Reviews TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge review

Reviews

Martin Bigg

Writer

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Game: TT Isle Of Man: Ride on the Edge

Platform: PC, PS4, XBox One

Publisher: Bigben Interactive

Release Date: 09/02/2018

The Isle of Man TT Mountain Course is renowned for being the longest and most dangerous road circuit in the world. Unquestionably, it’s 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 37.73 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 back in 2008, in fact, despite it being frequently requested. Seemingly, no developer has been willing to take on the daunting task of reproducing the 37.73-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.

TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge screenshot

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 of recreating the iconic mountain course in exacting detail.

From the placement of street signs and road markings to the local pubs and corner shops, every landmark is present and correct. No two houses are the same – you won’t see lazily-duplicated buildings like in other games. Put simply, this is the most realistic representation of the TT course we’re likely to see in a racing game for a very long time. It’s a monumental achievement.

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. There are some instances of slowdown during a few sections of the Mountain Course, but performance is generally smooth, running at 30fps. As you would expect, on Xbox One there is no slowdown whatsoever during a full lap of the Mountain Course but the frame rate is still capped at 30fps, sadly, despite the PC version running at 60fps.

Ride or die

Hurtling down mountain roads at triple-digit speeds while narrowly avoiding walls, fences and road signs with inches to spare leaves little margin for error – you won’t get away with any losses 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 into the nearest wall. It’s a risk that riders face in the real championship, and TT Isle of Man masterfully captures this sense of danger.

TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge screenshot

The sensation of speed is astonishing 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 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 focusing your attention on the sound of your screaming bike and the wind rushing past, which gets increasingly louder as you gain speed. It’s a small detail, but it’s used to great effect, adding to the feeling of speed. Racing game developers everywhere, 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.

Pushed to the limit

Controlling the bike around the complex course takes a lot of skill. Fortunately, the handling of the bikes is sharp, direct and extremely responsive, drawing comparisons to Evolution Studios’ excellent DriveClub Bikes – and that’s no bad thing. Purists may crave a more true-to-life handling model, but any more delay to the turning on such a demanding course would make the game too inaccessible.

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, even 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 slamming into the nearest wall or tree. To say it’s less forgiving than Manx TT Superbike is an understatement.

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 this 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.

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 controller-crushingly 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.

TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge screenshot

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 fictional tracks based on real locations around the UK to help you hone your skills. They pale in comparison to the mighty Mountain course but each track is well-designed, adding some much-needed variety to the game.

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

All or nothing

It’s clear, however, that most of Kylotonn’s resources were poured into replicating the iconic Mountain Course. While the developer’s effort is commendable, other aspects of the game feel underdeveloped as a result. The career mode, for example, seems 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. You create a custom avatar, and while there are options to change the colour of your racing overalls and helmet, the customisation isn’t 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, which seems like an oversight. 23 official riders such as the legendary John McGuinness are included but are only accessible in single event modes. Given the long-standing history of the TT championship, it’s disappointing that legendary riders like the Dunlop brothers have been omitted. Even Guy Martin, who still races today, is curiously missing from the rider roster.

TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge screenshot

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. You’ll need to monitor your bank account closely too, because the combination of entrance fees, repair costs and general maintenance rapidly drains your funds. Get into the red, and you’ll lose all progress and be forced to restart your entire career. For a game that’s so brutally unforgiving on the track, this added difficulty is a step too far.

The bike selection could also be more extensive. There are 38 bikes in total from manufacturers such as BMW, Kawasaki, Honda, and Triumph, but only two classes, Supersports and Superbikes, are represented, though sidecars are being added in a free update this month. Some slower entry-level bikes to help beginners to get to grips would have been welcome. TT Isle of Man is a very slim package considering its triple-A price tag, but the time it takes to master the Snaefell Mountain course makes up for the limited content. Dedicated fans will enjoy every second, but more casual fans will likely lose interest much sooner.

Replays 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 to save memorable moments or marvel at the scenery and pristine bike models.

TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge screenshot

Dedicated Isle of Man TT fans may also be disappointed with the lack of live action footage or photos from the real championship – exclusive rider interviews, for example, would have added some fan service. Coupled with bland menu designs, omissions like these detract from the overall presentation. Speaking of which, 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 still needs finetuning, too. On medium and hard difficulty settings, opponents are 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 bumping into the back of you as a result, even with the latest patch installed. Luckily, collisions with other riders doesn’t often 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.

Racing against human opponents partially rectifies this, but the online multiplayer component in TT Isle of Man, which supports up to eight players, is barebones at best. Filters can be applied to search for specific tracks and bike classes, but there’s no server browser so you can’t search for lobbies with a specific player count.

More problematic is the lack of physics filters. It’s possible to race against a pack of players with all assists activated while you race with no assists, creating balance issues as a result. That said, the netcode seems solid as I didn’t encounter any lag issues in fully populated matches. Connecting to matches is swift, and it usually doesn’t take long for lobbies to fill up with players. None of the game’s issues detract from the intoxicating thrill of tackling one of the toughest road circuits on the planet, however.

None of the game’s issues detract from the intoxicating thrill of tackling one of the toughest road circuits on the planet. 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 iconic Isle of Man TT the justice it deserves.

Our Review

7 /10

The good

  • Superb sense of speed.
  • Course recreated in exacting detail.
  • Gorgeous graphics.

The bad

  • Uninspiring career mode.
  • Unforgiving riding physics.
  • Steep learning curve for novice players.
  • Inconsistent AI.
  • Limited bike selection.

Summary

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 iconic Isle of Man TT the justice it deserves.

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Travis
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Travis

I’m waiting for a Steam price drop before purchasing as this looks really solid and a lot of fun.