Namco’s business model might be sound – sell the game off cheap and add in DLC along the way – but it’s unproven, and, in a game like Ridge Racer, feels a little disingenuous. Not least of all because the initial bundle – three tracks and five cars – is nothing but frugal for the £20 entry price, even if that does also entitle you to the first few batches of DLC if you buy the game early.[drop]That said, there’s a certain charm to how this latest Ridge is composed and constructed. Rather than the usual career mode that Namco put out in their flagship racer, this Vita version sees you dip in and out of online races, time trials and single events at leisure, racking up points for your chosen team (from four) and thus contributing to a greater, global tally.
It feels a little like Gran Turismo PSP’s Arcade Mode, ultimately a little limited but fun enough for the casual player, with the promise of an RPG-esque leveling system providing the hook for the hardcore. Indeed, credits also add to the attraction, allowing for purchases of additional components and customisation for your cars – filling all three such slots with enhancements can make a big difference to your times.
But even with the presence of downloadable content (the first of which launches today with the game) Ridge Racer never really feels like it’s going to deliver a complete package. The menu system, swish and sophisticated as it is (and it’s lovely to play around with) appears built for bundles to be clipped on and extended, with tracks and cars browsed by swiping rather than displayed in any kind of garage.
But away from the fact that Ridge Racer here is a skeletal, bare bones package, there’s some familiar features that will hopefully entice fans of the series. The handling, for example, is exemplary, developers Cellius truly getting to grips (or the lack of) with how these cars should drift and flick through every corner, but there’s a neat slider for fine tuning any personal niggles should you find a car too sticky or otherwise.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with Ridge Racer – it’s priced low and that’s clearly advantageous – but there’s also nothing especially new or smart aside from the global score thing, which nicely pits teams against each other in the menus but doesn’t really carry this through onto the tarmac. I wouldn’t necessarily be too concerned about the track and car count, but I would have liked to have seen a more substantial single player.
- Same great Ridge handling model
- Cheap entry point
- Nice ‘world’ idea
- Limited content
- Lack of a meaty single player mode
Ridge Racer Vita caters for that ‘having a Ridge Racer game at launch’ thing that Sony seem adamant that they’re sticking to, but it doesn’t tick all the boxes it needed to. I’ve put a lot of hours into this game since December, which surely counts for something, but ultimately – aside from leveling up and chipping in for my squad – it’s hard to see what I’ve really achieved.
And that, probably, is the crux.