Reviewed: April 12, 2005
Released: March 22, 2005
So, you just bought a PSP and you only have $40 left in your pocket (if youíre lucky). What game should you buy? Ridge Racer of course; the game that got its start on the PS One, evolved on the PS2, and has finally achieved near-perfection on the PSP of all places.
Ridge Racer is the ultimate racing game and an anthology of the entire series or at least the best parts of it. The game is packed with 54 high-tech racing machines, and 24 challenging tracks including 20 tracks selected from previous Ridge Racer titles (even from the arcade) and four original tracks designed for the PSP. And if that werenít enough, Namco has tossed in an all-new, and long overdue, Nitro Boost mode.
Naturally, everything is locked down tight when you start and you will unlock this comprehensive package as you progress through the World Tour Mode that consists of Basic, Pro, EX, and Max events. As you win races you will unlock new tiers of racers and new cars within those tiers.
At any time you can choose to race in Single Race or Time Attack (you vs. the clock) modes using any of the cars and tracks youíve already unlocked in the World Tour. Cars come in three styles per class, some offering a slight speed increase in exchange for more precise command of the steering and your ability to deftly enter and exit a drift maneuver.
Ridge Racer excels on several levels. First and foremost is the blinding framerate that easily achieves and sustains 60fps creating a smooth gameplay experience and an amazing sense of speed. Then you have unparalleled control, and Iím not talking about the A-pad. The D-pad works flawlessly and when used correctly with the gas and brake you can trigger stunning drift maneuvers that can last nearly half a lap. The analog pad works well enough but it was a bit twitchy and with digital control this good, who needs to risk using that funky A-pad.
New to the Ridge Racer franchise is the nitrous boost. You now have three tanks of nitrous that fill up as you drift through turns and even straightaways. The faster you drift the faster you fill the tanks. As each tank fills you can hit the nitro button for a blinding burst of speed that will drain one tank. You can continually fill these tanks over and over for as long as you can drift in each race. Itís simply an awesome feature that should have been added a long time ago, but at least it puts the PSP version in a league of its own.
Opponent A.I. is pretty standard for the series. In the earlier races and easier skill levels the game is nearly too easy while it becomes dangerously impossible to win in the final matches. The nitro certainly gives you an edge on the longer and more twisty tracks where you have a chance to build up boost, but this is one of those rare games where I have learned to accept a 2nd or 3rd place finish. As long as you consistently place in the top three you can usually win the overall match in points.
Ridge Racer is easily the best looking game on the PSP, or at least a dead tie with Wipeout Pure. The cars are drop dead gorgeous whether they are spinning around in the selection window or racing around the track at 100+mph. They all have stylish paint and color schemes and a glossy sheen that reflects the light.
The racing environments are equally as breathtaking with orange coastal sunsets, rich blue skies with white puffy clouds, winding mountain roads, tunnels, cascading waterfalls, suspensions bridges, city skylines, and even the occasional plane zipping across the sky. There is no bad weather but you can race at night for some truly wonderful naturally lit tracks.
The HUD is excellent and features custom instruments depending on the type of car you are driving, a top-down map of the track showing you and the nearest car, along with your lap times, records, and nitro status.
You can choose to race from bumper or chase views. I prefer the bumper cam for a great sense of speed and some thrilling moments when you actually do a 180 drift and are facing backwards while sliding forwards then whip it around as you come out of the turn. Activating the nitro boost creates a blurring effect that warps the view and blurs the HUD creating an even greater sense of speed.
Even more impressive is that the PSP saves your entire race replay and you can watch from a variety of stunning camera angles. If you are particularly fond of a certain replay you can save it to your memory card and dazzle your friends later.
The sound package for Ridge Racer is actually better on the PSP than it was on any past titles. The environmental sounds like birds, waves crashing, roaring waterfalls, and of course, unique engine sounds for every type of car, tires squealing, metal crunching on walls and other cars, are all rich and perfectly placed in a quasi-3D surround mix.
The Ridge Racer soundtrack is as comprehensive as the track and car list with dozens of songs that you can change at will prior to each race. There are some guaranteed favorites along with plenty of techno and upbeat Japanese pop, perfect for racing. There wasnít a single song I didnít enjoy and none of it ever got old.
Making my way through all four of the World Tour tiers took me several days of casual play or about 22 hours. The multiplayer racing is a total blast and will keep you playing for months to come. Almost everyone I know with a PSP has this game, so itís only a matter of getting in the same room and ďbroadcastingĒ a race and people will jump in.
The sheer number of cars and tracks make this your one-stop location for everything Ridge Racer. The new nitro system reminded me of the boost system in Burnout where you are rewarded for skillful dangerous driving. The slick visuals and awesome sound and music rival anything you have ever played on a console.
Whether you are new to the Ridge Racer franchise or a veteran driver, this is the biggest and best Ridge Racer to date and a must own title for every PSP owner.