Ridge Racer

August 11, 2013

You may remember that Ridge Racer on PSP was, at the time, kind of a big deal. It brought the series back into the collective consciousness after being absent for four years, receiving rave reviews and providing several features which are now series staples – the nitro meter, top-notch graphics and boat-loads of content.Ridge Racer 6 and 7, as well as all portable incarnations of the series since have followed the PSP game’s lead. Now, the PS Vita has arrived, and Namco have provided a new Ridge Racer that I was kind of hoping would provide the same high-quality experience the PSP version was applauded for. It does, although with a huge ‘but’.

Oh, the fundamental gameplay is still fun. Unchanged from other recent Ridge Racer titles, the arcade-style racing experience is still almost completely divorced from reality but still immensely enjoyable. Cars drift around corners at high speeds, often making 360 degree turns while doing so and losing no steam, acting like they’re on little invisible tracks rather than actually making contact with the road, but this is all part of theRidge Racer charm. It’s an odd style of racing, but one that series veterans swear by and one that newcomers will have fun adjusting to, as you try to balance drifting (which fills your nitro meter) with more direct racing and slip-streaming. Aside from a small addition in the use of the rear touch-pad for gear shifts, the gameplay in Ridge Racer on Vita is pretty standard for the series, so all I can say is if you’ve played anyRidge Racer game since 2005, you’ve played this one and will already know whether you’ll enjoy it or not.

The game looks and sounds great on Vita as well. The graphics are as high definition as you’d hope for on the new console’s OLED screen, with sleek cars that just look plain cool and environments that are full of vivid colours and sights. There’s a nice new effect when you get hit as well, blurring the screen briefly as if you were watching a camera feed that was suddenly interrupted. The few songs that are included with the game are also pretty cool, and it’s great that there’s a bunch of optional free DLC songs available as well (including classics from Ridge Racer Type 4).

Now, here comes the ‘but’ – and it’s a big one. You see, the boat-load of content that recent Ridge Racer games have included is all but gone in Ridge Racer on Vita. Included with the (admittedly budget-priced) game are four cars and three tracks, all of which are just visually upgraded versions of older tracks. This is immensely disappointing, as not only does it mean the collection aspect of past games (which saw you even collecting novelty cars like a Pac-Man vehicle) is absent, it also means that you can see everything that the game has to offer in less than hour, if that. Namco have left in the option to upgrade your car, as you collect credits from races, as well as your driver level, which adds a nice element of progression even if repetition quickly sets in.

You might be wondering how Namco can stretch a decent career mode out of such a meager offering, and the simple answer is that they haven’t. There is no career mode, or any way of stringing races together at all really, present in Ridge Racer on Vita. Namco have opted for a new online-centric experience called the ‘Planetary League’ which requires you to join a team (out of a range of four) online, which your progress will be contributed towards as you compete for dominance. Every day, the teams are given different rules, such as certain teams working together against others, although you’d have to be interested in the larger meta-game in order to be affected by this.

You’d think that this would mean there would be a wide range of online modes and activities to participate in, but there really isn’t. You can join lobbies and battle other racers in single races online, race their ghost data, or race friends locally in single races. There are no tournaments, no races which have special requirements, and nothing to break up the standard race formula that you’re going to be playing through a thousand times. There is some attempt at a community aspect, as you’re often asked for your thoughts after levelling up to broadcast to your fellow team-mates, and you can see these comments as ‘interviews’ from top racers, but it’s nothing extensive.

If you’re more of a single-player person then you’re even more out of luck, as the only two offline modes available are ‘Single Race’ and ‘Time Attack’. Both of which get old pretty quickly with such a limited amount of content on offer. “So how can you get more content?” you might be wondering. DLC is, as always, the answer. Available through the PSN store (with no link in-game, strangely) is the Ridge Racer ’Gold Pass’ for AU $11.45, which adds five more cars and three more courses to the game. It’s basically required if you want to play this game much longer than a couple of days, and you can be sure there’ll be other such updates in the future.

It’s heartbreaking to see what’s been done to Ridge Racer with its Vita incarnation, as the game has essentially had all of its content stripped out in order to be sold as a budget title. The rest of the experience is then sold to you piece by piece, although even then you won’t have a satisfying career mode or wide array of unlockables. It’s a shame, since the core gameplay of Ridge Racer is still really fun, and the game’s presentation is certainly up to the standards you’d hope a Vita title would be. It reminds me of Gran Turismo HD Concept, a game that was released upon the PlayStation 3′s launch on the PSN – which offered ten cars and one track. The difference is that Gran Turismo HD was free, and Ridge Racer will still run you AU $29.95 for what is essentially a demo. We hope Namco learn from this misfire and eventually release a more worthy, and complete, Ridge Racer title for the system, as what’s here is fun, but there isn’t a lot of it.


Looks good | Plays like good old Ridge Racer


Four cars, three tracks | No career mode | Barely any content without DLC

Overall Score: