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Ridge Racer for the Vita review

If I were going to review Ridge Racer based entirely on the presentation, the half-naked pin-up girl that acts as a backdrop to the menu alone would have earned a few boyish points and a high five from my past teenage-self. The music is also catchy, the tracks look great, and the gameplay is classic Ridge Racer. Unfortunately, that is about all there is to this game that deserves a decent score.

All of the staples you would think to find from the Ridge Racer series, or any racing game in general for that matter, are just absent. There is no campaign. Of any kind. There are only six tracks in total (three of those are DLC) and the selection of fictional cars is ridiculously limited. Imagine playing a football video game that didn’t have a franchise or even a season, featured made up teams like the New York Humans with star quarterback Butch McThrowsalot, had only six stadiums, and you start to get the idea.

Offline there are time trials, ghost data races, and a quick race option that you can jump into immediately, but those are all flawed in their own ways. The online is just as empty: there is a race option with up to eight players, and that is it. To call this game shallow undervalues the word.

When you first begin, you are prompted to join one of four teams that have different stated goals but seem to have no real differences. It is an arbitrary choice, and yet you need to choose wisely as you will be locked into this team. Once you have selected your team, you will have access to daily team objectives, which typically just tell you who your opponent team is for the day.

Every team member contributes points to the overall total, and a team leaderboard is constantly being updated. And what do you get for being on the top team? Absolutely nothing. There is no clear incentive for being on any one of the teams. None at all.

And then there is the upgrade spot, which has a special spot waiting for it in gaming hell. You have three upgrade slots for all cars, but you need to purchase the slots first. Each new purchase costs 400 credits. Winning a race gives you 100, so you basically need to just continually grind and grind and grind to earn credits. It is arduous. Then when you do have the credits, you can unlock nitro, which is admittedly useful.

So what do you get after that? What reward awaits you for grinding your way through several races that you have very little chance of winning at that point? Tips. Yes, your second hard-earned purchase is that the game will offer you tips. And not even very useful tips. Mind=blown.

As you unlock the three upgrade slots, you begin to earn more options for what to put in each slot. To earn more items, you need to level up. Here’s the catch: These upgrades are vital, and without them, you simply cannot win. You can average a speed of 140mph, never so much as nicking a thing, perfectly drifting around each corner, and you will lose to higher level cars. Every time. And not only will you lose, you will be blown away.

To increase these feelings of inadequacy, you can race against the ghost data of online racers, but you cannot filter the level of ghost racer you face, so you will frequently be destroyed by them unless you stumble across a racer at your level. It is not only frustrating, it is “never want to play this game again” frustrating. Even racing against someone a single level higher than you guarantees defeat. Putting in your dues as a noob to the game and forcing you to work hard to upgrade to the really cool stuff is not a big deal, or even uncommon. But there needs to be something waiting for you at the end to justify your time. And in Ridge Racer, there isn’t.

And that’s it, that’s the entire game. It will take about two hours before you have seen and done everything, and maybe another before your patience wears thin.

Conclusion

Ridge Racer on the Vita is like ordering a steak dinner and only getting the sides and garnish. With a $29.99 price tag, the missing elements are inexcusable. It really is too bad too, since the graphics and the controls are excellent.

What more is there to say? Something went horribly wrong with this game somewhere along the way. That’s a shame too, since the frame of a good game was in place. There’s just nothing filling it.

Score 3.5 out of 10

(This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita on a copy provided by Namco Bandai)