PS Vita Review – Ridge Racer

Ridge Racer was one of the few games we reviewed as an import version, and my colleague Heath Hindman was not at all impressed with what the game offered. But with the US version having an extra four months of dev time, even missing the PlayStation Vita launch, I was hoping that Namco-Bandai went back to the drawing board, even for just a few minutes, to make some much needed improvements…

But I really don’t know what they did in that extra time, because Ridge Racer for the PlayStation Vita is just as much of a disappointment here in the US as the Japanese version was in its native land.

Full disclosure: I’m a huge fan of the series, dating back to the PlayStation One, where I used let the race load, take out the disc, then stick in a music CD which would work as in-game music (I was way ahead of my time). I’ve owned nearly every Ridge Racer since, from the PS2, to the PSP, to the PS3, and even the 3DS. I’m one of the few people who cheered when Kaz Hirai made his infamous Riiiiidddgggee Racer comment at E3 2005. That’s why it pains me to see the series reduced to three tracks and five vehicles.

Granted, the game at retail comes with a voucher to download three additional tracks and five more vehicles, it still doesn’t cut the mustard. Not in a world where there are Gran Turismo and Need for Speed, each boasting a ton of tracks and even more vehicles to choose from. My focus is on what comes on the Vita game card itself, and that’s extremely bare bones. You can play each of the three tracks…in reverse! Wow! Is that supposed to make me feel like there is more content? Because it doesn’t, and it’s almost insulting.

There isn’t a single-player mode either, at least not outside of single Spot Races and Time Attacks. There’s no career or story mode to speak of. The game tries to align you with a racing team. But with no story, or no reasoning behind anything, it doesn’t at all have a point.

The bulk of the game… I shouldn’t say bulk, as that would imply there is actual content there… The minuscule amount of content that is there, resides mostly in the online world. And truthfully, how easy it is to connect and play versus online competitors or even friends “face to face” is the game’s one shining point. And there is a seemingly interesting online leaderboard structure. When you poke your head in to look around, it’s not that involved after all. As you increase in rank, a “reporter” will interview you, allowing you to leave a comment about the race you just finished. The first time I left a message, I got an error saying it was unable to load. After that, I just left sexual innuendos to see what I could get away with.

All of this is really a shame, because the racing itself is quite enjoyable. It’s not at all deep, but Ridge Racer never really was. It’s arcadey to the core, focusing on drifting around corners and gaining speed by staying in an opponent’s slipstream to pass them. But even if you find yourself in first place, the unbalanced AI will ensure you’re never in the clear. Nitrous fills up slowly, and there are three bars worth you can fill. You fill it by pulling off well-timed drifts through corners. Early on in the game, the races are so short that you will hardly get a chance to fill up two of these meters, let alone all three. The same thing can be said about car upgrades – by the time you earn enough credits to make some upgrades, you will already have played each of the tracks so many times, there won’t be much to compel you to even bother making the upgrade, or playing more of the same tracks.

Oh, and the menu is really nice to look at. But really, the fact that I even had a chance to notice and appreciate the menu speaks a lot about the lack of content.

The plan here, I believe it was the plan anyway, was for Namco-Bandai to sell you bits and pieces of DLC to sustain the game for some time. The problem there is, they don’t seem to understand the thinking behind DLC. The game has to be good in the first place to get people to want to buy your DLC. Instead, they’ve managed to short-change the consumer so much up-front, there is little reason to ever make that DLC purchase.

Ridge Racer is a disappointment on all fronts, and feels more like a horrible car wreck. While the racing itself is decent, it crashes dead smack into a brick wall of poor planning, lazy development, and a complete lack of content.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

– They’ve got big balls selling this for $29.99.

– Five vehicles and three tracks are included on the Vita game card.

– No evolution to a long-standing series.

1.5 out of 10