RiMS Racing – Is it a worthy contender for the motorbike sim crown?

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Trying to do something new in a familiar space is always difficult. People are resistant to change even when there’s clear advantages to taking a new approach, but when there’s an established design and thought process? It’s a challenge to win people over.

Still, without change, there’s no real hope of making progress, so we must applaud the likes of Raceward Studio for taking the motorbike racing genre and bring new ideas and philosophies to it. RiMS Racing is the result of that effort, but is it worth the upheaval?

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RIMS Racing is really defined by its career mode, starting off with a choice from the minimalist selection of eight superbikes to be your first bike. The idea is that this is *your* bike, that your team is built up around upgrading, tuning and optimising this beast to reach its absolute pinnacle. There’s hundreds of different parts in the game that you can upgrade these two-wheeled beasts with, whether it’s as something as obviously significant as switching out brake discs, or as seemingly insignificant as trying to shave a few grams off the weight of the brake trigger.

It’s an appealing concept to have a single bike and to continually refine and upgrade it. As you progress you’re working through a stream of events, with a mixture of tutorial challenges, races, championships, time trials, and tests with other bikes and components. That’s grand, but after just a couple of these, you’re handed the keys to other bikes as one-offs. It’s odd, to say the least.

More fundamentally, the opening hours do barely anything to teach new players how to race a motorbike. I’ve said it before and I’ll doubtless say it again, but simulation motorbike racing games really need in-depth and granular tutorials and driver challenges similar in design to the classic Gran Turismo license tests. RIMS Racing’s guidance on racing boils down to “follow the racing line” before it eagerly shows off the Motorbike Status Check that freezes the action for you to inspect and modify some bike parameters. There’s nothing to help you learn how to switch your weight effectively through a chicane, when to turn into a corner, or how to effectively overtake a rival.

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With persistence, you will get to grips with the handling and learn where some of the limits of your bike are around each circuit you come to. The DualSense haptics and adaptive triggers help here, but even after several hours play, I still find it easy to misjudge my braking or cornering speed, take a hump in the curved track too hard and have my racer thrown off in spectacular fashion. On the intermediate handling and physics, you’re punished for your errors on both low-side and high-side, for running off track and clipping the edge of the tarmac or kerbs at the wrong angle when trying to rejoin, for being too eager on the throttle through a corner. I still feel like I’m merely clinging on for dear life through some twists and turns, instead of finding the limits, but I do appreciate that it’s not as understeer-y as its contemporaries.

Between the races, the notion of owning your bike transforms the experience into Bike Mechanic Simulator. The different parts on your bike will wear down, so you’ll have to earn cash to buy new parts that will fix up your bike. If you go for pricier aftermarket parts, you can get a realistically incremental improvement to the bike’s performance. However, this is where the QTEs saunter into the workshop.

RiMS Racing QTEs

Every single time you need to work on your bike, you have to take a part off, disassemble it, replace the components you want to swap, then do all the steps in reverse. It’s a carnival of quick-time events that… well, they’re novel the first couple of times, but when you come out of an event and discover that half a dozen key components are now in the red, you’ll not only be eyeing the bill as you replace them, but also wearily trudging through the QTEs.

The option to skip them is locked behind upgrades in one of the three tech trees, and I wholeheartedly recommend getting these as soon as possible. Really, Raceward should have made the QTEs a default, but optional feature when starting up a career.

On a technical level, RIMS Racing also comes up short. Playing on PlayStation 5, the game looks good in general, and there’s some nice effects to feel through the DualSense controller that accentuates the sudden shock as a wheel slips under heavy acceleration or adds tension to the braking trigger. However, the edges of the experience fray as you notice the pop-in that is rife as you race around each circuit, and the spluttering frame rate. Just taking Circuit Zolder as an example, the first half of the lap is an almost solid 60fps, but as enter the more heavily wooded side of the track, the frame rate drops noticeably down to the high 40s, and there’s a few moments of screen tearing. It’s a shame and unexpected of the current generation.

Then again, you might not notice the frame drops thanks to the absolutely pumping soundtrack by The Bloody Beetroots. It might be better suited to a neon-infused arcade racer, but I love it all the same.

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After spending several hours getting to grips with RiMS, unfortunately it’s the niggles and issues that have stuck with me and not the innovations and appeal of the different approach that Raceward Studio has taken to the genre. There is still promise here, and I am enjoying learning the handling and the tracks, but it sometimes feels like I’m having to search for that enjoyment instead of it being gracefully served up by the game.

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