The Ridge Racer series has long been a foundation of any Sony hardware release, and the debut of the PlayStation 3 is no exception. The series made its lucky 7th appearance on store shelves on November 13th, just in time for the PlayStation 3’s launch on the 17th. But did Namco Bandai’s 7th iteration of its popular drift racing game live up to the expectations?
Ridge Racer 7 does a great job of accomplishing the main goal of any racing game: making driving fun. While players will be hard pressed to find much realism in the game, it detracts little from the overall experience the title provides. And while cars won’t explode or show damage like that of Burnout or the upcoming racer Motorstorm, Ridge Racer 7 stays true to the calling the series has always followed; being a great arcade racer.
As the series has always implied, drifting is the most important aspect of the game. The game does a good job of easing new and even veteran players into the unorthodox style of racing. However, after that gentle hump, tracks stray far from easy. In the latter stages of the game players will find themselves drifting at mind blowing speeds from curve to curve in an effort to stay one step ahead of their relentless computer controlled opponents, who often will show little mercy in passing players toward the finish line.
Nitrous also remains a vital component for players in Ridge Racer 7. Like its predecessor Ridge Racer 6, cars are equipped with three nitrous tanks. Each tank is filled as players drift. Each tank can be used separately, or chained together for double or even triple boosts. The amount of nitrous earned per drift depends on the quality of the drift, thus players will soon discover that a slight miscalculation in a single drift can be the difference between an extra boost near the finish line, or a consolation prize in the form of second place.
Ridge Racer 7 presents players with the standard set of racing modes. Arcade mode offers new players the quickest way to start getting used to the ropes of the game. A menu comes up to pick a car and track, and that’s it! Players have their choice of single or split-screen racing. Unfortunately, split screen racing has a noticeable effect on the framerate and graphics of the game.
Ridge Racer 7 also contains a mode titled Ridge State Grand Prix. Players will find they will spend the majority of their time offline in this mode. After a quick introduction movie, players are presented with a huge map filled with various icons. It can be overwhelming at first, but thankfully appearances are deceiving in this case. Players start out penniless and without a ride. Instead, we are challenged by various companies in manufacturer’s trials to race a field of cars not only to get their endorsement, but the ability to buy their products.
From this point, players are challenged to earn as many credit and fame points as possible, all in order to win more endorsements and buy better products to outfit their cars with. Ridge Racer 7 offers players the ability to earn both kinds of points through Grand Prix races and UFRA single events, which challenge players to win under certain conditions, such as equipment restrictions and time limits.
A new addition to the series is a Gran Turismo style car customization scheme. Through an option called machine connector, players are able to purchase or make upgrades on their existing rides. While the mode is nowhere as deep as Gran Turismo’s upgrade system, basic components are upgradeable, such as the engine tune-up, wheels, suspension, plug-in units, and the ever so vital nitrous. The visual details of each car are equally customizable. Players are given a multitude of options when it comes to the exterior of their machines, including wheels, paint, spoilers, and decals. Upgrades do count in this game, as every edge is needed to stay one step ahead of computer controlled opponents.
Ridge Racer 7 also places a large amount of emphasis on the online portion of the game. The developers did a great job of translating every aspect that shines in offline mode right into the online environment. Tracked statistics include miles driven, fame, global ranking, and OBP ranking. Each player is also given a unique ID, which not only displays many of the stats listed above, but awards such as Winning Streak and Bounty Hunter. A ticker bar sits at the bottom of the screen with up to the minute results of online races, giving players even more incentives to outsmart and outwit their human opponents.
Online mode has a few different options. Along with the standard ranked races, players are given the ability to race cooperatively. Through a rather closed text chat, players can coordinate with their partner to win races by allowing their partner to slingshot past, Talladega Nights style, around their opponents, or make essential blocks to ensure their partner glides across the finish line. Players may also compete in Global Time Attack, and UFRA Special Events, which allows players to race against each other under special conditions.
While Ridge Racer 7 may not be the most innovative of games in the racing genre, it still comes out to be a decent launch racing title. Unfortunately, the game does have a few downsides, including the fact that many of the tracks in Ridge Racer 7 are rehashes from Ridge Racer 6, and that the cooperative mode is a bit buggy. However, the new level of customization, the engaging online system, and the generally enjoyable game play all make up for these flaws, and make Ridge Racer 7 an easy pick to buy at launch with a PlayStation 3 console.