can’t even come close to replicating the level of connection needed to race a bike. See, while I do think that car racing sims can come relatively close to the real thing, I remain unconvinced that motorcycle sims can do the same thing. Riding a bike is all about feeling a million different little things. Driving a car also requires that connection, but on a motorcycle it’s amplified to an insane degree. A controller just can’t tell you when the front wheel is lifting or when the front-end is about to wash out. Vibrations can only do so much. With that said, RiMS does one of the best jobs yet of trying to communicate these things, so mad respect to the developers for that.

Speaking of VR, there’s no virtual reality support. To be honest, while I do love VR I understand the decision not to waste resources on it here. This is already a niche game, and VR is probably even more of a niche, and VR in a bike game could be very difficult to pull off except for the very, very small percentage of enthusiastic sim-racers who would find some way to build a functioning bike rig in their sheds. Never underestimate the determination and willingness to duct-tape stuff together of a dedicated sim fan.

You do, however, get a fantastic helmet view that correctly looks into and around corners, letting you see where you need to go rather than leaving you staring at the road directly in front of you. Turn the physics model up to the highest and change over to the helmet cam for the best RiMS experience possible.

Bike behaviour during breaking isn’t quite right, though. It’s too easy to flip the bike forward under heavy braking. While in real life a superbike will do that if you simply grab a handful of front brake, provided you softly brake first to compress the springs there’s no danger of flipping the bike. Your bike wheel will probably come off the ground a bit, but all that braking force ends up pushing the front end into the tarmac, providing even more stopping power. The actual danger is overloading the tire, causing it to begin moving side to side, a problem you would correct by letting off the brake a little otherwise you risk the whole front end going out from underneath you.

I could talk for thousands of words about every little aspect of the handling and still not provide a good idea of exactly what works and what doesn’t, so instead let me wrap it up in broader terms: The bikes feel powerful, the handling feels satisfyingly balanced between realism and forgiving. It can be brutal at times, especially for newcomers, because while RiMS machines are much tamer than their real-world counterparts, it still doesn’t take much to kick that back wheel out or completely overshoot a braking point and go careening into the gravel like a rocket. Sure, there are things I don’t like, such as how slow the bike goes from one left-to-right or right-to-left or how the foot pegs constantly grind on the ground, but in general I liked the handling and the feedback, and I loved the feeling of nailing a corner with the rear wheel spinning up, even if the physics system seems to want to keep both wheels. You have to let me Casey Stoner those corners, RiMS.

The A.I. prove to be the weakest element of the actual racing, though. They’re a wildly inconsistent bunch of lunatics who are sometimes very fast indeed and other times are incredibly slow. On the tracks where they are struggling the lines they take round corners are…odd, to put it mildly. But they also appear to have some sort of braking super power. Even if you’re running the best brake pads, calipers and discs the A.I. can brake much, much later and still manage to make the corner without becoming human soup contained within a set of leathers. Naturally this gives them a significant edge when it comes to performing daredevil overtakes, but can also lead to them ramming you up the ass at high-speed far too often. It’s like like racing against a grid full of Marc Marquez clones.

You can’t really race against them, either. Aside from being unable to find any sort of difficulty where they present a consistent challenge in terms of pure pace, they’re also entirely unaware of you on the track and can’t perform close, wheel-to-wheel racing except entirely by accident. The only option you have is to ramp up the difficulty, but that means paying a price: not being able to restart events. Dial it up to the hardest difficulty mode and you can’t exit events, either, without it classing it as a DNF. It’s annoying that A.I. difficulty can’t be adjusted separately. These days we see so many customisation options in racing games that something like this stands out.

A pretty small selection of fifteen tracks make up the 70 career events. 10 of these are circuits such as Silverstone and Laguna Seca, which should be in every racing just because of how awesome the corkscrew is. The other five are road courses, featuring locations such as Norway and Australia. Although I applaud the choice to feature just a few bikes in extreme detail, I find the lack of tracks to be a problem. With so few tracks and so many events in the career mode a sense of repetition sets in fast, especially since RiMS has a habit of hosting several races at the same track in quick succession.

And there’s really very little else to be said about the structure of career mode which is about as basic as they come. Occasionally you can choose between slightly different events, mostly which sponsor race you’d like to do, or get to take a rest day, but the rest of the time you have to complete each race in order. Meanwhile, you can acquire special points that can be used to upgrade aspects of your team, such as getting a better research department so that you can see upcoming track conditions or hiring a skilled mechanic to keep your motorcycles in the best condition possible.

Off the track RiMS has an almost obsessive desire to model every aspect of the bikes, a noble goal, for sure, but one that also causes a lot of problems. You see, damn near every part on your bikes can and will suffer from general wear and tear, and more substantial damage every time you hurl the bike at the scenery. And each of these parts can be purchased and replaced, often with aftermarket parts, if you have the cash. Are the front forks on your Yamaha R1 not quite up to the job? Sell the old ones, buy some better ones! Want to replace the stock sprocket with something lighter? Can do! Hell, let’s chuck out that fairing and get some carbon fiber bodywork, too. You can feel almost all of these alterations on track, too, which is properly impressive.

And that’s all great! Honestly, this attention to detail is admirable. I love it when developers choose to really focus on something and drill down instead of digging out this massive, shallow pool of mechanics. There are a lot of developers who could learn from this. But how RiMS handles all of this in terms of user experience is nothing short of infuriating, turning what should be the joy of tinkering into stress of tinkering.

