Riptide GP Renegade review: Arcade racing with Xbox Play Anywhere support

Founded in 2007, California-based indie developer Vector Unit first made a name for itself with Hydro Thunder Hurricane, the Xbox 360 and Windows sequel to the beloved arcade water racing game.

Since then, the studio has created two primary brands for itself: the cart-style Beach Buggy Racing series and the water-based Riptide GP.

On the studio's tenth anniversary, Vector Unit has launched Riptide GP: Renegade as an Xbox Play Anywhere title for Xbox One and Windows 10. Buy one version, and you get the other for free. Renegade is the first game in the series to be developed specifically for modern consoles and PCs (though it also came to Android and iOS). Could this entry be the water racing game to beat?

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Revenge racing

Riptide GP Renegade Xbox One

Since Riptide GP: Renegade was designed as a console-style experience, the Career Mode now has an actual story. The game begins with a tutorial race in which your chosen protagonist (male or female) accepts a challenge from a hothead racer. At the end, cops swarm and arrest our heroine. Hydrojet racing is illegal in this futuristic setting for some unexplained reason.

Three whole years later, our protagonist is released from jail. Along with the help of a friend, she'll have to build a racing team and compete in increasingly tough events as she searches for the jerk who set her up. These text-based dialog sequences are fairly skippable in general, but at least Vector Unit bothered to give us a reason for the racing.

Career

Riptide GP Renegade Xbox One

The single-player Career Mode consists of five chapters, each with three or more race series, and several events to a series. Each event has up to three stars to earn, depending on the place in which you finish. Complete all of the regular series in a chapter, and you'll go up against a boss. Winning these boss races (which are just regular one-on-one races) will cause that boss to join your team, unlocking him or her as a playable character.

Completing Career races also earns you money and experience. Leveling up allows you to unlock new skills in the form of either permanent buffs (earning more from performing stunts, etc.) or new stunts to perform. The buffs are most important, but extra stunts provide an edge in certain types of events.

Riptide GP Renegade Xbox One

Money can be spent on upgrades for your hydrojets. These vehicles have four stats, all of which can be upgraded several times. Upgrades prove extremely important. Like in other Vector Unit games, I hit a wall early on in which I needed to grind for money before I could become competitive enough to keep three-starring races. But after fully upgrading that first vehicle, income tends to keep pace with Career progress from then on.

Besides traditional races and boss races, Renegade has three other race types: Elimination, Slalom, and Freestyle. In Elimination, the racer in last place gets kicked out at set intervals. Slalom requires you to pass by specific sides of buoys (gates), much like slalom skiing. Freestyle involves pulling off stunts to earn points and reach score targets.

Riptide GP Renegade Xbox One

Renegade uses the same stunt system as its predecessor. When going over a ramp, certain surfaces, or simply catching air from waves or drops, various combinations of the two analog sticks will pull off different stunts. This, in turn, fills up your boost meter, allowing you to hit high speeds for a short time. It takes practice, but learning to pull off higher-level multi-press stunts makes later races and especially Freestyle events much easier.

Career consists of scores of races, but the game only has nine different tracks in total. The developers wisely mix things up, introducing new tracks in later chapters, and throwing in more of the alternate race styles. Still, repetition eventually sets in. Adding more variations of the individual tracks, such as different times of day and weather, would probably help. As it is, Career spreads the game's content a little thin.

Online Multiplayer

Riptide GP Renegade Xbox One

Although Riptide GP2 features online multiplayer on PC and mobile, the console versions sadly did not. Vector Unit finally fixes things with Renegade, which supports cross-platform online multiplayer between Xbox One and Windows 10 (not Steam) for up to eight players.

Upon entering online multiplayer, players select from a limited assortment of skins, riders, and hydrojets. All stunts are unlocked here by default, regardless of Career progress. The host initially chooses from three vehicle speeds (slow, normal, and fast), which affects all subsequent races in that lobby.

After at least two players join the online lobby, the race can begin. The game picks the first track automatically. But after that initial race finishes, players vote on subsequent tracks. The online races I completed were fast and smooth, with no sync or latency issues.

Riptide GP Renegade Xbox One

Online isn't perfect, though. First, all online races are just standard races. You can't play Elimination, Slalom, or Freestyle events with friends. Second, online play is too disconnected from the overall experience. It doesn't contribute to your overall player level, nor are there any Achievements for completing online races.

As it is, you can race others just for fun. But without an overall goal to work towards, I doubt people will keep coming back for more. Shame that Renegade doesn't support one overall player level between modes as in Gears of War 4 and Sniper Elite 4. One long-term goal shared between modes would really help keep players invested after finishing Career.

Split-screen Multiplayer

Riptide GP Renegade Xbox One

Split-screen multiplayer is always worth celebrating, but Vector Unit likes to go above and beyond the call of duty by providing 6-player split-screen in its console racing games. Most of us don't own that many controllers, but racing with six people in the same room is still an exciting prospect.

