The release of the Playstation Portable is only weeks away yet that hasnít stopped us from getting our hands on the Japanese hardware and playing a few sports titles. One of those is Ridge Racer. This classic made its way to the PSP bringing along with it years of past Ridge Racer heritage. With more cars and tracks than previous renditions of the game, the classic powersliding racing series makes every attempt to steal your attention.
Presentation/Graphics : 90
Gamers will be pleasantly surprised once the PSP is made available. No other game at the present shows the technical superiority of the PSP over all other handhelds past and present. My jaw literally dropped when I powered up the PSP with Ridge Racer installed. Ironically, Ridge Racer V was the first game I purchased for my Japanese PS2 well before the release of the American PS2. That game floored me then as well, despite the bad case of the jaggies. The PSP version is similar. You noticed a few jagged lines, but overall the graphics are clean, clear, and rather spectacular. The opening full motion video clearly demonstrates the power of the device, but the real joy comes from the gameís real time graphics.
The cars show incredible detail, with rotating tires clearly visible. Paint schemes and decals are clear and look impressive. Real-time shadowing is displayed on the glossy skins of the cars. The road surfaces are similarly spectacular. Sun glare reflects off road and the track textures are realistic. Off the course, the buildings and such arenít as detailed as the cars, but they still show streaks of brilliance. The game looks as close to a PS2 quality game as you can get on the small, portable screen. Perhaps the only disappointment with the gameís graphics is the lack of a true first-person in-car view. The views are restricted to a bumper camera and an overhead third-person view.
Presentation/Audio : 70
All I ask for from a racing game is an audio package that makes me believe Iím behind the wheel of a real car. In many respects Ridge Racer fulfills that expectation. The engine revs realistically but thatís where reality departs. Bumping into other cars or the walls sounds hokey, and powerslides have an unrealistic screech. If you want, you can drown out those poor sounds with a rather poor excuse of a music score. But wait, thereís more. The game has some sort of DJ that interjects completely worthless and annoying dialogue.
Interface/Options : 90
For a PSP launch title, the list of options is impressive. All the basic modes of racing are present in the game. Single races, series racing, time trials, and multiplayer are all available. The series racing is part of the World Tour mode where you go across multiple series in both difficulty and car class. Six car classes slowly raise the speeds of the racing, and eventually you get to the special class of cars for some real interesting racing. Most importantly, the game supports multiplayer. The primary multiplayer mode is using the Wi-fi interface which requires other PSPs in close proximity to you. If you donít have friends with Ridge Racer let alone a PSP, there are some kludges that can be done with Xlink Kai which when coupled with a PC, makes your PSP think itís in the next room with someone miles away. Away from the play types, Ridge Racer supports the usual game options, including sound and display options.
Gameplay : 70
Ridge Racer wonít win any awards for realism or even ingenuity. It continues the trend of past versions of the game which means essentially itís a time trial with cars in the way. You start in last place and the goal is to end the 3-lap race in a particular position. The position is based on the number of races in a series. For a 4-race series, the first race requires a fourth place finish. Next is third place, and eventually the last race requires a first place finish. Getting to the front, however, is not difficult. Most races can be won outright on the first try regardless of the difficulty level. The only real challenge is making sure your powersliding skills are up to snuff. Unrealistic powerslides rule the roost and you can slide endlessly without scrubbing off speed. Needless to say, the handling is completely arcade. Control is achieved with either the digital pad or the small analog thumbstick. While the analog control does not have much range of motion, it is actually quite good with the game. Once you get used to it, it provides better control than the digital pad.
To mix up the racing just a bit, Namco has added nitrous to the game. As you powerslide your way around the track, the nitrous bottles fill up. The more you slide, the more nitrous you earn. To win races, you will have to utilize the nitrous. This takes away from the skill aspect of the game as you can easily shave seconds off each lap with the boosts. What saves the game is a great selection of tracks. The track design varies from simple high speed courses to those with many twists and turns that require every bit of powersliding to get around quickly.
Replay Value : 80
Despite relatively simplistic play, Ridge Racer continues to draw you in. Perhaps itís the beauty of the game or the desire to unlock every series. Either way, racing on this handheld is a blast with Ridge Racer. Once you complete the game there wonít be much incentive to continue playing the single player modes, but if you have access to the multiplayer aspects of the game you can extend the life of this title.
Overall : 75
For a PSP launch title, Ridge Racer certainly shows off the technical prowess of the PSP. The game is a work of art visually; you wonít believe youíre playing on a handheld. Unfortunately, the gameplay isnít up to the same level as the graphics. The gameplay is classic Ridge Racer, which if youíre a fan, youíll enjoy the game. If not, youíll quickly tire of the repetitive play.