Ridge Racer

Riiiiidg-Nope, We're Not Doing It

It's another hardware launch, and that can only mean a new Ridge Racer, right?
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: January 20, 2012
Namco has made no bones about the fact that they want to be there at the launch of every new system, be it a home console or portable, and ideally they want to be there with their flagship racer. So it was with the PS one, and the PS2, and the PSP and so it shall be with the simply-titled Ridge Racer when it comes Vita time next month.

Here's the thing, though: this Ridge Racer, despite having the basic title, isn't being developed by Namco proper. Instead, development duties were handed off to Cellius, a joint venture between Namco and Sony, helmed by none other than Ken "Father of PlayStation" Kutaragi. The end effect is something we weren't quite prepared for, as the baseline options available should newfound Vita owners pick up the system are, well, sparse to say the least.

Just five cars (though they are rife with customization options) and three tracks are included in the base purchase, though they're a means to an end -- namely more tracks and cars to be sold by way of DLC down the road. It's certainly a ballsy move, but one we can't fully comment on yet as we didn't have a whole lot of time to play through the full experience.

Instead, we gave the game's local multiplayer a shot against three other press folks this week (online play, sadly, wasn't an option for a variety of reason, the most pressing of which was a lack of Wi-Fi hotspots) on two of the game's tracks pulled from previous entries: the sunny, grassy twists of Highland Cliffs (seen in the 360-only Ridge Racer 6 and the nighttime freeway run of Harborline 765 (taken from Ridge Racer V), though neither was immediately obvious.

Ridge Racer's menu system is a slick, clean series of rectangular panels that can be navigated with either the face buttons or by swiping around and tapping the panels themselves, we saw options to do ghost battles with other times and of course the online play, but it was a local battle that was in the cards for us, so after jumping in and goofing around with the game's unlock system to buy more nitrous upgrades (the upgrade menu seems to be an increasingly branching set of things that can be purchased with experience earned by winning races, though we weren't able to travel too far along the upgrade path). Still, after grabbing more boost and throwing a fancy blue paint job on our ride to make it look suitable, we jumped into the races.

There's not a whole lot to say here, controls-wise other than to say it's, well, Ridge Racer -- at least in general feel. Letting off the gas for a second initiates a drift, which in turn fills up more nitro depending on how much speed and how sideways you can pitch the ride. The ping-pong effect off the edges of the track is in full effect, though it seemed to have more of a speed detriment than in some previous entries, and everything generally zips along as you've come to expect.

There is one caveat, if you haven't heard: the game only runs at 30fps, though it seems to be a solid 30 frames if nothing else. This tends to fly in the face of more recent entries -- even the fantastic PSP ones -- so it's a bit of a downer to see things operating at less-than-silky framerates, but there's hardly a lot of chop to be found here. The courses themselves are clean, twisty and innately Ridge Racer (which makes sense, given that they were taken from previous entries), and there's a slick, almost anaglyphic (read: read/blue) 3D effect to the menus as the cars kick in with nitro shots, almost as if the display is peeling away from the sheer speed. Shame that the game itself never seemed to deliver that same sense of velocity.

We're curious how the whole DLC-fueled (ha ha, punny) approach to the series is going to work out. Thankfully, we only have a few more weeks to wait before we can digest the whole of what Namco and Cellius are offering. Check back then for a full review!