Ridge Racer Unbounded made a change in game-play style from the usual Ridge Racer franchise and was more influenced by Burnout. Driftopia is a free-to-play follow up which makes heavy use of recycling the assets of Unbounded.
The overall aim of the races is to come in the top three, but on the way you can attain additional points by drifting, drafting, gaining air-time and causing destruction along your way. Achieving these points subsequently charges your nitro, which is then used as a speed boost or to 'frag' opponents.
Due to the new free-to-play model, there's some changes to the game-play. If you crash, you don't respawn and instead; you are out of the race. You then have to use your repair kits to be able to race again, with higher level cars requiring more repair kits per repair. Obviously, these are available to purchase, but you start with a decent amount and will gain 50 per day as long as you play once. Being out of the race if you crash would be infuriating if the races were long, so they are cut down to 1:30-2:30 long. If you do come in the top 3, you will be awarded with booster cards which are also also available to purchase in packs. These booster cards can take the form of repair kits, score bonuses, or act as a one-use modifier to your car which changes the handling (stronger brakes, more aerodynamic etc).
If you finish the race, you will pick up a few repair kits, and your points that you accumulated will be added to both your driver's and car level. Level up your driver and new tracks will unlock. Level up your car, and you will be able to add a permanent upgrade to top speed, acceleration, boost power, or strength. You then take part in a challenge race against some of the cars that you have fragged. Beat them and the cars get added to your garage.
There are four car classes; uncommon, common, rare, mythic. The majority of cars aren't drastically different within each class, so you will most likely stick with the same one until you obtain a car of a higher class. All the others that you don't need can be destroyed to turn them into repair kits.
The opponents are computer-driven but based on human data. When you race, you are put up against a selection of similarly ranked players based on the car class that you chose. The further up the leader-board you go, the smaller the gap seems to be between 1st and 8th leading to more challenging and frantic races.
Although the computer opponents don't actively try and frag you, they do often knock into you which seems to be more common as you progress further up the leader-board. The knock will send you into the sides, and you will either crash and destroy your car, or you may manage to slam on the brakes but not have enough time to catch-up. This can be very frustrating. To try and remedy this from happening at the start of the race, the cars are initially ghosts, then become solid later. Despite this, some races can be a bit crammed, so you have to adjust your race position accordingly.
Although there's times when the races seem too tough and you don't make real progress, because you are obtaining experience points; you will eventually grind out another level and therefore another upgrade. The upgrades don't drastically change your car, but it can help make the difference. Winning extra card packs and using the booster cards can help push you into a winning position too.
Driftopia can be tough and a bit punishing to new comers, but once you have a bit of skill and enough perseverance, you can gain hours of fun without paying a penny if you choose not to. As a fan of Unbounded, I ended up playing this game for 20 hours, but at times, I thought maybe I should just pick up Unbounded again and play that. Obviously the game is recycled and has the infamous free-to-play model driving it; so its a game with a lot of hate. If you like competing on leader-boards and don't mind the changes to make it free-to-play; then it's a great game. If you don't want to support free-to-play, then just pick up Unbounded, and if you are a bitter old-school Ridge Racer fan, then don't bother playing at all.