Few driving games have split opinion like Ridge Racer. The Gran Turismo faithful see Ridge Racer as an abomination of arcade gameplay over realistic driving physics. But what these virtual driving snobs are missing is that Ridge Racer is a very focussed product with only one type of player in mind, high speed adrenaline junkies. You see Namco was never interested in realism, it wanted driving to be fun and exciting and all the best versions of Ridge Racer did just that.
Letâ€™s put it into real world terms. Iâ€™ve done my fair share of time on the race track and Iâ€™m well aware that there are two ways to lap a circuit. You can drive smoothly, following the racing line, using every ounce of grip to hit the apex of each bend and powering out the other side having lost as little speed as possible. Or, you can lift off before a bend, wait for the back end to start letting go, get back on the power, apply the necessary opposite lock and drift or slide around the bend. Any experienced driver will tell you that the first method will get you round the track fastest, but that the second method is just SO much more fun!
And thatâ€™s the key to Ridge Racer, drifting your ridiculously fast car around bends and putting your foot to the floor on the straights. There is some driving skill involved though. For instance you can draft cars in front of you and then pull out and overtake them with a burst of speed. You also build up your store of nitrous during the race, and when you need an extra surge of power just hit the button and prepare for hyperspace!
Graphically Ridge Racer 7 looks stunning. The tracks and surrounding environments are beautifully modelled and textured, while the lighting effects are some of the best Iâ€™ve seen in any game. There are also some superb motion blur effects, especially when youâ€™re in a tunnel, and when you hit the nitrous button, the whole world becomes a blur as the horizon is catapulted towards you at breakneck speed.
If thereâ€™s anything that spoils the Ridge Racer 7 party, itâ€™s that it isnâ€™t a huge step forward from Ridge Racer 6 which launched on the X360 a year ago. That said, playing Ridge Racer on a PlayStation controller just feels so much better than on the X360 controller. I canâ€™t put my finger on anything definitive, but playing Ridge Racer with a PlayStation controller in my hand just feels, well, right. If youâ€™re a fan of the series, youâ€™ll know exactly what I mean, and if youâ€™re not, you probably wonâ€™t care.
If you want a racing game that really shows off what the PlayStation 3 can do, youâ€™re probably best off buying MotorStorm. But if you want an all out adrenaline rush and a feeling of unprecedented speed, you need to give Ridge Racer 7 a look.