Review: It's Ridge Racer! Riiiiiidge Racerrrrrr!!
It just wouldn't be a PlayStation console launch without a Ridge Racer
game at its side; and the tradition has continued with PlayStation 3 and Ridge Racer 7
. With a relatively weak launch of ports and only a couple worthwhile exclusives, RR7
straddles the line between the two, as while the game is certainly rebuilt from the ground up for PS3, a recycling of tracks and cars from last year's Xbox 360 launch title Ridge Racer 6
makes it not so much Ridge Racer 7
, but almost more of a Ridge Racer 6.5
, meaning if you played RR6
you shall be treading familiar territory, but yet it's been redesigned in such a way that die-hards of the series will be fine with the old mixed up with the new PS3 stuff ? and despite it all, there is plenty of new stuff in Ridge Racer 7
to keep it from being just a bare-bones port. It's not worth blowing $500-600 bucks on the hardware unless you're really a fanatic of the series, but it's good enough to last you a good long while during these usual bare launch days.
Unlike Ridge Racer 6
, with it's constant stream of individual races with increasing challenge, Ridge Racer 7
tries hard to present everything in a brand new light. The game splits its races into 3 distinct categories; Grand Prix, plain old regular races, and manufacturer trials. The GP works like a tournament, where you earn points for your place and whoever has the overall lead at the end is the winner. To my knowledge and memory (as someone who has played the entire series) this is the first time this style of play has been in the series; even the PSP version which had multiple races packed in a single event based advancement on position rather than points. The basic races are familiar to RR
fans, taking place on all the various tracks, whether they're familiar locales from the 360 game, or the half-dozen or so new courses (that I must say look damn beautiful). Sometimes these have restrictions like no nitrous charging, locked to car type, even based on what parts you have equipped for the chosen vehicle. Manufacturer trials are 'rites of passage' so to speak as winning these races unlock the right to buy corresponding cars or parts from the various companies in the game universe.
Yes, that's correct, Ridge Racer 7
has gone all Gran Turismo
on us with real live vehicle customization. Don't get too excited though, as it's fairly basic and true to the arcade roots of the series. Winning races earns credit, which then goes into either buying cars or pumping cash into the ones you win from the vehicle manufacturer trials. It's all basic stuff, like increasing your power, setting up your nitrous, switching up the drifting performance, etc. You likely will only notice a small difference though it's still important to keep up with the aggressive AI that will bring series newbies to their knees at times. Moreover, parts manufacturers allow adding new appearance parts to make each car different ? there's not a whole lot of options but it gives you something to do if you wanna decorate your car all nice and pretty.
If you're hooked up to the PlayStation Network, Ridge Racer 7
seamlessly integrates online features without you even noticing. Long as you're logged in when you boot the game, it'll register your gamertag as your official offline username and start tracking statistics for lap times (such as in Global Time Attack) and fame which get uploaded to the servers in all its time-beating glory. To go along with that, 14 player races are offered with the same sort of stat tracking as the offline game allows. Special events can be undertaken to further the online aspect, with Namco Bandai promising more challenges down the line to keep people playing the game. Because this is my lone PS3 game for the time being I can't compare it to other PS3 online games, but Ridge Racer 7
does a fine job of pulling an Xbox Live imitation and offering set it and forget it online implementation.
But even with all this new stuff, Ridge Racer 7
is still a wild, fast, intense drift racing game, complete with an annoying announcer, only this time it's the soothing voice of a woman instead of a dopey DJ-styled guy ? and the pulsing techno soundtrack is standard fare. Playing the traditional way with the Sixaxis, nothing has been lost in the translation over the years, as the game plays as tight and polished as it ever has, though indeed it's changed little from the PSP and Xbox 360 entries. The only real new wrinkle is slipstreaming, or slingshotting, or drafting, or whatever. You just stay on the behind of a car, build up the draft, and slingshot around them to overtake. In at least one race it's absolutely necessary to master slipstreaming, and also master how to keep the other guys out of your own slipstream so they can't take revenge. Ridge Racer 7
can also be played with the motion sensing aspect of Sixaxis ? and it takes some getting used to, using the controller to turn corners and whatnot. I'm pretty meh on the whole concept as it is, so I only used it for a while, found it annoying as hell, and went back to the old style. It it ain't broke, don't fix it.
As already mentioned, the AI is usually pretty aggressive, making many races at least a moderate challenge. Unless you're constantly able to hit the nitrous to build a lead, it's difficult to get much farther ahead than 3 or 4 seconds, and usually one screwup can let the others back into the race. In tight quarters the AI will pound away at you to avoid giving up their position, and tend to block the best racing lines until you can slipstream past. When the races get extremely fast on narrow tracks (for instance, Island Circle), it becomes a game of who can hit the nitro fastest and sneak around corners without hitting anything to impede progress. And believe me, this game gets extremely
fast when the superpowered cars hit the track, making it very difficult to take your eyes off the road. Which is why I love the usual Ridge Racer
visual style; it's not always who has the most stunning tech, but who can do the most with what they have. Like always, RR7
features distraction to try to trick you, in many ways. Sometimes it's just a really pretty waterfall on one of the tracks, which gazing at can lead to hitting a wall. Other times it's airplanes in the distance, only to have a helicopter fly directly over you (which happened to me and almost cost me the race).
In high-definition, Ridge Racer 7
is quite a sight, if not in raw horsepower but how much thought went into the art side of things. Most of the Xbox 360 tracks have been unaltered, but a few have different textures and on the whole seem a bit more crisp, but nothing that will make you think PS3 is way ahead on 360. The PS3 exclusive tracks are impressive though, with the aforementioned distraction designs like waterfalls, helicopters everywhere, and the sort. It runs smooth as butter too without any slowdown, even when the races get extremely fast and there's 10 cars on the screen at once. Loading times aren't too bad, especially since you can install 5 GB worth of the game on your hard drive which does its job well and you can even play Xevious
while you wait for the 5-10 minute process. Even without installing it doesn't take all that long to go between race and menu or vice versa.