Racing games are a mixed bag. On one end of the spectrum there are the cartoonish antics of Forza Horizon 3, where you can literally race in a goddamn Hot Wheels car. On the far opposite side of the dial are the Gran Turismo-style simulations that are satisfied only showing their faces on a PlayStation console once per generation. The recently released TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge opts to lean more towards the sim world in a way that is hard to describe without resorting to excessive hyperbole. Let’s just say that only the most hardcore of the hardcore need apply.
Hit the Road. Literally.
For the uninitiated, the world of motorbike racing has a holy grail that has been drastically underrepresented as far as gaming is concerned: The International Isle of Man TT. This yearly competition pits riders from across the globe in what could be argued is the most dangerous ride in the world. To put it into perspective, during last year’s race, three people died, bringing the event’s death toll to 255 since 1907. Let that sink in for a second. With a fatality count that high, you would have to be a special blend of batshit crazy to even consider taking part in the event. Thankfully, this sort of escapism is why video games were invented. Players get the chance to experience all of the thrills, without having to decide if they want to be an organ donor.
As you might imagine, Isle of Man TT is a game that focuses on recreating every square inch of the storied road race. No stone was left unturned in the relentless effort to achieve authenticity. The development team over at Kylotonn went as far as using lasers to scan the entirety of the circuit. The course feels lived in, because it emulates real places in startling detail. But who really worries about art assets when the surroundings are rendered nothing more than brilliantly colored smears against the backdrop of a roaring engine?
The moment-to-moment experience of pushing a superbike to its limit is exhilarating on a level that is hard to match. Especially when using the first-person camera, located directly behind the handlebars, it is hard to tell where the simulation stops and reality begins. Details like the borderline deafening roar of the engine and the unnerving howl of the wind blowing by the bike all help flesh out a tremendously immersive experience.
Reality is Overrated
One side effect of the increased realism is the realization that this vehicle only has two wheels. I know that seems rather obvious, but if you so much as hiccup at high velocities, the results could be catastrophic. These aspects of the simulation couldn’t be more front and center. Calling it unforgiving would be an understatement to say the very least. Remember all of those fatalities from earlier? Suddenly these unfortunate occurrences begin to make a bit more sense. Even with the highest levels of assists equipped, there is no coming back from even the slightest wobble in the steering. When the trembles set in you might as well swap out your gear for a swimsuit, because you are about to become a fleshy skipping-stone.
Despite all of the assists being enabled, it is still extremely difficult to complete any race in the career mode without encountering a restart inducing event or two. Now admittedly, it may have been a mistake to transition directly from Forza Horizon 3 to TT Isle of Man, but nothing could have prepared me for the number of issues that I would encounter simply due to control oddities. I may not be a maven of the motorbike, but there were times that genuine glitches far overshadowed my shoddy performance.
Never are the quirky controls more on display than when attempting to turn around the track’s numerous corners. What had once felt like trying to forcibly steer a lightning fast elephant using nothing more than shoe string and raw determination was suddenly swapped back to the polar opposite end of the spectrum. More often than not, I found myself over-steering into the wall itself. While this would get better with experience, I still had it happen at least once per race.
Herein lies the most hardcore aspect of the game; it demands perfection from the player. In real life, the concept of a contact-free ride is less a matter of challenge and more a matter of survival. In order to be competitive, players must hold themselves to the same standards. Unfortunately, there are plenty of elements far outside of the player’s control that also result in the pursuit of perfection being just out of reach. For example, rubbing up against a wall gently while making a turn should not result in the rider and bike being jettisoned in opposite directions as if a bomb went off. Yet this was something that I witnessed numerous times. And don’t even get me started about how weirdly the bike reacts to sudden changes in elevation. Trying to land even the slightest of hops would be akin to the most frustrating bull ride in history.
One More for the Road
One element that cannot be argued is the game’s attention to detail. However, in some cases key environmental details had a tendency to pop-in just as you were burning by the object. You don’t know distraction until a lamppost suddenly materializes in front of the bike. Texture pop-in also tends to be an issue when transitioning from a high to low speed. It almost feels like the game doesn’t detect the need for the higher caliber textures until it is slightly too late. Granted, this is an issue that doesn’t really pose a ton of impact on the race itself, but the overall lack in polish is discernible from its other peers in the racing community.
Also, don’t plan on spending immense amounts of time digging into Isle of Man. Calling the offering barebones might even be considered generous. Though the experience of tackling the entire road race in an exhilarating 20-minute burst sounds like fun, this sums up damn near everything that the game has to offer. Sure, there are a few fictional tracks thrown into the campaign mode to pad out the runtime, but ultimately it ends up feeling extremely light on content. You can only spend so much time trying to top leaderboards before challenges begin to grow stale. Even something like tinkering with component settings would have been a welcome addition. Players are instead treated to a lineup of 40 bikes, all with static configurations that don’t do enough to differentiate between each other.
If you were to boil TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge down to its essence, it does a fantastic job of recreating the storied event in fantastic detail. The sheer sense of speed it engenders is an achievement in and of itself. However, the mediocre variety, lack of replayability, and need for more polish derail an otherwise interesting experience. Only the hardcore should saddle up for this ride.
TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge review code provided by publisher. Version 1.0 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.