TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge is a relentlessly tense bike racer - Team VVV

Features TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge is a relentlessly tense bike racer


Martin Bigg


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Game: TT Isle Of Man: Ride on the Edge

Platform: PC, PS4, Switch, XBox One

Publisher: Bigben Interactive

Release Date: 23/05/2019 (Switch)

The Isle of Man TT Mountain Course is renowned for being the longest and most dangerous road circuit in the world and one of the most daunting challenges a competitive rider will ever face. Since the annual Tourist Trophy championship began in 1907, the course has tragically claimed the lives of over 200 riders. Containing 264 corners and spanning 37.7 miles of unforgiving narrow villages, terrifying high-speed straights enabling speeds approaching 200 mph, and twisty mountain roads, it makes the Nurburgring Nordschleife look tame.

It’s perhaps surprising, then, that the infamous Isle of Man circuit hasn’t featured in a video game for a decade – not since Jester Interactive’s TT Superbikes Legends game on the PS2 released in 2008, in fact, despite it being frequently requested. Seemingly, no developer has been willing to take on the mighty challenge of reproducing the 37.7-mile long course in a modern racing game – until now. Enter TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge developed by Kylotonn Games, a game that finally answers the prayers of many bike racing game fans.

The last bike racer developed by the French studio was the critically panned MotorCycle Club, so expectations admittedly weren’t very high when TT Isle of Man was first announced. Thankfully, those fears were completely unfounded. Thanks to accurate laser-scanning technology and thousands of reference photographs, Kylotonn has done an outstanding job authentically recreating the iconic mountain course in exacting detail. From the placement of the street signs and road markings to the local pubs and corner shops, every landmark is present and correct. No two houses are the same – this isn’t a simple cut and paste job like in other games. Put simply, this is the most realistic representation of the TT course we’re likely to experience in a racing game for a very long time.

Despite lacking the PC version’s polish, TT Isle of Man looks visually spectacular on PS4, with richly detailed track textures, jaw-dropping draw distances, and some of the most realistic foliage in any racing game. The frame rate, which is capped at 30fps on consoles even on Xbox One, disappointingly, but runs at 60fps on PC, sometimes struggles during certain track sections, but performance is generally smooth.

Hurtling down mountain roads at triple-digit speeds while narrowly avoiding obstacles like walls, fences and road signs within inches leaves little margin for error – you won’t get away with any lapses in concentration. Knowing that one misjudged move will result in disaster is utterly exhilarating, as clipping the curb will almost certainly catapult your rider off the bike and into the nearest wall. It’s a risk that riders face in the real championship, and TT Isle of Man captures this sense of danger very well. Certainly, it makes you respect the fearless riders who risk their lives every year doing it for real.

The sense of speed is tremendous, too – particularly if you use the first-person handlebars view, though it’s a shame the helmet camera used in replays isn’t available in-game. Surprisingly few racing games capture the sense of speed very convincingly, but TT Isle of Man absolutely nails it. There’s no in-game music surprisingly, but this only intensifies the experience by emphasising the sound of your screaming bike and the wind whooshing past, which gets increasingly louder as you gain speed. It’s a small detail, but one that’s used to great effect, adding to the feeling of speed. Racing game developers, take note. There are lots of other neat little touches like this that add to the immersion, like the race marshal that taps you on the shoulder wishing you luck at the start of the race.

Controlling the game’s supersports and superbikes around the complex course requires a lot of skill. Fortunately, the handling of the bikes is sharp, direct and very responsive, drawing comparisons to Evolution Studios’ excellent DriveClub Bikes – and that’s no bad thing. Purists may crave a more realistic handling model, but adding delay to the turning on such a demanding course would have made the game inaccessible to most players.

That’s not to say there isn’t any challenge or depth to the physics, however. Even on the easiest physics setting with all assists enabled including traction control, progressive accelerating, braking, and steering is essential. You also need to brake for corners far earlier than you might expect on the easiest settings. Accelerate too hard out of a corner and the rear wheel loses traction, causing the back of the bike to step out and send you into the nearest wall or tree.

Frustratingly, recovering from this is very difficult and doesn’t feel intuitive due to the limited bike and rider animations. Rider movement is extremely stiff, and the bikes look far too rigid since there’s no visible suspension travel. Kylotonn’s lack of experience developing bike racing games may be to blame here. For those who want even more challenge, activating the simulation setting brings the bikes to life. With no anti-wheelie enabled, feathering the throttle to keep the bike planted takes considerable skill.

