Buying a New Sony System? Gotta Have Ridge Racer!
If you want a game to wow your friends with what the PSP can do graphically, Ridge Racer is definitely your game. The environments are gorgeous and the car models are quite good as well. Admittedly there is a noticable amount of aliasing issues, but the game looks so amazing for a handheld that you quickly forget about them. The graphics are sharp and the lighting effects are incredible. The game also offers a solid sense of speed especially when using Nitro (more on that in a minute). Never on a handheld has there been this kind of color depth. As icing on the cake, the game runs perfectly smooth and never drops in framerate. Lastly, the presentation is stylish and very well done. From the opening video featuring the return of Reiko Nagase, to the excellent menu system, the game looks sharp.
You can use the D-pad or analog stick, but the analog is the best choice. Both are precise and responsive, but the analog feels better. This version of Ridge Racer focuses more on the 'art' of drifting. Sliding around turns not only gets you around the track faster, but the better your drifting, the faster your Nitro tanks fill up. Yes, nitro. By taking a page from Burnout, Ridge Racer allows you to fill up three nitro tanks one at a time. Once one is full, you can press R at any time to get a temporary boost as it burns through the tank. Aside from these new features, you have your basic gas and brake plus the L button which changes between cockpit and 3rd person view.
The sound department is the biggest example of the mixing of past Ridge Racer games. The game features a TON of tracks new and old that you can choose from at the start of the race. All the songs are divided into folders ("Discs") to allow you to pick from past games specifically or new tunes. Another thing I must mention here are the Sony earbuds that come with the PSP. These things are excellent. Easily the best earbuds I've ever used. The PSP's speakers are good considering they're just two tiny holes, but the earbuds are simply a must-use on Ridge Racer. This was a welcome surprise.
Remember the first Ridge Racer. It had ONE track. This game isn't like that. But it does use the mirror/reverse trick as well as opening/closing multiple routes of the same course to exaggerate the track list. The game has three basic modes. World Tour, Single Race, and Multiplayer. The tour is where you'll spend most of your time as you race through 3-race tournaments with given themes. By clearing each series, you unlock more cars, more tracks, and eventually some gimmicky prizes. The multiplayer allows for up to 8 players on an Ad Hoc connection, but sadly doesn't offer online play.
Simply put, Ridge Racer is a must-have title for your PSP. It easily shows what the PSP is capable of in these early stages of the systems life, plus it offers a top notch arcade racing game that you won't want to put down. The World Tour mode is good and if you have any buddies with the game you're really in for a treat. Games will eventually look better and offer more than this, but if you want a glimpse into what the PSP can potentially do, get yourself a copy of Ridge Racer. You won't regret it.
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the release of the game. ***