Since the days of the original Playstation, I've been a fan of the Ridge Racer franchise. The racing is fast as well as hectic and requires a lot more skill and practice than you'd first imagine. Over the years we've seen several literations of Ridge Racer; some have been great, some not so great. Let's flash forward to December 2011, and we now have Ridge Racer on the Playstation Vita. Have Namco still got it when it comes to making the guilty-pleasure arcade racer as good as they did in times gone by? Or is this a Ridge too far for the arcade racer. With the game and Vita in hand, let's find out!



Start-up
Before I start on the game, I have to air a bit of a bug bear with the PSVita. All the games I currently own are purchased from the Hong Kong PSN Store and are saved on a 16GB memory card. I'm not sure if it's the same for retail packaged games, but it seems to take far too long for the games to actually get to the start menu. Whether this is a limitation of the memory cards read/write performance is yet to be seen, but taking 20-30 seconds to get to the games main menu on a portable gaming device seems a little too long for my liking. Let's hope it's something the game developers and Sony can work on with future software/firmware updates.

Start-up
Before I start on the game, I have to air a bit of a bug bear with the PSVita. All the games I currently own are purchased from the Hong Kong PSN Store and are saved on a 16GB memory card. I'm not sure if it's the same for retail packaged games, but it seems to take far too long for the games to actually get to the start menu. Whether this is a limitation of the memory cards read/write performance is yet to be seen, but taking 20-30 seconds to get to the games main menu on a portable gaming device seems a little too long for my liking. Let's hope it's something the game developers and Sony can work on with future software/firmware updates.

Navigating the menu's
At the time of writing this article, the only version of Ridge Racer comes in Japanese (There are the odd exceptions of words are in English).This makes the navigation of the the game a little bit difficult to begin with but you quickly learn your way around the menus. When you load the game for the first time, you'll need create your profile, as well as select a team to represent.Note :It's important that you get your team choice right the first time, because it appears that you cannot change your selection at a later time. Upon completing the initial set-up, you'll then be greeted by the interface which you'll see every time you load up the game. It's a left to right UI with your stats on the left and your events, such as spot races and multiplayer on the far right (See image below). For the most part, navigating the menu's is fairly easy once you've played the game a few times.

Game modes
Ridge Racer comes with 3 main modes; Spot races, Time trial and World races. As Namco have confirmed, Ridge Racer comes with 5 cars and 3 tracks (6, if you include the reversed versions). More are apparently planned via DLC, but whether that will be free or chargeable is yet to be seen. Lots of people have been quick to judge the game on this shortcoming by Namco, especially when the game retails for 279HKD$ on the Hong Kong PSN store. In my opinion, Namco are asking too much for the game in it's current state, but being a Ridge racer fan, I couldn't resist and took the plunge regardless. If you're on a tight budget, you'll have to decide whether there's enough bang per buck for you.

Spot races
Spot races are single, 3 lap races which pit you against 7 AI cars. You're rewarded with credits and win points, depending on how well you do in these events. The latter allows you to level up which brings benefits as well as increased difficulty. The credits go towards buying unlocks which improve your car in 3 different categories (Drafting, Nitro and launches) As mentioned above, as your win points increase and you level up, so does the AI difficulty and the overall pace of the races. I have to say that the initial levels were a breeze, but from driver Level 8 and upwards, the racing becomes intense with little room for error. Unfortunately, there are some frame rate issues once you get into the faster races, with the occasional stutter when using the nitro whilst all 8 cars were on the screen. This came as a bit of a surprise as the game is capped to 30FPS rather than the usual 60FPS that other ridge racers have featured. Although it doesn't happen too often it is disappointing to see, especially when it can make the difference between winning and losing. As far as difficulty goes, the learning curve isn't too steep meaning newcomers as well as veterans of the franchise need not worry as the developers have clearly aimed to please both.



Time trial
Time trial is exactly what it states on the tin. You can either race against the clock completely on your lonesome, with your own ghost, with a ghost created by someone local or against a top leaderboard ghost on either a 3 lap run or a 30 lap run. The location dependent ghost idea is very cool and allows you to claim bragging rights of the fastest time set on a specific track in your neighbourhood. Unfortunately, I found the amount of credits earnt whilst doing time trial to be significantly less than you get for spot races. Even the 30 lap time trials reaps little reward which is a shame. Still, if you like racing against the clock you'll still love this.

Multiplayer
Although multiplayer racing is possible right now, it's a little bit too laggy to judge or rate it fairly. As it stands, you can have a great, closely fought on-line race only for it to be a disaster 2 minutes later. For instance, I was leading a whole race, with the other cars showing behind me. When I crossed the line at the end of the race, it stated I was in dead last. Stuff like this is frustrating but at the same time expected, when only a small number of people outside of Japan own the Vita. I'll update this once other Europeans are playing online to ensure my opinion reflects a "real-world" scenario.

Verdict
So is Ridge Racer worth the 279HKD$ that it currently retails for on the PSN store? The answer to that, only you can decide. Despite a lack of tracks and cars, the occasional frame rate issue and a few issues with language, the game is fun, fast and addictive. If you've got cash to spare and are a fan of Ridge Racer then it is probably right for you. If you're on a budget and want true value for money, you'd probably better off looking elsewhere at least until Namco release some DLC. Asphalt offers an alternative type of racing and should quench your thrist for racing in the mean time.

source: some brit's forums