Review: Ridge Racer 7 (Sony PS3)


Ridge Racer 7
Publisher: Namco
Genre: Racing
Release Date: 11/17/2006

Ridge Racer was one of the killer aps that shipped with the original Playstation and helped put Sony on the map in 1995. Namco also shipped a Ridge Racer with the PSP launch, PS2 launch and recently the Xbox 360 launch. They are back with an all new game for the PS3 launch, the 7th official game in the series (not counting portables, N64 or the cross platform Gran Tursimo attempt).

Like its predecessors, Ridge Racer 7 looks beautiful and stands as a launch day showcase for PS3 owners. However, does the gameplay hold up? Let’s get to it.

1. Game Modes
There are a bunch of play modes in Ridge Racer 7 that are fairly typical for racing games on last and current generation.

The main single player mode is the Ridge State Grand Prix, which takes the player acround various racing circuits, upgrading cars and earning new cars and tracks. The Arcade mode is a straight ahead race for players looking for a quick race. The online Battle is a cool addition to the series, allowing online racing for up to 16 players.

The multiplayer on the console itself splits the screen and allows offline madness, although the graphic quality slips in the split screen quite a bit.

Ridge Racer 7 also has another beautiful Namco spokeswoman, and she appears in the game as the host and announcer.

Story Rating: 5/10

Graphics
I took the plunge and got an HDMI wire to hook up the Playstation 3 to the TV, and Ridge Racer 7 is one of the reasons its all worth it. The game looks magnificent, with detailed tracks, fantastic looking cars and beautiful backgrounds. The game moves swiftly and gives a great sense of speed, both in the first person mode and the third person viewpoint. The speeds get even swifter with the use of nitro and slipstreams, and the increased speed is well represented and quite exhilarating.

The tracks have varied environments and times of day, and some have beautiful sunsets or nighttime settings. Each of the trackside elements looks realistic and detailed as well, including the buildings, trees and shrubbery and bridges.

If any one game was the showcase of what the Playstation 3 could do graphically, it’s probably Ridge Racer 7.

Note that I played the game with an HDMI input and compared the game to the 360 game on a composite connection, but the difference in resolution was notable and made the PS3 stand out.

Graphics Rating: 8/10

3. Sound
Like all other Ridge Racer games, Ridge Racer 7 has a techno-inspired soundtrack, with pounding beats adding a sense of excitement and adrenaline to the racing. There isn’t much notable about the music, but it does sound good coming out of the PS3.

The announcer is a boisterous woman, presumably the same woman who models the cars and presents the game modes. The effects in the game are fairly straight forward, with engine roars, tire squeaks and all the requisite noises associated with racing.

There is nothing much about the sound in Ridge Racer 7 that screams next generation, but it does the job nicely.

Sound Rating: 5/10

4. Control and Gameplay
Ridge Racer 7 is an arcade racing game that relies on speed and drifting rather than realism or physics. The series is firmly planted in the “arcade” side of the racing genre, and Ridge Racer 7 does nothing to change that classification. If anything, the gameplay in RR7 is nearly identical to the other games in the series, with high speed races laced with powerslide turns. The powerslides impact the nitro meter, which fills up with longer and better executed powerslides. There are three stages to nitros, and while they can be used one at a time, saving them all up for extra nitro can sometimes be the difference between a win and a loss.

The game controls with the Sixaxis controller nicely, although it uses the X button for acceleration rather than the triggers. Sliding can be initiated in a number of ways, including the standard break and the hand break, although sliding is possible just by removing the accelerator and taking a turn. The key to the game is controlling the slides so that the car drifts easily around the corner and right back into accelerating. This tends to be fairly easy with subtle curves, but can take some finesse for sharper turns.

There are two main new gameplay techniques in Ridge Racer 7 as compared with earlier games in the series. The first is the ability to drift behind other cars and get caught in their slipstream. This causes wind effects to go to the sides of your car and acts as a temporary turbo. These can be strung together with slipstreams of other nearby cars as well. This allows a string of slipsteams and nitros to be combined for a long stretch of extra speed.