Let’s use changing the front brake pads as an example, something you’ll be doing a lot. You can’t see if you have any more pads already in your inventory unless you jump back a menu, or unless you remove the part in question. Removing and installing any part of the bike results in a mini-game where you spin the stick to unscrew bolts and hold down buttons to yank off parts. It’s fun the first couple of times, an interesting way to mimic your crew actually working on the bike. But by Valentino Rossi’s infinite Italian charm does it become boring fast. The detailed animations showing every screw and piece being taken apart and put together are beautiful, but the minigame that come with them is not. It’s telling that two of the optional engineering team upgrades let you automate this process, although it doesn’t let you skip them entirely, forcing you sit through 10-30 seconds of animation. And the ultimate engineering upgrade? Well, that lets you put together the entire bike with a single button press instead of having to order every single piece be individually rebuilt. When three of your upgrades are designed to allow players to skip chunks of the game, that’s a problem.

The user interface is equally problematic. Going back to the front brake pads, you take them off then hit a button to go to the inventory to see if you have any in stock. If you don’t you need to hit another button to visit the shop, then hold down a button to buy the part you need. Then you tap the back button, hit the change button, select the new part, press back again and finally install the part. It’s a cumbersome way of doing things, and despite spending hours in the menus I never got properly comfortable with it. Shortcuts for replacing a part or to buy and replace could make the process so much faster and smoother. And you will be spending a lot of time in the menus because parts wear out fast, especially the initially stock components. Things become better once you have tougher parts installed and a few choice engineering upgrades, but even then stuff like brake pads, discs and tires will be bought and discarded faster than someone’s sex life after they say, “I do!”

Crashing, of course, wrecks stuff even quicker, reducing your lovely bike’s fairing into carbon fiber powder, destroying the front forks and annihilating your budget in the process. I like how RiMS doesn’t tend to drown you in money like other racing games, constantly putting you in the position of having to prioritize parts and even deliberately slow down during races to reduce wear and tear. There hasn’t been another racing game where I’ve accepted a 4th place finish because I knew if I went faster I might crash the bike and be unable to afford new parts. Likewise, during certain championships I happily took a podium that would maintain by lead rather than always going for the way, because my bank account couldn’t take the strain of another ill-advised late-braking failure.

This does, though, make for an unforgiving experience. It’s easy to throw the bike down the road or get tagged by another rider under braking. It’s just as easy to get swamped by parts flashing up red, declaring themselves ready to implode. And as the parts degrade the bike’s performance drops with them, making racing even riskier and getting a decent finish for some cash harder.

Speaking of being unforgiving, I do think a few tweaks could have helped out beginners a lot. Now, I’m not advocating for some sort of arcade mode: this is aiming to be realistic, after all. But take tuning your motorcycle as a good example: there’s a staggering range of options to play with, but very little in the way of advice or information for someone inexperienced to learn from. The developers missed an opportunity to mimic some other games on the market by having a team engineer players could describe their problems to and be offered advice from on how to remedy them.

On-track help is mostly non-existent, too. During the career mode there are special academy events focused on various aspects of riding, but they don’t actually teach players anything, instead simply providing a few objectives like finishing at least 3rd, not crashing more than twice and so on. By the time the event for riding in the rain turned up I had already run and won 3 races where the clouds were busy spewing their wetness all over the circuit. Another event is focused on tight hairpin bends but doesn’t any advice on tackling these corners or how to stop the front wheel folding. These events may as well be taken out of the career mode for all the good they actually do.

I want to say, though, that despite all the problems I do have with execution of the bike maintenance, I also kind of love it. Very few games offer such a strong sense of ownership over your vehicle as RiMS. Because you spend so much time on just one or two bikes and because you spend so much time debating what parts to replace or upgrade and because you can create the perfect setup for every track you can become deeply attached to your motorcycle. For so many people the entire system will probably be tedious and awkward and might be enough to stop them enjoying the game. And yet, I think for a small number of people RiMS might be exactly what they’ve been looking for, marrying fun bike racing with strategic management of resources and the inherent satisfaction of building up your team and bike part by literal part.

Outside of the main career mode you have all the options you would expect. You can setup races on any bike and track, and decide what weather to race in, but you can’t tinker with the bikes the same way you can in the career. And there’s a pretty bog-standard multiplayer mode if you fancy racing against some real people.

Performance is the last thing we need to chat about. RiMS is a pretty solid looking game with most of the detail focused on the machinery, and I want to specifically mention how damage to your bikes and your leathers carries over from event to event. But there is quite a lot of pop-in on the side of the tracks, and a couple of the races have some big framerate dips that need to be ironed out. Overall, then, the performance is just okay.

RiMS Racing isn’t quite firing on all cylinders, but it’s a good new competitor on the scene and the huge focus on modelling the bikes inside and out gives it a unique selling point. This is the game for people who love to tinker, and I can easily imagine a select group of people spending more time in the menus than on the actual tracks. It makes giving RiMS Racing a score tricky because it’s a niche title. I think, therefore, I’m going to do something I always intended my review system to do but haven’t really used: give RiMS a relatively low score but with a recommended label. That’s because for certain people, the kind for whom the huge list of bike parts is incredibly enticing, this is an easy recommendation. For most other folk, I think there are better options out there to your engine revving.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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