Developer: Namco | Publisher: Namco | Release Date: 2005 | Genre: Racing | Website: n/a | Purchase: Amazon
If there’s one thing that’s essential for any console launch it’s a good racing game and thankfully the PSP has that covered with this little gem from Namco. Already a huge hit on the Psone and Playstation 2 everyone was waiting with bated breath to see if Namco could continue the success streak. With 58 cars and 46 races spread across 24 courses to keep you busy all I can say is this is one launch title you’ll be playing much longer than you would have expected.
Graphically Ridge Racer is awesome and while I won’t go as far as saying it looks like a Playstation 2 title it does look really good. The trackside detail is especially awesome and seeing small touches like planes, helicopters and even birds flying around as you blast around the track is really a joy to behold, especially on a portable console. The cars don’t disappoint either and look ultra shiny and very detailed. There are only two camera views but that’s hardly a problem and the game definitely isn’t lacking in the eye candy department.
With so much detail packed into the tracks, it’s great to see that the game moves at quite a rate and I never noticed any slowdown. The blur effect when you hit the nitro’s ads even more to the sensation of speed. Even with the lower texture resolutions on the cars my mouth still dropped open seeing how good the reflections looked and how cool the different times of day can make the tracks seem.
Gameplay wise Ridge Racer basically feels like a greatest hits compilation of the Ridge Racer series and you have cars, tracks and music spanning the entire history of the franchise. You can play the World Tour (the real meat of the game), Time attack or single race while the 8 player wireless mode awaits those with lots of PSP owning friends. World Tour takes you on a journey through the ages as you start off with the basic tour and move up through Pro, Ex and finally even the Max tour, unlocking new cars, tracks and tours along the way. It’s a blast to race on classic tracks from games like Ridge Racer Revolution and Rage Racer and as an added bonus you can even unlock the intros and some other stuff for these classic titles. The hidden cars like the Pac mobile is also really cool extras and speaking of extras how about “Rally-X” to play while you wait for the game to load. This is a really nice give-away and since the game loads so fast not something that was really needed to impress.
The gameplay is classic Ridge Racer and if you’re not familiar with the series by now then you obviously don’t like your arcade racers or you’ve been living in a nuclear bunker somewhere. As always, the name of the game is drifting and you’ll want to perfect yours if you want to get anywhere in this title. If you don’t enjoy sliding your car around tight corners at breakneck speeds then you’re better off playing something else as Ridge Racer excels at this and takes it to the extremes. It’s really a blast to play and once you get the hang of slinging your car around you can pull of some spectacular drifts. The game rewards you with a nitrous system that slowly fills up the more you drift which encourage you to stay sideways for as long as possible. The only real problem I have with the game is that you always start way at the back of the pack (of twelve cars) so some races seeing you having to make up almost half a lap before you are even close to the race leaders. The “speed swapping” whereby you trade speed with any cars you bash into is also as annoying as it always was but since this was a part of the series since day one I guess I can’t complain too much.
The audio is one of the areas of the game that I can’t fault and contains loads of cool tracks. It’s split up into five different “discs” containing classic, new and remixed tracks and there’s definitely bound to be something that will catch your fancy. Some of the tunes are ultra catchy to say the least. Sound effects are good but nothing really revolutionary. One thing about the audio that can quickly become annoying is the hyperactive announcer that will keep on shouting out goofy comments while you drive. Unfortunately there seems to be no way to shut this idiot up either short of muting the sound which is a real pity.
As a launch title Ridge Racer is unbeatable and definitely belongs in any self respecting PSP owner’s collection. On replay value alone this game is worth every single penny you spend on it and with the “Max Tour” races which is extra races which wasn’t included in the Japanese versions of the game you’re already looking at hours of playtime if you want to beat them. Suffice to say if you only ever plan on buying one racing game for PSP make sure this is it. The only problem with this game is that it’s so addictive that it kind of defeats the purpose of being on handheld as you’ll want to sit down and play it for hours.
*Review originally published 2005.