Riptide GP: Renegade, a beginner's guide

It was 20 years ago when games like Wave Race 64 for the N64, and the Jet Moto series for PlayStation proving that racing games need not be confined to the asphalt track. In the time since, notwithstanding a few sequels and reboot attempts, not much has been done with the jet-ski racing genre.

Developers Vector Unit had done their part to breathe new life into the genre. Their first title, Hydro Thunder Hurricane, was a surprise hit on the Xbox Live Arcade. Since then, they've turned their focus to bringing console-quality racing to Android and other mobile platforms. Their latest game, Riptide GP: Renegade, is the third in the series and a guaranteed blast of nostalgia for fans of Wave Race 64 or Jet Moto.

Set in not-too-distant future where water is seemingly everywhere and rocket-powered hydrojet racing is apparently a huge big deal, Riptide GP: Renegade is a visually stunning game featuring outstanding water physics and a great sense of speed. There are multiple single player and multiplayer options to choose from — a story-based Career mode where you must redeem your racer's reputation after a run-in with the law, as well as leaderboard challenges, quick races, and both online and local split-screen multiplayer options — which help to justify its $2.99 price in the Google Play Store.

But before you dive in, we've compiled our best tips for beginners so you can leave your opponents in your wake.

Control is everything

If you're playing Riptide GP: Renegade on your phone, by default you'll be stuck using the all-too-common tilt steering controls. The tilt control scheme is quite apropos, given the riders really lean into their turns on their hydrojets. Unfortunately, it's just hard to steer precisely — more than fine in games when you're drag racing a car down a flat strip. But when you're dealing with the choppy waterways in Riptide GP, the slightest angle difference can fling you way off your preferred line and, given how unrelenting the AI, likely knock you out of a podium finish. Fortunately, you also have the option of using a Bluetooth gamepad.

The first time you play Riptide GP with a controller, the added control an analog stick allows is instantly noticeable. Making small tweaks as you line up an epic jump suddenly involves less guesswork than finding the sweet spot with the tilt controls.

Using a controller also lets you pull off stunts more efficiently. With the default control scheme, you swipe with both thumbs in tandem to pull off stunts in the air. That works just fine. But again, the tactile responsiveness of the sticks and the sheer fact that your thumbs naturally rest right on them as you play just makes pulling off tricks that much faster and easier.

And of course, if you ever want to make use of split-screen multiplayer — a rarity on console games these days and nearly unheard of for mobile games — you'll need at least two (up to four) gamepads. For what it's worth, Riptide GP: Renegade also plays fantastically on the Nvidia Shield TV Box, so you can play with friends without cramming around your tablet.

Master the motions of the ocean

As Vector Unit boasts on the Google Play page for Riptide GP: Renegade, "Every race is different because the surface you race on is always changing."

This is very true, and the outstanding water physics are one of the features that makes this game worth checking out. But they can make each race completely unpredictable in a bad way. If you awkwardly bounce off an opponent's wake or don't properly prepare for that massive wave coming your way, you're bound to be flung well off course, or into something that will cause your rider to crash.

The problem is the learning curve for mastering how to maintain top speeds through choppy sections is pretty high. Considering you often need a perfect run to finish first, knowing how to read the water and, most importantly, how to quickly recover when you're thrown off course is crucial. In the end, you'll have to play through each track multiple times to figure out your best lines through the choppiest bits so you can keep up with your competition.

Tricks are cool, but upgrades are more important

Every time you level up your rider in Career mode, you earn skill points. Skill points can be spent to unlock different upgrades for your rider, including a bunch of super cool tricks. Once you start collecting skill points and checking out everything that's available, you're going to be tempted to spend them on a flashy new trick because landing tricks during a race is how you fill up your boost bar — the crazier the stunt, the more boost you receive.

But you should really hold off on upgrading your bag of tricks until you've snagged the first three skill point upgrades on the list: Boost Bonus, Boost Start, and Drafting. These three upgrades are absolutely necessary to keep up with your opponents as you progress through Career mode.

Boost Bonus increases the length of your boosts, which is crucial for when you're trying to pass opponents down the final stretch, or when you bail and need to get back up to speed. Boost Start gives you the option to tap the boost icon right when the lights turn green at the start of the race for an acceleration boost off the line. Drifting lets you get a minor speed boost when you're riding behind your opponents, indicated by wind effects.

Drifting seems to be the most important of the three, as once you get good at following your opponent's lines you can use the added speed from drifting to blast past them at the perfect moment.

There are three levels for each upgrade, which become available at rider levels 2, 5 and 10. Ensuring you have the skill points saved up to unlock these crucial upgrades will be key for a smooth progression through Career mode.

Don't trip yourself up with tricks

On the topic of tricks, you'll soon learn to use them sparingly and strategically. The basic set of tricks are typically easy to do off of every jump, wave, or drop — but they barely fill the boost meter. This will lead you to take more risks and try to squeeze a trick into every jump. Do not do this.

The risk-reward for tricks is pretty steep. Sure, filling the boost meter can help you zip past an opponent on a straightaway, or recover after taking a speed-killing sharp turn. However, if you don't finish the trick before you hit the water, you crash causing the rider to go flying.

You'll quickly learn how impossible it is to fully recover from a crash in Riptide GP: Renegade. If you're in first place and you crash, you'll likely drop down to fourth. If you ride clean for the remainder of the race, you might be able to claw back up to second place, but getting back to the front of the pack is incredibly hard.

The AI is just not as prone to messing up their stunts, so you really got to be strategic when to pulling off tricks. If you didn't hit a jump at max speed, you're probably better off just taking the jump, forgoing collecting some boost, and focusing on maintaining speed and lining up the next section of the course.

Find all the shortcuts

Vector Unit did a great job with the level design for all the courses in the game, throwing in a bunch of objects to interact with and at least one or two secret shortcuts on every track.

Finding shortcuts isn't too hard, as long as you keep an eye on your surroundings as you race. Our best tip for discovering and mastering shortcuts is to really explore the courses outside of the competitive races in Career mode or multiplayer. Pick a track in Quick Race mode and take a slow, leisurely tour. Think you saw one? Turn around and check it out. You'll quickly notice the off-map paths, and can learn their twists and turns at your own pace. Once you've mastered them, you can incorporate them into your competitive races and — hopefully — cut out in front of the other racers.

But just like pulling off tricks, you really have to be confident and strategic with using shortcuts. Try to cut into a shortcut too late and you risk bailing and making things much worse for yourself.

Got any other tips?

Have you played Riptide GP: Renegade? Let us know your favorite tips in the comments!

Marc Lagace

Marc Lagace was an Apps and Games Editor at Android Central between 2016 and 2020. You can reach out to him on Twitter [@spacelagace.