The other major new innovation is the ability to race alongside other cars in a team. Other racers on your team will set you up for a slipstream and allow you to catapult past competing team cars. This adds some strategy to the races in the career mode, and gives the game some extra legs online as well.

Fans of realistic racing physics need not apply for Ridge Racer 7 as the brake barely needs to be used in the game except for extremely tight turns. Otherwise it’s pedal to the medal, using speed bursts and drifts throughout.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 6/10

5. Replayability
With over 20 tracks, all available in reverse as well, there are seemingly a ton of tracks. However, many of them are repeats from Ridge Racer 6, with a few new ones exclusive to the PS3 version.

The game extends its life through the online options, which allow up to 16 players online in the same race. There is team based play online as well, although there is not a way to communicate with other players so teamwork is more based on reaction to things on the track.

Replayability rating: 6.5/10

6. Balance
The beginning races in Ridge Racer 7 are remarkably easy to win, especially for seasoned Ridge Racer players, but the game progresses in difficulty nicely. The tracks have some great hairpin turns and alternate paths, and the more powerful cars really speed around them.

For new players, the style of racing in Ridge Racer is a bit unique, so there is somewhat of a learning curve to figure out how to smooth slide around corners. Longtime Ridge Racer fans will likely enjoy the ability to slipstream and add even more speed to the nitros already present in the series.

Balance Rating: 7.5/10

7. Originality.
It’s tough to expect a highly original experience for a game in its 7th official iteration, and Ridge Racer 7 doesn’t do much to mix up the formula. The biggest change is the slipstream feature, which allows speed bursts for following in the path behind another racer. This adds another layer of depth to the somewhat shallow Ridge Racer formula of drifts and nitro, and is actually useful in getting ahead in races.

There is also a new feature to race in teams, where some of the cars on the track will be helping you win.

But for the most part, it’s a tried and true Ridge Racer gameplay experience — not that that’s a bad thing

Originality Rating: 3/10

8. Addictiveness
With a ton of cars and upgrades to unlock, the fast paced and beautiful races are addictive and fun to play over and over. The online mode is well done if unspectacular, and if you find the right game, can be fun and challenging. There aren’t a ton of people online in the game yet, like say on Xbox Live, so there are times where there aren’t a lot of races to choose from.

At the end of the day, if I want a quick jolt of spectacular graphics and a short adrenaline filled race, I pop in Ridge Racer 7, play one race in arcade, and feel satisfied.

Addictiveness Rating: 8/10

9. Appeal Factor
A series with the quality pedigree of Ridge Racer ascends to the top of the launch PS3 lineup and likely will not disappoint many who pick it up. While the tracks have a great deal of overlap from Ridge Racer 6, the game still looks better enough over that title to warrant a pickup.

Appeal Factor: 7/10

10. Miscellaneous
There’s something warm and fuzzy about a Ridge Racer game at a Playstation launch, as the series has become as much of a launch icon for Sony as anything. Especially amongst the overall weak PS3 launch lineup, Ridge Racer 7 is beautiful, accessible and fun to play.

The new box size for Playstation 3 somehow makes the games seem more futuristic and next generation next to typical DVD cases. I know that seems crazy, but there is something about a slightly different sized box that makes the older box seem more passé. In typical Namco fashion, Ridge Racer 7 has a full color, long and detailed manual, which is a nice touch.

Miscellaneous Rating: 8/10


The Scores
Story: 5/10
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 5/10
Control & Gameplay: 6/10
Replayability: 6.5/10
Balance: 7.5/10
Originality: 3/10
Addictiveness: 8/10
Appeal Factor: 7/10
Miscellaneous: 8/10
Total Score 64/100
Final Score: 6.5

Short Attention Span Summary
Summary Launch titles are always tough to rate, because generally reviews compare games with those of the same generation and these have no peers. Unlike the racing games that are a part of the Wii launch, Ridge Racer 7 plays and feels a whole lot like the racing games of the last generation. However, and dispute it if you want, the main selling point of the PS3, especially at launch, is high resolution looks and graphical wow factor. More than the cross-platform games and most other PS3 launch games, Ridge Racer 7 has the graphical wow that is needed for launch and delivers the goods. Take it for what it is — a prettier version of a classic series — and you’ll have a great time with it.