Talkative NPCs probably only made up around 10 or so minutes of my four hours playing Riders Republic, but their presence was definitely felt throughout the duration of preview session. Perhaps I'm not the target audience for the zAaAaAaAaAanY presentation – you might go for it in a big way – but it all felt a bit Steve Buscemi undercover in a school. Costumes fit for a London Marathon also-ran don't scream cool to me, but that's probably for the young'uns to decide. But if the chatty in-game friends can stay out of the way, this Steep follow-up might turn out to be quite good fun. When you look past the faff, the extreme sports smorgasbord is pretty enjoyable.
It has the winter sports from Ubisoft Annecy's previous game, as well as some new ones that you can do on drier land. I didn't get to mess about with all of the new sports that Riders Republic will have at launch, but I did have a lovely time zooming around dirt tracks on my push bike. It's a bit fiddly to get used to at first, as the bikes are a tad stiffer than the skis or the snowboard, but it turned out to be my preferred mode of transport by the end of my session.
To be fair, Riders Republic's sole concern is your enjoyment. You can do as many flippy-dos as you like on a snowboard, - but you need to be mindful of your body shape if you have manual landing turned on. If you're not bothered with the extra points you'll get from direct control over your rider in the air, then stick on auto landing and become a veritable Dante Martin on a snowboard.
The game definitely pushes multiplayer, too. Whether that's playing with friends in a team-based event, or against them in a free-for-all, the social aspect of Riders Republic can be felt from the moment you boot up the game and find yourself in the Riders Ridge hub. The pinnacle of this is the mass race. These 50+ player, multi-stage events are absolutely ludicrous, in the best possible way. They're like magical triathlons: you can be skiing over a cliff at the end of the first stage, find yourself piloting an Iron Man-esque jet-suit for the second part of the event, and finish up by falling out of the sky onto a snowmobile. Have a watch of the video at the top, which shows this witchcraft in action.
It's certainly more obnoxious than it needs to be, but when Riders Republic leaves you to your own devices it can be terrific craic. My preview session was guided by someone from Ubisoft – makes sense, because there was a lot to cover in a few hours – but come late October I'm looking forward to grabbing a couple of buddies to piss about in wingsuits. Or maybe we'll take out our BMXs and Evel Knievel ourselves over ravenes. There's a lot to this place that I haven't seen. But I'm alright never talking to those NPCs again. It'd be great if you could limit those interactions, Ubisoft, please.