Riptide GP: Renegade Review

When I first heard that Riptide GP: Renegade was coming to the Nintendo Switch I was hyped. I’ve always had a soft spot for a good racing game, and hydro jet racing is a cut above on my list by default. I’ve always been a fan of going fast, but being able to ramp off waves and turn on a dime is a beautiful thing – and racing with any sort of watercraft is pretty much the only way to get that.

Then I began my download. At a paltry 152 megabytes, I started to wonder just what I was getting into – a bit of doubt rising inside me. Though I’ve seen some impressive compression, I didn’t think 152 megabytes would be enough for a quality title of the caliber and looks they were advertising.

I was wrong.

Not only is 152MB enough to include a large array of watercraft, tracks, riders, and modes, it’s enough to do it like the big dogs – at least for the most part. The hydro jets look like quality machines, the riders are somewhat simple but crisp, and the tracks are clean and detailed; offering races that seem anything but low quality.

In the realm of controls however, Riptide GP: Renegade is a fairly simple title. The ZR button makes you go, ZL is brake, A is boost (or recover if you bail),and the analog sticks are all about executing tricks (and turning via the left stick). You can look back with R or L, but that’s pretty much it in standard dual Joy-Con mode; making the game quite easy to pick up. It’s in mastering the intricacies of tricks, turns, and when to use boost that this game’s challenge lies – so you’ll have to practice just like anything else.

Getting past how to play to how the game is presented, you’ve got your choice of modes – including career, quick race, online synchronous multiplayer (with cross-platform support), and local 2-4 player split-screen. While career mode includes competition modes like freestyle (trick mode), boss battle (one-on-one), and elimination, the other options are limited to straight up races or championships in their scope. It’s a shame if you ask me, as freestyle was my favourite mode!

Career mode has another advantage over other modes, in that it allows you to unlock characters, riders, and emblems for your hydro jet – with money won from the various modes also put to use towards upgrades for your vehicles. You’ll also be able to acquire skill points by leveling up, with completed events giving you experience each time, and skill points gained able to be spent on moves and ability boosts.

Clearing career mode will take you five or more hours if you try and tackle all the events, with less required if you’re good and can get away with only the required ones (without the upgrades that additional events will surely allow). From there however, there’s lots of room for additional fun in Riptide GP: Renegade.

Quick race offers just that; snappy access to an AI-filled race with not too much extra stuff in the way. There are three speed difficulties offered in quick race, with the highest being well above what I encountered in the career. It’s a good way to simply jump into a game without too much pressure, but I very much preferred the other modes overall.

As for the multiplayer modes, the online option will obviously require an internet connection – though it supports cross-platform play. You can bring up to seven additional players into a lobby for eight player online action, and as far as I can tell the net code seems to run quite well on Switch (even when connecting to other platforms).

Local split-screen will require additional local players (and possibly controllers) to get going, with single Joy-Con play supported and up to four players able to play on a single screen. It plays a little different with split Joy-Cons, but it’s usable for race purposes that’s for sure. You’ll simply select a championship, a speed, a hydro jet, a rider, a colour scheme, and a part of the screen to play on – then get to racing with the rest of the riders generated from AI.

Additional options on the main menu allow you to check on your lifetime stats and change up settings (like career difficulty, audio volume, etc) – with a control map and tutorial mode buried in the settings menu as well. It’s a little disorganized if you ask me, but nothing out of the ordinary or unnecessary.

Speaking of unnecessary things, it was extremely silly of me to worry about the file size – as playing the game for a few minutes will show you this is certainly no slouch in the looks department. While certainly not a stellar looking game or a showcase piece, it does well to give you an accurate representation of the sport at hand and some crisp graphics to go with it. I’d wager that things are drawn and generated algorhythmically, as that’s the only method I can think of that might offer the kind of image quality offered here without size-eating textures.

Similarly, the audio is very well done – but you can tell it doesn’t need to take a lot of space. The synthetic tones offered in the techno and/or house-esque tracks here could have very easily been algorhythmically generated or highly compressed, and I expect that they were one or the other. Nonetheless, they offer a welcome and unobtrusive accompaniment to the water-racing madness.

Ah yes, the madness of Riptide GP: Renegade; it’s a wonderful thing. Small – but packed with adrenaline, simple – but infused with tons of fun, inclusive – but also good in single player, and challenging – but also not cheaply so. It’s a world of good with the good, and the only qualms I have with the game concern a lack of additional mode and customization options (ie; single race, custom championships, freestyle, etc) for the multiplayer and “quick” menu choices.

As such, this is a racer that I very much recommend, and yet another great release from Vector Unit on the Nintendo Switch – following up Beach Buggy Racing with something I consider just a little bit better. If you like water-based racing titles, doing tricks while racing, or simply playing with others, this one’s definitely worth a look.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s both cheap and small in size, either!