Whereas Riptide GP2 had no selectable options at all for split-screen, Renegade at least lets the group pick a few things. You can choose between four assortments of tracks to cycle through, the speed of the race, and skins, riders, and vehicles. It's still odd that we can't select individual tracks, race types, or set the number of laps, though.

The Windows Store mistakenly lists Renegade as supporting local co-op. All multiplayer in this game is competitive, so it doesn't have co-op.

Achievements and Xbox Play Anywhere

Riptide GP Renegade Xbox One

The Xbox One and Windows 10 versions of Renegade offer a single shared list of 24 Achievements worth a total of 1,000 Gamerscore. Save games are shared between both versions of the game, so any progress on one platform carries over to the other.

Most of the Achievements are standard Career-focused goals like placing first in all events. A few optional goals like performing the Logroll stunt off a log on the Firewatch track add some charm. Each of the nine tracks also has a collectible Easter Egg to find, which will likely necessitate the use of a guide. Luckily, our Easter Eggs guide has screenshots and descriptions of every location.

On the whole, it's a fair and doable list. I just wish Multiplayer had some Achievements too.

Overall Impression

Riptide GP Renegade Xbox One

Riptide GP: Renegade is another quality arcade-style water racing game from Vector Unit. All nine tracks have clever shortcuts and alternate paths to find. Several take place in interesting environments, like a forest on fire and a long-flooded city. The actual audio could be a lot better – the music is grating, and there's no announcer, which creates a much drier and more sterile feel than a game like this should have.

Pros:

  • Arcade-style water racing makes for a great time.
  • Online multiplayer and split-screen
  • Cross-buy and cross-platform multiplayer

Cons:

  • Sound design needs major improvement. No announcer and the music doubles as a sedative.
  • Career mode has far too many events for only nine courses to sustain.
  • Multiplayer mode has no long-term goals or connection to other modes.

Niggles aside, Renegade's lengthy Career Mode and local and online multiplayer support all make for a robust package. Factor in the low price of ten bucks and full Xbox Play Anywhere support, and you have a must-buy for arcade racing fans.

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Xbox One review copy provided by the developer.

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

14 Comments
  • Nice review, great game so far. Enjoying it a lot!!
  • Got to give this game a try asap
  • Have this game one my Android phone/Android TV and one Steam Riptied GP serie has allways rock and is funny to :)
  • I feel like the lack of long term goals mentioned in the review is a big reason why finding other players online is rare. I was surprised how well online multiplayer performed. Otherwise it is a fantastic game.  Start screen music reminds me of another game, but I can't put my finger on it. Neon Chrome maybe?
  • I enjoyed the game, but 9 tracks isn't nearly enough for all the different events you need to complete in the single player mode.
  • Nice write-up. I wonder when a developer will make a full-on water racing game specifically for home consoles and not mobile? This looks like it could be a lot of fun and would be even more fun with more tracks, better music, and an announcer, as you said.
  • Technically, this one was designed for consoles and then downscaled for mobile. I guess with their history as a mobile developer, they don't want to leave mobile behind.
  • Is there any word on a W10M version? I'm guessing one thing that MAY have prevented it is Xbox Play Anywhere - If a play anywhere game can be on Mobile too then maybe it confuses things, many games just aren't viable on Mobile so play anywhere titles are specifically for PC and Xbox only?
  • Not quite my style. I have forza when I have the back to race.
  • 9 tracks days is a little disappointing, but it sounds interesting enough for me to give a try
  • Nice water racing game! Its great that it has Xbox Play Anywhere support, but its a shame that the online play doesnt share the same player level.
  • I'm really enjoying it, as soon as I saw the achievements show up online I was checking the store to buy it, I agree with the lack of variety on the maps, they didn't even choose to play any of them backwards, which was a swing & miss, the graphics are good, even on a small 10" device on the go, but the background sound effects play far too loud when finishing up a race, followed by screens and screens of dialogue. Once you grind a few levels to upgrade your water craft and moto-x style skills the game gets more enjoyable. Easter eggs can be challenging to actually hit, finding them is the easy part! I recommend it to all who enjoyed Hydro Thunder, Wipeout, MX vs ATX and the likes. [edit] oh, and why no Windows10Mobile support? surely UWP would do the majority of the code??
  • Can a play anywhere game be on Mobile? If it can then does it confuse the term for other games? I don't mean from a technical level but from the point of view of the programme. "Anywhere" in this sense means PC or Xbox once Mobile comes into it is that then a requirement to class as "everywhere"? As this would be a problem for most games that just can't run on Mobile. Hope that makes sense?
  • I enjoyed Beach Buggy racing to a certain degree, but I'm not sure how much I would enjoy this. I think that $10 is a very reasonable price point, even though others are commenting on lack of track variety. I would have been less optimistic at $15-20. Great review as always Paul and I commend the developer for making some improvements over previous games.