Ridge Racer 7
With every console launch, Namco delivers a new entry in their (too) long-running Ridge Racer series. And save for the two PSP games, all of the latest RR titles have been rubbish. Clearly, for Ridge Racer 7 (available only on PlayStation 3), Namco had some work to do…
For the few people who haven’t got a clue what the series is about, let me fill you in on the basics. Ridge Racer is all about speed.
You never have to hit the brakes, but instead you need to powerslide your way through corners. Just ease of the gas pedal, turn your car and hit the gas again. Doing this correctly will fill the segments of your nitrous boost meter. Filling one gives you a fair slice of extra speed, but if you fill two or all three, you can unleash even more powerful speed boosts that can easily take your meter north of 200mph (320km/h).
The lion’s share of the game is comprised of the Ridge State Grand Prix (RSGP), which replaces the horrid 111-race grid from Ridge Racer 6. Good riddance! You start out without a car and before you can buy one, you need to start a partnership with one of the many constructors
(only three are available from the start, more will be unlocked as you progress). Just win one of the constructor events and you’ll have access to their racecar catalogue. Furthermore, there are single events that are especially good for earning some money and improving your reputation. The most important events in the RSGP mode, however, are the GP championships, that consist of multiple races. Winning those will unlock new constructors, new cars and more events.
There is a little more variety in the type of races (full-grid (14 cars), half-grid (8 cars), time trial,…) than in RR6, which makes the game far less tedious. Gameplay-wise, not much has changed.
The only meaningful difference is that now you can buy upgrades for your cars, such as new engines, improved nitrous tanks or better tyres. Unfortunately, little has been done to even out the flaws from the previous games. The collision detection is still bonkers; you can barely notice that you’re hitting a wall or another driver, save for the loss of speed. The AI is decent (your competitors make good use of boosting and will always try to defend their position), but it’s nowhere near stunning.
The same holds true for the game’s graphics (available in 1080p). They are a vast improvement over the drab visuals of RR6, but we’ve already seen the PlayStation 3 do a lot better (MotorStorm or Formula One 06 anyone?).
Though a lot of tracks have been recycled from previous games, they look a lot better now. Just compare the new airport track with the butt-ugly one from RR6 and see for yourself. The cars also look a lot better and the realistic lighting only adds to that. At night, the neon advertising and subtle moonlight set a nice atmosphere. The game also succeeds in delivering a good sense of speed, with its cool speed haze effects, solid framerate and fading environments. And although most vehicles still sound like lawnmowers, the two new commentators do a much better job than their predecessor. You know, the guy whose throat you’d just love to slit.
If you decide to take Ridge Racer 7 online, you’ll be glad to hear it’s actually quite a fun experience. You can participate in global time attack or simply play matches against your friends or gamers worldwide.
And speaking of friends, RR7 has a large firends list and a personal stat-tracking system (Ridge State ID). Winning races, having a full friends list, going on a winning or taking part in special events can earn you medals (and thus bragging rights). There are also several team-based modes in the game (in which you have a shared boost meter and you have to try to use your teammate’s slipstream to go faster), which can be truly great if you have a skilled teammate.
So, all in all, Ridge Racer 7 is probably the best console Ridge Racer title since RR4. Unfortunately for Namco, time hasn’t stood still. The arcade racing genre is filled with all kinds of great games, most notably the Burnout series. The tried and true gameplay mechanics still work reasonably well, but they’re not as great as they used to be. Time for some much needed innovations, Namco!