Which is probably why Rims, an all-new, surprisingly hardcore bike sim from upstart studio RaceWard, is a very different kind of racing game – stubborn and prickly, sure, but not without a certain gruff charm. This shares foundations – and some technology, I believe – with its stablemate TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge, but whereas Kylotonn Racing’s effort takes the legendary Snaefell Mountain course and builds outwards from it, Rim’s real concern is focussed inwards on the bike itself. And it goes to some very curious places with it.
There are only eight bikes available in Rims, but it doesn’t muck about with any mortal machinery – instead you’re put straight into the top tier machinery such as the Ducati Panigale V4 or Yamaha R1. They’re widowmakers all, bikes that will buck and bolt under your fingers and fling you into the scenery for even the slightest discrepancy.
Unlike the open armed TT Isle of Man 2, Rims doesn’t care much for beginners. There are three levels of assists available, complete with one that pairs the front and rear brakes, but you’ll still have to proceed with extreme caution – and no matter what difficulty level you pick you’ll still have to contend with a manual clutch at every race start. Perhaps it’s coming from four wheels and having to relearn lines around familiar tracks and remembering that when bikes take to the likes of Suzuka and Silverstone there’s some subtle layout changes to get your head around, but still Rims is at its best when it takes to the open roads that make up half of its track list. There you’ll find some of that same pliability to the rides as found in the excellent Isle of Man games, with a slightly more brutal edge.
Then you get off the bike, and things get weird. Riding and racing bikes is only half the Rims experience – the other is all about tweaking and tinkering in your workshop, swapping out some of the 500 parts available for each bike and making sure they’re in peak shape. This is a simulation that goes well beyond what happens out on the tarmac.
It’s an interesting idea that, I’m afraid, is appallingly implemented. Damaged a part? You can get a quick glimpse of components when out on track, then on the bike stand it’s a case of finding it via a busy nest of menus, trying to figure out where the shop is to get a new part and then taking part in a multi-stage QTE to strip the old part off. Then you’ll need to do another QTE to mount the new parts. And then rinse and repeat for however many parts that need fixing. I’m not as down on QTEs as some others, but these are not good examples of the form – and the sheer number of them is quite unlike any game I’ve ever played.
It’s frankly bizarre, and the problem’s only exacerbated if you’ve just had a bad run and fallen off a few times – something that’s a given, really, seeing how unforgiving Rims can be on-track. After a few hours and not too long into Rim’s career mode I found myself without the funds to replace the brake caliper after a particularly messy race around Zolder, and found myself without the inclination to go grinding cash or fumbling through the mess of menus much more.
It is realistic, though – I’ll give it that. Having some slim experience of real world racing I’m all too familiar that the reality of the sport is often a mix of tedium and extreme expense, with the on-track action providing all too fleeting relief from all that. It’s that expense and tedium that’s why I love virtual racing so much, where you’re straight to the action and can shake off any on-track indiscretion without having to face so much of the consequences.
Perhaps it’s because the fiddly side of set-up has never interested me that much – that subscription of mine to Craig’s Setup Shop is there for a reason – and even if it was I’m not sure the ontrack action of Rims is quite worth the pain you’ve got to go through elsewhere to get to it. Perhaps it’s because bikes don’t tickle me quite as much as their four-wheeled counterparts, and I’m not wired up to get swept away by the admittedly impressive breadth of options for the tinkerer on offer here. Ultimately, though, I think you’ve got to be a very different breed indeed to enjoy the strange, stunted hybrid that is Rims.