Ridge Racer Vita Review

Ridge-Racer-Vita-review

Dude, where’s my car?….and my tracks?….and my game?

Ridge Racer (or Riiidge Racer to anyone that played the original) is one of the quintessential arcade racing games of all time. Along with the likes of Daytona USA and Sega Rally, Ridge Racer’s core appeal was simple; great gameplay.

Fast forward over 20 years and, although the arcades aren’t what they once were, Ridge Racer is still going strong, finding a new home on console and handheld. Firing up the Vita version of this latest iteration of the franchise and it’s clear to see the game has stayed fairly true to its arcade roots. Aside from a few additions – which i’ll come to in a minute – Ridge Racer is still a case of picking a car, picking a track and burning rubber.

This is where and why things go a bit amiss for Ridge Racer however. Firstly, despite a slick interface, there isn’t much of a game to be found here. Of the various game modes, everything is basically stand alone races – be it against the AI, multiplayer or the clock. There is no over arching tournament or championship to take part in. You race, the race finishes and that’s about it.

There are a few additions here, but they don’t really amount to much. When you start out, you pick a team to race for. The idea being that you are actually part of something bigger – that all these stand alone races are affecting the overall standing of your team. It’s not actually a bad idea, it just feels a bit shallow and poorly implemented. My experience is that you quickly forget about the whole “team” aspect, as being the top team doesn’t award you with anything anyway.

The more relevant additions are levels and power-ups. As you race, you’ll level up and at certain levels, your cars will go faster. This only affects the first few hours of play, as by then you’ll have reached the level in which your cars are at full performance. It acts as a way to gently ease you in, but I personally think power settings, akin to Mario Karts “CC” system, would make more sense. As far as I can tell, once you’re at max power, you’re at max power. If it’s too fast for you, there’s no going back to a speed setting more suited to your skill level.

Power-ups, and the process of unlocking them, is where the game adds any attempt at depth and purpose. Winning races nets you credits which you can spend on unlocking power-ups from a tech tree. They add additional perks like extra nitrous and turbo starts. Up to three can be fitted at any one time, letting you mix and match to find the setup that suits you best. They don’t fundamentally change the gameplay, but they certainly help with squeezing in better lap times.

The second big issue Ridge Racer suffers from is a lack of content, due to its pricing model. Rather than a full price game with all its content, Ridge Racer has cut the games price and a load of its content at the same time, releasing the rest as optional DLC. Although not an unfair pricing system (buying it all doesn’t cost more than a full price game), it does, on the surface, just compound the “lack of game” issue. Such a bare-bones initial offering (5 cars, 3 tracks) is quite a bitter pill to swallow and doesn’t position itself well when it comes to up-selling DLC content. A more likely scenario is that people will be annoyed and likely  turn away altogether.

It’s not all bad news though, and the game does have one rather major saving grace with its exhilarating arcade gameplay – which is a bloody annoying situation. Ridge Racer is a blast to actually play. The car models are varied, look awesome and handle really well. The same is true of the tracks that are on offer. The result is something approaching arcade perfection, which is why its so annoying that there is nothing really holding it all together!

Hammering round the tracks at break-neck speeds is fast, fluid stuff. You won’t be needing breaks here, just ease of gas a little before tight corners and you send your car into some of the most impressive looking powerslides to be found in a racing game. Not only will you feel amazing as you pull off these miraculous driving feats, the games narrator will also chirp in with quips like “nice cornering!” to confirm that you are, in fact, the fucking man. Throw in some decent sounds affects, a selection of banging tunes and the whole gameplay experience gels really well. – it’s addictive stuff.

There are a couple of additional cars to be won via face-offs that act as sort of boss battle races. The races become available once a condition is met, rather than beating any particular mode. Theses are hard as nails to win, so are something of an end game to complete. It’s still not enough to feel like there is really a game there, but at least it’s something.

Overall, Ridge Racer is a disappointment. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s not the game it could quite easily have been; the game is should of been. Had I of been playing this on an arcade machine, then fine – but as a home version it sorely needs more structure around the race modes to add depth and longevity. The addition of a simple championship mode would have turned great gameplay into a great game.

6/10 – Fun, but shallow

 

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