Ridge Racer 7
21st Mar 2007 | 15:45
Ridge Racer's visuals may be getting slicker and more realistic but thankfully that's not the direction gameplay is going in. Real-to-life as it may look, Ridge Racer 7 retains the core element of the series - a complete disregard for real-life physics.
You thrash flashy sports cars around courses at silly speeds without even thinking about dabbing the breaks. You blast down straights and power slide round hairpin turns at 180mph like it was nothing. That's the essence of Ridge Racer, and it's just as fun on PS3 as it's always been.
But things get off to a slow start in the main career mode (Ridge State Grand Prix) as your first challenge is to pass a manufacturer trial and sign with them to get into the seat of their slowest racer.
From there, you enter a selection of competitions, winning races in any of the game's 22 courses set in different environments from cities to airports to open rural areas.
As you win races you earn money, which you then use to purchase new cars, and pay for upgrades to make those cars even faster. You can even toy around with the car's visuals, adding spoilers, decals and whatnot.
It's great to see the money system in there again. It gives you a goal - you'll be looking forward to earning enough cash for that ultra-fast car you've been eyeing up from the start. Then you buy it and that's a satisfying feeling. But it takes a while to get to that stage.
As you can imagine, the earlier competition races are pretty slow, and the CPU players aren't particularly challenging. While these early stages ease beginners in nicely, anyone with any experience of recent RR games will breeze through the first half of the game without trying, and it feels like a chore.
And if you are a beginner, it won't take long to get used to RR's simple handling. Winning in RR is all about being an absolute ninja at drifting. It's simple - you enter a corner at any speed, let go of the gas to get your car sliding, then hammer the power down and drift your motor round. Line it up as you exit and you'll blister out with all the speed that you entered, no matter how steep the bend is.
As pioneered by the PSP games, performing drifts gets you some oh-so-sweet nitro power, which can be used to give you the extra kick you need to lead the pack. As you slam the trigger button to activate the nitro (accelerate is X, thankfully) your tires burst into flames and your exhaust spits fire as you blister along.
But most of what we've talked about is in the PSP games. So what do you get for buying it on your £425 super console? Nicer graphics is the first thing, of course. Although, we must say that it may look the same as RR6 on 360, but our side-by-side comparisons revealed slightly inferior lighting effects. Rave City in particular looks so much better lit on the 360 game. Strange.
The other benefit is complete online integration. The game is constantly connected to the net, giving you easy access to rankings. The game even gives you your own online ID card, and keeps a record of your achievements for all to view.
Of course, you can play others online too, which works smoothly and easily. Playing online in RR7 is the superior multiplayer option, as the split-screen mode suffers from a lower frame rate and a loss of the finer graphical details, which is a shame on today's hardware. Especially when you consider that RR7 doesn't look particularly mind-blowing to start with.
What Rigde Racer 7 is though is a brilliant arcade racing game. It's fast, fun, looks good and is highly playable. But the key issue is that this is yet another Ridge Racer sequel that comes with barely enough updates to warrant another purchase.
If you have RR6 on Xbox 360 you have very little reason to get this - it's 80 percent the same. In fact, most of its content is in both the PSP games too (which were also ludicrously near-identical), so if you have either of those this will all feel very samey.
The money system does add depth to the career mode, and the online support is cool but the overall content remains the same, and that's not good enough.
We can't help but feel that the series needs to do more now. It needs a reinvention - it needs another Rage Racer to come along with a whole new take on the things and shake the series up.
If you're short of games to play on your shiny new PS3, RR7 is a solid choice. But be warned RR fans - you'll have seen almost all of this before on PSP and 360.