You know those times when there’s a genre of video games you’re not really big into, but you end up becoming a fan of one particular game or series from that genre? That’s me and Ridge Racer. Racing games are something I can understand the appeal of, but have never been able to play worth a damn outside of more arcade-style offerings.
The deal is this: I know how to check the oil in my car, make sure the tires have the proper air pressure, and acquire gas when fuel is needed. Other than that, cars are pretty much a strange alien technology to me. Games that require me to spend a lot of time tuning and tweaking not only one car, but several of them? You might as well ask me to build a new rocket craft that can make it to Mars. Even simpler concepts typically elude me when it comes to racing games—things like the idea that you’re supposed to break before hitting a curve, not during it.
That’s why I like Ridge Racer: It’s nice, it’s simple, and it actually encourages you to hit curves like a crazy person (in order to drift). I can’t even remember the last time I used the break button in a Ridge Racer title—maybe the PlayStation 1 era?
As much as I’ve enjoyed the last couple console outings, it’s the PSP series—especially Ridge Racer 2—that has really captured my heart in recent years. So, it only makes sense that I’d be excited by the concept of a new Ridge Racer chapter coming to the PS Vita.
I got a chance to play the Vita Ridge Racer (working title) demo today, and walked away with mixed opinions. The demo allowed for the playing of one track—a track that, I believe, first debuted in Ridge Racer 6—and right away I noticed a peculiar effect going on. Everything near the screen looked finely detailed, but scenery and roadside objects a bit further down the road has a peculiar blurring to them—almost as if those segments of the track are in a much lower resolution, and then snap into a higher level of detail once they’re close enough to the player.
The effect was rather jarring, and for me, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it the entire time I tried to play. Supposedly, this is a new depth of field effect that was made specifically for the Vita Ridge Racer project; personally, I’m not at all a fan of it. In fact, until I learned that that was the best explanation for what was going on, I simply assumed the game’s engine was far from being optimized.
Visually beyond that, Vita’s first Ridge Racer chapter is looking pretty good, but currently lacks a little bit of that extra something most RR titles enjoy flaunting. I still remember playing Ridge Racer PSP on my newly-purchased Sony handheld on the day it came out, and being completely blown away by what I was seeing—I’d love to get that feeling again.
Otherwise, there’s unfortunately very little to go on just yet for us Ridge Racer fans. The game felt like a Ridge Racer title—which, of course, is a good sign. Not all of the functions seemed in place yet, but the traditional two-option camera switching was there, Nitro Boosts were an option, and the game’s “dashboard” U.I. was typical Ridge Racer.
PARTING SHOT: Ridge Racer looked solid in our first look, but we can’t help but wonder what will set it apart? Will it be an all new set of tracks, will it be a collection of the best tracks from previous releases, or might it be some extension of Ridge Racer 6 / 7? That’s the question most on my mind now, and the one I hope we get an answer to soon.