Ridge Racer ReviewCain Dornan
There is no doubting that the Playstation Portable hardware is quite impressive. The sleek slimline unit can certainly pack quite a punch in variety of different functions that the system offers, with one of the most notable features being the systems impressive graphical capabilities that look superb on the units large screen. One such title that is of graphical importance is Ridge Racer; Namcos renowned racing series that has arrived onto the PSP in an impressive fashion. While the game looks stunning, it is important to not forget the games fluid gameplay, long lifetime and great music and thats just skinning the top of what Ridge Racer has to offer handheld gamers.
Namcos racing series has spawned a number of titles over the past few years. While a number of these were certainly worthwhile experiences, there was also a fair collection of ordinary titles that offered a bland, occasionally frustrating experience. Thankfully, it appears that Namco has finally gotten the balance right. Ridge Racer on the PSP essentially involves fast-paced racing around tight tracks that vary considerably from each other, aiding in providing a continuously fresh experience. The game begins with a small variety of vehicles that travel at a relatively modest speed, allowing you to grasp Ridge Racers unique control system that heavily relies on drifting in order to get around corners. In addition to allowing you to quickly navigate corners, performing drifts also fills your three on-screen nitro meters which, when activated, grant you a short spurt of speed to gain the upper-hand on your competitors.
Ridge Racers core gameplay components are split into four central modes, which includes World Tours, Single Race, Time Attack and Wireless Battle. World Tours is essentially the story aspect of the game, requiring you to progress through a series of championships that gradually grow in difficulty and increase in vehicle power. Completing a series will grant you access to the next series and reward you with a new machine for your use. Included in the World Tour mode is the sub-mode known as Custom Tour, which allows you to create your own tour based off selecting settings for play time and machine class.
Single Race is essentially a Quick Race mode that allows you to select your desired settings, including map and vehicle type, and then instantly jump into a race.
Time Attack involves, as it title suggests, racing against the clock to achieve the best possible time for each map.
Finally, for those who crave some multiplayer action, Wireless Battle will certainly grab your attention. This mode allows for up to eight players to compete in each of the levels that are available in the single player modes.
Ridge Racers gameplay is surprisingly addictive. While the game does feel slightly slow at the beginning of the game with only the first level of vehicles available, as you progress through the game and eventually unlock successive levels of vehicles, the speed of the gameplay really begins to amp-up a considerable amount. Since drifting around corners is the most effective way of overcoming such obstacles, it is rare that you will be traveling under 100 kilometers an hour. To ensure that the game continues to travel at a fast pace, Namco has limited the number of obstacles on the track that will significantly lower your speed to ensure that the game continues to travel at an un-interruptedly fast pace. Unfortunately, with the absent of such obstacles comes the relative ease of Ridge Racer. Hitting a wall or barrier will simply lower your speed slightly, with no significantly noticeable reduce evident. Coming into contact with another player is the only other possible way to reduce your speed, with a slight bump to the rear of another vehicle often pushing them significantly forward while your speed slightly decreases.
Unfortunately, the intelligence of the computer-controlled racers during single player events is somewhat disappointing. It is clear that each vehicle follows their own designated line, which is certainly disappointing when compared to the rest of the games impressive presentation. The restriction of the competing vehicles being limited to a single line prevents the game from being as immersive as it should be.
Not only does Ridge Racer run smoothly, but it also controls impressively well. The game offers the use of both the PSPs D-Pad and thumbstick, with both methods of control working remarkably well. Obviously, it will lead to your own personal preference as to which control method you will use.
On the button side, the small number of buttons required to effectively play Ridge Racer allows for the easy understanding of how to control the game. The X button is used for gas, the square button for braking and the R button to initiate boost, commonly referred as nitro.
Visually, Ridge Racer is stunning. So much so that it is one of the best looking titles on the Playstation Portable at launch, clearly proving that the system is capable of producing visuals equal to those seen on the Playstation 2. Each of the vehicles offer solid detail, complete with window and metallic effects that create an almost believable ride. Impressive lighting effects that reflect off the vehicles in a realistic fashion further adds to the impressive presentation of the vehicles, with a varied array of track environments completing the satisfying visual presentation.
Ridge Racer mixes up a catchy variety of thumping techno beats that are delivered complete with an annoying DJ. Rather than just mixing these tracks, however, he often inputs his own unwanted opinions on the progress of the race, commenting on your impressive overtaking of another vehicle or achieving extreme air on the peak of a hill. The problem that lies here, however, is the fact that there is only a limited variety of phrases available, which ultimately results in hearing the same line multiple times in a single event. While an interesting feature to begin with, it quickly becomes annoying after playing the game for a matter of minutes. The overall sound effects and variety of music helps in forgiving the annoyance of the DJ.
While a small number of niggling problems prevent the ultimate enjoyment, Ridge Racer on the Playstation Portable is an impressive title that delivers a thrilling racing experience that is only hindered by the ordinary AI. If you are looking for a solid racer on the PSP, Ridge Racer is certainly worth a look.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.