The Ridge Racer series is synonymous with the launch of a PlayStation console. Namco has delivered a new title for each generation of machine. The PlayStation 3 is no exception. This year sees little change from the previous iterations of Ridge Racing; players grab fast cars, drift a lot and try to finish as fast as possible. The game screams arcade from every slick, polished pixel.
The first thing you notice when logging into the Ridge Racer world is the quality of the presentation. Small CNN-like tickers litter the bottom of the screen and a sidebar contains all your online achievements to date, including your overall ranking. The game gives a variety of different options to play, but the key mode here is the Ridge Racer World Tour.
The World Tour consists of various manufacturers, cars and races to compete in. It allows you to customize your cars, although not to the same extent as some other racing games out there, and earn points by winning races using your chosen manufacturer’s products (a little Tiger Woods perhaps?). The races start out easily enough, but soon increase in skill level and opponent ability until they become outright mean.
Graphically the game is sharp and focused. The cities and landscapes are beautifully modeled, whether they are glowing neon at night or gleaming in the midday sun. The game moves smoothly and with no noticeable problems with textures or frame rate. But this is Ridge Racer, so realism isn’t too high on the list of priorities; the cities do become a little unbelievable at times.
The game places a huge emphasis on slipstream, meaning that if you touch those walls or lose the stream, you’re toast. Even more of a priority is placed on the collection of nitrous, earned by drifting at the highest possible speed, which can be the making of a great victory if used in the right place, at the right time.
Ridge Racer is online right from the initial menu screens. A world ranking and overall synopsis greets the user every time they log into the world. The main online area gives you the option to enter into a random race room or search for a specific category of racing from Just-For-Fun to Serious and also includes team racing and one-on-one events. You can also race the world in Time Attack and download special event tracks, although these features are limited.
The lobby works well; a limited chatting system allows you to kill time while waiting for the last people to slowly choose their cars, which can get a little frustrating. The standard race supports up to 14 racers and generally run smoothly from start to finish. Drifting and drafting is even more important than in the single player element. Novice players will find themselves frequently overtaken in the final stretch unless they can master the timing required to maximize boost potential. At the end of the race, ridge racing money is awarded and ranking points are allocated; it is these two aspects combined with the mysterious OMP which form your overall world ranking. The more you have, the higher you rank.
The online component adds another aspect that the game sorely needed, giving the title seemingly endless last-ability no such word for Ridge Racer fans. It’s easy to get into but hard to master, allowing the truly dedicated to fight their way to the top. Yet Ridge Racer relies a little bit too much on its looks and crisp presentation and ignores some of the crucial elements that would have made the title A-class. A lack of depth in play and an overall sameness in the game play means that few will still be playing the title after a few months.
Ridge Racer 7 will appeal to the same people who have supported the rest of the series. It features a beautiful collection of tracks and cars that present superbly on either a standard or high-definition television, meaning that this is a perfect starting point for Namco on the new system. While not reaching the graphical levels of Motorstorm or Virtua Fighter or the playability of Resistance, Ridge Racer 7 is still bound to sell by the truckload because of the easy arcade appeal and the simple, effective menu systems.