At this point, I think it’s clear that I have some major issues with Super Bikes 3. For various reasons—most related to the sheer dearth of content—I’m fairly certain that the latest entry in Raw Thrills’s…erm, “The Fast and the Furious/Super Cars/Super Bikes” franchise is not only a subpar release but also a mockery of the series before it.
When I first discussed this title on my blog in March, I fretted over the limited track and character selections, potential lack of single-player modes, and the uncertainty of features like bike upgrades and profile saves. Since then, more information has been revealed. And—you guessed it—I’ve got a lot to say about it.
Fasten your seatbelts, kiddos. This’ll be a doozy.
First off, some good news. Speaking directly with a representative at Raw Thrills, I learned that the development team had actually increased the number of race courses from a measly five to a total of eight. While this isn’t a spectacular sum, it is respectable. But most of all, it means Raw Thrills listened. They heard their fanbase and made a genuine effort to respond. That’s something I do not take for granted.
The new course list includes Nepal, Tanzania, Hong Kong, Hollywood, and three “Xtreme” tracks, as well as one course I didn’t catch the name of. The new Xtreme tracks are altered versions of three standard courses with added visual effects and increased difficulty. If Xtreme tracks are anything like Chinatown X was to Chinatown in the original F&F, we may have something genuinely compelling on our hands.
But even with the “added difficulty”, I have a strong feeling the track design will be exceedingly easy. Cruis’n Blast, as many remember, wasn’t even remotely challenging compared to the twisty-turny greatness of prior Cruis’n and F&F titles. (There was hardly any need to press the gas pedal, let alone drift.) And given reports I’ve heard from those who’ve already played Super Bikes 3, the track design looks to be another snooze-fest.
Where Raw Thrills is making up for the lack of difficulty is in flashy, over-the-top set pieces. Though these are fun additions, they don’t excuse courses that are practically straight lines. Neither personal experience with pseudo-predecessor Cruis’n Blast nor other players’ input has set my expectations too high.
I don’t find the gameplay mechanics very reassuring, either. Naturally, to pander to casuals as much as humanly possible, SB3 will not feature a manual transmission mode or a brake. Heck, I’ve heard you don’t even have to grip the accelerator, because apparently racing games should play themselves.
Fortunately, the ability to perform tricks has not been removed, so that feature will probably function the same way it does in every other Raw Thrills racer. Something I do find intriguing, though, is the inclusion of “takedowns”, which allow players to dismantle CPU opponents from their bikes. While I can’t say it’s a particularly groundbreaking mechanic, takedowns do at least update the increasingly stagnated gameplay in some way. (Plus, they sound pretty rad.)
Of particular note is the profile system—which is to say there isn’t one. Despite championing online saves that would allow players to pick up their progress on any cabinet in the world, I assumed a machine-dependent PIN system would return. Unfortunately for anyone who cares about replayability, there’s no way to tie stats and progress to a profile whatsoever.
Oh, and speaking of stats, the upgrade system has also been completely scrapped. Instead of receiving a free upgrade with every play—with multiple upgrade paths to complete for each bike—players are now given the opportunity to “swipe again” for an “Ultra” enhancement.
So yes, the last shred of content this release could claim has been reduced to nothing but a cheap monetization system. And—once more—because there is no profile system, upgrading bikes is entirely pointless. You'll have to “swipe again” each time you play. Who’s ready to sacrifice two to three minutes of gameplay for a souped-up skin?
Of course, I highly doubt the upgrades will have any real effect on the gameplay itself. From everything I’ve heard so far—and, I reiterate, my experience with Cruis’n Blast—it looks like good ol’ rubberbanding will render both player skill and pay-to-win upgrades useless. Apparently, it’s darn near impossible to wind up in last place, even if you never touch the accelerator.
In the older F&F games, I accepted rubberbanding because it made the game more challenging. When the slightest mistake could irreversibly damage a run, each first-place victory—and the resulting free race—was that much more satisfying. But when rubberbanding makes everyone a winner, seemingly at random, what’s the point of trying at all?
And on the topic of free races for first place? Don’t expect to earn more gameplay for your dedication and skill. Looking through the official “Operator’s Manual”, it appears that free races are only available in “H2H” (head-to-head) games. In classic Super Bikes 3 fashion, free races are disabled by default.
The manual actually offers quite a bit of insight into what kind of game we should expect. “Name Entry and High Scores” are enabled by default but can, in fact, be disabled if the operator would prefer to further dilute the experience. And QR code score sharing—a crucial facet of Raw Thrills’s limited online infrastructure—is disabled by default. Might as well discourage competition and repeat play while we're at it.
Interestingly enough, upgrades can also be disabled. I’m not sure if that would make the game more barebones or less predatory. I say, “Yes.”
Beyond all those issues, there’s not much that will save this empty vacuum of a game. There will be no single-player content (be it ghosts, time trials, or a “campaign”). There will be no achievements system (like in Super Cars). And there will be, quite frankly, no reason to play at all. But surely eight licensed motorcycles from Yamaha and Ducatti should make up for those shortcomings, right?
What’s so upsetting about Super Bikes 3 is that it’s not just a bad game. Super Bikes 3 is a bad sequel, which tarnishes not only its own image but also the reputation of the series preceding it. Super Bikes 3 is ruining the Fast and Furious/Super Cars/Super Bikes franchise the same way Cruis’n Blast absolutely destroyed Cruis’n. And you can’t take back a bad game. Once it’s out, it’s out.
Much to my dismay, though, a bad game is exactly what Super Bikes 3 will be. It never seemed possible, but Raw Thrills conjured a title even more disappointing than Cruis’n Blast. Something so unapologetically casual—pandering so hard to the exploding FEC bubble—that it simply has no value as a piece of software.
And you know what really adds insult to injury? What really pours salt all over the wound?
Super Bikes 3 features a ticket redemption mode.