There are even bumps in the road surface that can catch you out and cause the bike to instantly veer out of control if you don’t approach them at the right speed or angle. Constantly crashing is frustrating at first: learning the nuances of the bike and memorising the track is key, but requires a lot of patience from the player. This isn’t a game for the faint of heart, but mastering the daunting 37.7 mile-long mountain course is one of the most rewarding experiences in any recent racing game.

Also, if you rely on rewinds in Milestone’s bike racing games to recover from your mistakes, then prepare for a shock. If there’s one game that needs a rewind feature, it’s TT Isle of Man, but Kylotonn has omitted this feature. Maintaining the lead in a gruelling 20-minute race, only to slam into a road sign close to the finish line and fall to the back of the pack is extremely frustrating – being able to rewind and continue before your last crash would help relieve the frustration for less experienced players. That said, taking rewinds for granted means you won’t learn from your mistakes, and having no safety net to lean on raises the stakes considerably. Essentially, TT Isle of Man is the DiRT Rally of bike games.

It takes around 20 minutes to complete a full clean lap of the mountain course – times that by three in a full Tourist Trophy event. Even for experienced players, memorising the track’s 264 corners isn’t easy, and takes many hours of practising to perfect. If taking on the full mountain course is too daunting, however, TT Isle of Man also includes nine fantasy tracks based on real locations around the UK to help you hone your skills. As well as adding replay value, these tracks are terrifically well-designed and very worthy additions that add some needed variety to the game.

A challenging course set on English coastal roads is a clear highlight, featuring high-speed straights, tight technical sections, and sudden elevation changes, while another Welsh circuit has you weaving around crates in a shipping yard. Other licensed road circuits like the Northwest 200, which features in Ride 2, would have completed the package, but it’s difficult to complain when the game features a lovingly recreated version of the long-requested Isle of Man TT course.

It’s clear, however, that most of Kylotonn’s resources were poured into meticulously replicating the Mountain Course. While the developer’s effort is commendable, other aspects of the game are underdeveloped. The career mode, for example, feels like an afterthought and is one of the game’s weakest aspects.

In career mode, you play as a rookie rider working their way up to conquer the Tourist Trophy. Here, you create a custom avatar, and while there are options to change the colour of your racing overalls and helmet, the customisation is nowhere as comprehensive as Monster Energy Supercross. You can’t choose a colour for your helmet that doesn’t match your overalls, for example, nor can you customise bikes with aftermarket parts. Once you’ve decided on the colours for your avatar, you can’t change them without restarting the career either, which seems like an oversight. 23 official riders such as the legendary John MCguinness are included but are only accessible in single event modes.

The problem with the career mode is that it ultimately feels aimless. While you have the freedom to enter or decline races suggested by your team manager via email, objectives aren’t clearly defined. Cash rewards are also far too paltry. Consequently, it takes a long time to accumulate enough money to buy a new bike, which makes progressing through the career feel like a grind – Kylotonn’s FlatOut 4: Total Insanity suffered from the same problem. 38 bikes are available with supersports and superbikes from manufacturers such as BMW, Kawasaki, Honda, and Triumph, but it’s a shame there aren’t any slower entry-level bikes for beginners to get to grips with.

Replays also shuffle between a variety of viewpoints from TV-style camera angles and onboard footage behind the rider, to a harrowing helmet camera, but there are no controls that let you stick to a preferred view. Likewise, there’s no photo mode for you to save memorable moments or marvel at the scenery and pristine bike models.

Fans of the Isle of Man TT may also be disappointed with the lack of live action footage or photos from the real championship – featuring exclusive rider interviews would have provided additional fan service. Omissions like these detract from the presentation, unfortunately. The laid-back menu music also sounds like it’s preparing you for a casual Sunday ride, rather than an adrenaline-filled 200 mph road race.

The AI could also do with some finetuning. On the medium and hard difficulty settings, they were often too easy to keep up with. Conversely, there is often one rider in pole position who is consistently several seconds faster than everyone else. They also rarely stray from the racing line and have an annoying habit of blindly slamming into the back of you. Luckily, collisions with other riders don’t usually cause you to fall off the bike unless you lose control, but their lack of awareness of your track position can cause some unnecessary accidents.

None of these issues detract from the intoxicating thrill of tackling one of the toughest road circuits on the planet, however. TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge is a relentlessly tense thrill ride that will challenge even the most experienced players. It’s been a long and arduous wait for the iconic Mountain Course to feature in a modern racing game, but the wait has certainly been worth it. Finally, we have a video game that does the Isle of Man TT the justice it deserves.

That’s it for our TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge review in progress. Check back soon for our full TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge review where we will also be testing the online multiplayer. 

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