That emphasis on streamlining continues in the Zombie mode, where a squad of up to four players fights Kortifex, lord of the Dark Aether, and the Oberführer Wolfram Von List. Unlike previous chapters, the map is simpler with a hub world and portals that transport the squad to locales filled with different scenarios. Instead of wandering around unlocking new places in a complex maze, it’s a more straightforward approach so that players can focus on the cooperative play and progression that are hallmarks of the mode.
The big addition to multiplayer is Champion Hill, which acts as a fast-paced tournament mode. Teams of up to three engage rival squads in small arenas. Cash is important to buy power-ups and gear, increasing the odds for survival. Squads have a limited number of spawns as they battle others to be the last ones standing. It’s a mode that requires teamwork and rewards those who amass cash and spend it wisely to outfit their teams with the best gear possible before facing off.
Although “Vanguard” may not have been as hyped as other “Call of Duty” entries, it does a serviceable job at giving players an experience that’s more engaging and easier to get into.
A TRIP TO THE ‘RIDERS REPUBLIC’
Ubisoft Annecy showed promise with its open-world winter sports game “Steep.” It was a huge project that spanned the Alps and other famous mountain ranges. It was a concept that kept expanding as the developer added more sports through downloadable content.
“Riders Republic” is the natural evolution of that vision as Ubisoft Annecy moves beyond the wintry slopes. In this extreme sports title, players visit an open world that blends iconic U.S. parks such as Bryce Canyon, Yosemite, Zion, Canyonlands, Sequoia Park and Mammoth Mountain.
With such a diverse landscape, the developers add even more activities such as biking and rocket-powered flying on top of its familiar repertoire of snowboarding, skiing and wingsuit flying. The added sports demanded a new perspective and Ubisoft Annecy found it by creating the frame of an extreme sports festival, one in which the player is a promising up-and-comer.
It’s a notion that’s echoed in other franchises, most notably the “Forza Horizon” series. In fact, “Riders Republic” borrows heavily from the format that Playground Games pioneered. Players will find secret items called relics scattered throughout the world. They’re similar to Barn Finds. Taking a podium spot earns a player new gear in a manner similar to how cars are doled out in some “Forza” competitions. Although the festival idea is a good starting point, I wish the game had a more distinct tone with events that showed off more originality, though the Shack Daddy challenges are enjoyable if flawed events.
THE FUN IN THE EXTREME
Part of the fun in “Riders Republic” is winning contests and picking up better gear to be more competitive. Players also earn credits to customize the look of their character so that they can stand out among the competition. Tied into this gameplay loop is a burgeoning sense of mastery as players learn the ins and outs of each sport and its respective disciplines.