A big brand launch title is always going to spark a lot of interest. Ridge Racer is no exception, but for some rather unfortunate reasons.
Fans of the series are getting quite revved up about the game being cheap, which was presumably a strategy to get lots of people joining the online competition. Developer Cellius has made some quite severe cuts to keep the price low, however, which may cause the whole deal to backfire.
Thankfully, there's one thing that definitely remains intact - the furious white-knuckle racing.
Ridge Racer has always shunned the ultra-realistic car porn of games like Gran Turismo in favour of being buckets of fun. Driving at ridiculous speeds and sliding sideways through corners still brings cheap thrills aplenty.
Just a cog in the machine
Most of the racing built around online. Upon first loading the game you choose between one of four teams and from then on everything you do matters because, win or lose, you're earning points and helping out your team.
In World Race, you find three ways to do battle with other humans. If you're lucky enough to be in the same room you can race head to head over an ad hoc connection. If not, Internet Battle allows you to join up to seven others over the PlayStation Network in a high-octane tussle for the chequered flag.
Ghost Battle takes racing against the clock and jacks it up a notch by adding a ghostly competitor. Ridge Racer allows you to browse the online rankings for a well-matched enemy. There's also a nice tie-in to Near that allows you to download and race against the ghosts of anyone who's been in your vicinity.
As a result of all the online features, you won't find a career mode as such, but there are still a couple of ways to play solo. There are Spot Races, where you pick a track and a car to race against AI competition, and Time Attack, in which you're up against the clock over one or three laps.
Out on the track the game looks great. The courses and scenery are absolutely stunning, and so are the car models.
Once you get up to full speed with all this whizzing past the game can get a little stuttery, struggling at times to maintain 30 FPS. This is a mite disappointing for such a powerful system, but - unless you're looking for it - it's not going to spoil your fun or your lap times.
Controlling your motor remains the same as in previous Ridge Racer titles. Steering is quite accurate using either the D-pad or left analogue stick. By default, accelerating and braking are controlled respectively by the X and Square buttons. There are alternatives, but the choice is really down to personal preference, since even the right analogue stick offers the same digital control.
The new tricks that the Vita has to offer are largely untouched. There's an option to use the rear touch panel for gear changes, which in practice is unwieldy, touching the screen will switch to a rear view - a feature made moot by an inset rear view.
Online or offline, things eventually become somewhat repetitive, since there are only three tracks to choose from, or six if you count the reverse versions. This could happen even sooner if you've played a Ridge Racer game before, since the tracks included aren't new - they're all taken from previous instalments.
The selection of cars is pretty slim, too. There are only five base models, but you can modify them with different paint job and accessories. The soundtrack is also anaemic, weighing in at just seven pumping techno tracks.
This dearth of actual content is being addressed with weekly DLC - mainly free additional music packs taken from the soundtracks of earlier incarnations of Ridge Racer. Already there are four of these available in the Japanese Store, and in the coming months more tracks and cars are promised, although these will come at a price.
If you're a fan of the Ridge Racer series you won't be disappointed with the gameplay of this Vita release. The chance to race online whenever and wherever is also quite a draw. The only real issue is the lack of content.
Sure, it's cheap, and you get what you pay for, but you may find you'd rather have paid more to have a more fully featured game to play on your brand new PS Vita.
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