Now we're going to go out on a limb here and say something rash about how Ridge Racer is the ultimate videogame. About how, if videogames are about attempting the impossible, then Ridge Racer is the ultimate example of the art. And it's danced the fine line between idiotic and realistic for 12 long years. If you're creating any game on any format then Ridge Racer 7 is a lesson in just how to do it.
It works like this. First of all you do the real bits: You make sun and sky and beach and mountain. You design raceways of tracks the right width with the right amount of straights and curves. You create an algorithm for making metal shiny. And you're halfway there already.
Now comes the videogame magic. How fast can a real car go? Ditch that, we need them to go faster. Turning a corner at that speed would be impossible? Not to worry we'll flip the back end out and skid round. Impossible to control? Ah, just have it twang back in a straight line again if you totally let go of the stick.
RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
And that track through the jungle. How about a few massive Buddha statues on there. Real big. Impossibly big. A waterfall? Yeah, that's a good idea. But how about if you can drive behind the waterfall? Yeah! That'll give us a great excuse to use our impossible new lighting engine that'll snake the brake lights out like red cosmic streamers. And we need a turbo... No, a nitrous. And one that fires in three distinct stages. We can put stage one on the R1 button, stage two on the L1 button and the third stage? Er... Let's jam both buttons down together. So, that's that sorted. Any more questions? No, thought not.
Just as Metal Gear has its grumpy soldier-back-for-one-last-job, so Ridge Racer has its ultra-realistic world (but not too realistic, mind) populated by made up cars that can literally do the impossible and make you feel like 'the man' in the process. Have you seen Vanilla Sky? Ridge Racer is just like motoring around Tom Cruise's perpetually perfect lucid dream. That said, if he drove off a bridge in Ridge he'd probably earn a nitrous boost and a "Grrrrreat Drivin'!" from the commentator... So we've got a rigid set of rules in place. A way of doing things that - apart from the addition of the nitrous system in PSP's Ridge Racer in 2004, hasn't changed in 12 years. Sure the music has got a little less 'Banzai Bob Goes Rave Crazy With A Stylophone' but very little else has altered. Which, when it comes to showing off an amazing new ultra-powerful games console, puts PS3 and Ridge Racer in a bit of a pickle.
The extra screen resolution allows you everything to be sooooo much sharper than before. In fact Ridge Racer 7 is one of PS3's 1080p games, running at the maximum resolution that PS3 and a top-notch £2000 Full HD TVs can do - a resolution they said would be impossible to create a game in. Well here it is - and at 60 frames per second too. But beyond the sharpness, the confines of the Ridge world - where everything has to look plastic and handle like a videogame - prevents PS3 from pulling 90% of its favourite tricks. There's no snappy focus effects. No real-time deformation of textures (i.e. dents in the cars), no particle physics beyond the odd spark and nitrous effect (no smashing scenery into a million physics imbued shards) and certainly no on-foot sections, alternate routes, AI-driven team mates or multi-stage upgradeable rocket launchers.
BEAMING FROM EAR TO EAR
Even the ability to place genuine reflections of the genuinely passing scenery on the cars and the dynamic lighting (which gives a superb 'bleach out' when you face the sun) don't seem particularly impressive because they were so good at faking it in the previous games. So what we're limited to is an extra-shiny Ridge Racer. Extra sharp. Extra... shiny. And um... That's it. There are more tracks than you possibly could need (including the now customary revisits of many classics from throughout the series), including tracks from the 360-only Ridge Racer 6 - which gives us an interesting opportunity to compare the two games side by side (and, in theory, finally settle the 'which console is the best' debate once and for all). And the answer? What do you reckon, based on the following evidence? 360 Ridge looks more gritty. There seems to be more detail in certain textures. Take out the green mirrored car in the foreground, narrow your eyes and it could (could) be real. Or at least a Star Wars-like plastic interpretation of what passes for real. PS3, on the other hand, has a hi-def sheen on everything. It all seems smoother. Edges are softer, colours more muted and it lacks the visual bite of the 360 game. If anything, though, it looks better. More fakily hyper-real. More like the ultimate polished videogame and