Ridge Racer on the Vita is a strange game to review. Up front I’ll tell you that I’m giving it two stars, which by according to our review scale means that some fans of the genre might find some fun, but most folks could safely skip it. The odd part is that I actually find Ridge Racer to be a ton of fun – but nearly impossible to recommend.
The two points which are bound to drive most folks away are that there is a very limited number of tracks and the game has no proper career mode. In regards to the tracks, Namco plans on expanding the total via DLC. In fact those who bought the game at launch got the first track pack included, which doubles the number of tracks from 3 to 6. The game itself is cheap, $25 on the PSN and $30 MSRP in stores, and the downloadable packs seem to be about $7. By the time all is said and done we will likely have a decent number of tracks for somewhere around the $40 mark, but getting there is a weird ride and the whole thing just poses the question: why not just ship it with all the content and charge $40?
The lack of a career mode may be tied to this DLC model; how do you make a career for a game that is expanding every other month? They instead decided to focus on online races, either competitive or asynchronous through ghost data. The game has a built-in leveling system and car upgrades, so grinding away in online races and time trials does have a point. There is also a team system which is similar to the factions in MAG (for the 6 people who played that game…). These teams don’t have a big impact on the game as a whole, but it does give you opponents to focus on beating to maximize your XP and money-making.
The time trials/ghost battles are the coolest feature in the game. Someone picks a car and a track and then goes and sets a time and either posts it online or on Near, and that person’s time placement is listed as 0G. Once posted someone can download it. If they beat the ghost, they can repost it and they are now 1G. And someone can then download that and if they beat it they become 2G… and on and on and on. You can sort online by friends, but the easiest way to make sure it’s friends only is to post them through Near. The problem with that, however, is that Near only lets you post once per hour. This is the type of thing that game developers and Sony alike need to work out. Even with this restriction it is quite fun having a time trial where you can look at a list and see each step of the way who beat what time.
Offline you can race developer ghosts, do a time trial by yourself or do a “spot race”, which is just a quick race. You pick a track, decide whether it’s frontwards or backwards and then you race against 7 AI cars. This is the most boring of the modes to grind because it doesn’t give you much in the way of rewards and it’s mind-numbingly easy. I’m getting to the point now where I’m lapping guys, and the races are only three laps long.
The nuts and bolts of what makes Ridge Racer a fun game are there. The tracks are all classics, the music is cheesy at time but it always fits, the graphics aren’t mind blowing but it’s a solid-looking game. Most importantly, the act of driving around the course, and of course the drifting, are still as fun as they’ve ever been. If you are the type of racer that can get sucked into an XP grind and enjoys online races and ghost races I think Ridge Racer is for you. Though, if you are looking for a large track count and a meaty single player experience run far, far away from this one.