Ridge Racer is a legend of the gaming world – but more than that it’s a meme. It would be a very sad world without a new entry to the series that gave us Sony bigwig Kaz Hirai embarrassing himself like a complete numpty back at E3 2006. Search your favourite video-based website if you haven’t seen it before – it’s worth it.
Anyway, to business: one of the many launch titles making its way to Vita, Ridge Racer brings much of the classic, old, to-be-expected elements of the long-running drive-‘em-up alongside some new touches.
And to be honest, not all of the new touches are things we would happily refer to as ‘good’. In fact, one major element in particular has our worry glands working overdrive. But hey, it could all turn out fine.
Those unfamiliar with Ridge Racer… are there any of you out there? It’s a near-20-year-old series of racing games that seems to launch with every Sony-branded console and handheld.
Taking place in (fictional) locales around a bright and breezy (fictional) world, players slalom and powerslide their way around tracks in Namco-themed cars (Pac-Man, Galaga, miscellaneous) and chain together boosts in what is, frankly, a series that hasn’t ever been anything other than fun.
Apart from on Nintendo handhelds, but we ignore those versions. Put in the simplest of terms: it just wouldn’t be a PlayStation launch without a Ridge Racer game to go along with it.
Planetary League will be the main focus of Ridge Racer’s online functionality, with the excellently named mode putting players into one of four teams (based on the PlayStation face buttons) and taking part in missions to improve their team’s standing on a global scale.
You’re unlikely to be charged £3 per boost bar, which is nice.
Said missions will be released on a daily basis by Namco to keep things fresh – it’s definitely an interesting idea, of that there’s little doubt. 3G functionality isn’t forgotten either, and World Race mode will enable players to upload and download ghost data to race against the best times in the world. Then, of course, there’s standard multiplayer via Wi-Fi, with up to eight players competing.
There’s been some consternation about Ridge Racer’s release plans on Vita – namely the fact that the game you buy from the shops/PSN won’t be the full thing.
Instead it comes with just three tracks and five cars, though at a reduced price (roughly £20-30). Content will be topped up by a series of DLC releases – tracks, cars and music packs – for a range of prices.
It’s the sort of approach we want to get behind, but it’s also the sort of approach that doesn’t fill our hearts with glee when the entry point isn’t that cheap. It’s a confused take on the whole freemium thing, and look how far that got MX Vs ATV: Alive (clue: the series is dead).
It comes as little surprise that Ridge Racer is a nice-looking piece of Vita-shaped kit – it’s often one of the launch titles that makes us sit up and take notice with its spangly joy.
What is surprising though, among all of this smooth running and glitzy backgrounds, is the fact the game runs at 30 frames per second. Now that’s not a dealbreaker – there’s certain to be some whining about it, but it doesn’t destroy the entire game.
We’re just surprised that on a new, powerful handheld Namco isn’t going out of its way to dazzle us all with a 60fps tour de force. Ah well, we can still dream.
It won’t work on a ‘pay-per-play’ system when competing online, at least.
Never fear: this is the Ridge Racer we know and slide about with. It’s not the finest example of a game to demonstrate our newfound love of all things twin-stick (NB love not actually ‘newfound’).
Responsive and as veterans of the series would expect, the game handles with no real issues – at least as far as we could see. From our time with the game it doesn’t look like Cellius is crowbarring in any touch screen or touchpad controls.
And judging by how poorly they worked on the DS and 3DS versions of the game, it’s quite clearly for the better that we stay with stick controls. There’s no harm in throwing in touch functionality though, obviously.