It seems every time a new Sony
videogame system is released, Namco decides to release another Ridge Racer game.
I remember playing the Ridge Racer for the first PlayStation for hours when the
system was released. Well, now with the introduction of the PSP, Namco has
treated us with another Ridge Racer game. But just as the first Ridge Racer for
the PSOne was so revolutionary, Ridge Racer for the PSP raises the bar for
portable racing games.
This version of Ridge Racer can
almost be considered a greatest hit version of the previous Ridge Racer games.
Tracks from the earlier games are included along with some new tracks. A total
of 54 cars are available but most of them must be unlocked in order to be
played. The modes of gameplay included range from the Single Race mode, Time
Attack mode, Wireless Battle mode and the World Tour mode. The World Tour mode
is where the meat and potatoes of the game rest.
The World Tour mode offers a ton of
different races that must be finished in order to unlock the other tracks and
cars in the game. The World Tour mode starts off on the Basic Tour setting,
which is composed of nine different challenges that must be completed in order
to advance to the next setting of the World Tour mode. Each challenge is
composed of a different number of races. For example the first part of the Basic
Tour has three races, while the second part only has two races. In order to
advance in the Tour mode you will need to finish at a certain ranking. As you
finish the Basic Tour setting you will advance to the higher levels, with each
level having another set of races that must be completed. A Dual challenge race
is included where you compete against one car to determine who’s the best.
Fortunately the game doesn’t lock you into one race forever. So if you get stuck
on one race you can still race another track and then come back later to try and
finish the other race.
Now for the Gran Turismo racing fans
out there you might be wondering if the game includes a simulation mode. Well,
I’m happy to report that it doesn’t. But wait a second, why should I say I’m
happy to report it doesn’t have a simulation mode? Because the Ridge Racer
series has been all about having fun with a racing game. Ridge Racer for the PSP
is just a fun game to play. It doesn’t have a ton of different tuning options
for each car, or a license test to complete in order to race a certain track.
This game is all about picking up the PSP and having a fun, enjoyable time
PLAYING the game. This is an arcade-style racing game that spends its time
letting you race your car.
The controls were well done,
especially for a launch title for the PSP. The cars controlled wonderfully with
either the digital directional pad or the analog stick. At first the analog
stick didn’t feel as responsive as the directional pad but after a few minutes I
only wanted to drive the cars with the analog stick. Each of the cars had their
own unique feel and responsiveness to them. The classic drift action from the
previous Ridge Racer games is back as well. This time the game awards you for
drifting by filling up a nitro meter that you can use by pressing the “R”
shoulder button. For me, this was the first time in any Ridge Racer game that I
was actively implementing the drift features of the cars. The nitro meter can be
an extremely helpful advantage in a tight race to the finish. The only problem I
had with the controls happened when my car would run into a wall. The car seemed
to get stuck on the wall and would keep bouncing off the wall for a few seconds
before I was able to control the car again. Occasionally it would cause me to
lose some precious time in the game, but then again I should have been more
careful with my driving (I guess).
The graphics are really where the
game shines. Never before have I seen a portable racing game look as good as
Ridge Racer for the PSP. In fact, I have to mention that this game is the
best-looking portable game I have ever played. The framerate is silky smooth all
the time no matter how many cars are on the screen at a time. I never noticed
any pop-ups in the distance while driving on the tracks. All of the cars looked
fantastic as well with some amazing details for a portable system. In fact, if
you’re not looking real close then you might think this is a PS2 game you’re
playing on the PSP. But once you start trying to notice all of the details
(which you will because it just looks so good) then you start to notice that the
game doesn’t include as much detail as a PS2 might. The only issue I noticed
with the graphics was the occasional blurring when the action would get real
fast. You will see a slight blur next to a car in front of you that will
disappear after a few seconds, but it was noticeable. This blurring (or
ghosting) has been something that has been ongoing with portable systems for a
while. It’s not a big issue with Ridge Racer but it’s still present.
The sound effects and music in the
game were well done as well. The game has a ton of old Ridge Racer tunes
included in the game as well as some remixed versions and new tunes. You have
the ability to select which album and track you want to hear right before the
start of each race. I have to say that playing a Ridge Racer game while
listening to the theme from Pac-Man just sounds and feels right. The sound
effects for the cars sounded great and came across loud and clear.
To say that I was impressed with
Ridge Racer for PSP is an understatement. This game is a shining example of just
what the PSP system is all about and what everyone should expect from their new
PSP system. The excellent controls, great graphics, music and sound effects all
add up to an outstanding title. It’s amazing to think that this is a launch
title for the PSP. Namco has proved again that every new Sony system needs a new
Ridge Racer as a launch title.
If it weren’t for the problem sticking to the walls for a few seconds then I
would say the controls would be flawless. But “almost flawless controls” is
still impressive for a launch title. It’s hard to describe why the game is so
much fun, but this game will keep you coming back for more.
As I mentioned earlier this is the best-looking portable game I have ever
played. The rock-solid framerate will impress along with the detail of the cars
and backgrounds. If you told someone that didn’t know that the PSP was a
different system from the PS2 they would probably think the PSP version of Ridge
Racer was a PS2 game. The blurring on the screen will be minor inconvenience.
A ton of classic Namco tunes along with some new tunes all sounded excellent in
the game. In fact, even with the volume of the PSP turned down to just the first
level I was still able to hear all of the sound effects and music loud and
clear. Now if only the designers would listen to the minority of gamers that are
getting tired of techno dance mixes as the soundtrack.
Veterans of the Ridge Racer series shouldn’t have a problem with the game.
Gamers that have never played a Ridge Racer game shouldn’t have a problem
getting into the game. The early races can be extremely easy while the later
races might have you shouting at the screen.
This is a quasi-combination of previous Ridge Racer games included in one
package. While you get some of the tracks, cars and music of the old RR games,
veterans of the Ridge Racer franchise might get sense of deja vu quickly. I do
believe the gameplay is strong enough to keep you playing for a while, but some
gamers might feel this game is just a retread of an older game.
Now this is a feature of the game that I would have loved to play but no one
else that I knew picked up Ridge Racer for the PSP. The game supports the Ad Hoc
mode, which allows you to play against other games wirelessly within a close
proximity of each other. Each gamer must have a copy of the Ridge Racer game in
order to participate in the wireless mode. Up to 8 players can compete in the Ad
Hoc mode in a single race. But when I looked at the back of the game package it
mentions “infrastructure” as part of the Wi-Fi mode (along with the Ad Hoc
mode). The Infrastructure mode allows you to compete against other gamers via a
wireless hotspot, isn’t support in the game.
Ridge Racer for the PSP is a great title that anyone with a PSP should check
out. The incredible graphics, tight controls and excellent music/sound effects
are more than enough to warrant having this game. It’s hard to believe that this
is a launch title for a new system. This is the game you want to have to show
off your new PSP to everyone.