Ridge Racer and WipeOut were launch titles with the PlayStation way back in 1995. Both titles helped to lend a degree of coolness to Sony's little grey marvel with their amazing visuals, fantastic sense of speed and pumping soundtrack. It was mainstream titles like these that pushed the boundaries of gaming into a hobby that wasn't just for kids.
Fast forward a decade and Sony appear to be repeating this trick by launching its first portable console with these two franchises. Handhelds still aren't quite as 'cool' as console gaming so perhaps Sony's sexy black handheld can push portable frontiers beyond kids and Pokemon. Ridge Racer may well have something to do with that.
Ridge Racer on the PSP is a combination of everything that has ever been cool about Ridge Racer all squashed into one tiny UMD. The game features EVERY course ever featured in a Ridge Racer, a whole shedload of cars, original music as well as re-mixed versions of a lot of the original music. If you have ever enjoyed a Ridge Racer game, this gem of a UMD will keep you busy for a very long time.
The game offers four game types; World Tour, Single Race, Time Attack and Wireless Battle. All of them are pretty self explanatory. In World Tour mode you will battle your way through a number of rounds facing increasingly harder competition. In this mode you will unlock new tracks and cars for you to race with. There is a staggering amount to unlock so you'll happily spend hours giving yourself RSI with your beloved black handheld.
Single race and Time Attack are exactly the same as every other Single Race or Time Attack mode in the history of gaming. Wireless battling is something new for the Ridge series though. Yes, Ridge Racer takes full advantage of the WiFi capabilities of the PSP and features up to eight player AdHoc wireless multiplayer. Developers on the launch titles for the PSP have really taken a shine to the WiFi features on the PSP and long may this continue.
Graphics are another standout feature on this title. Put frankly, they are bloody marvellous. The frame rate stays at a constantly silky 60 frames per second, the level of detail on the courses are fantastic and the cars look brilliant. This game is up their with WipEout Pure as the best looking titles on the console. The sensation of speed is incredible.
Sound is also great. The soundtrack features many old favourites from days gone by. Hell, the game even features a re-mix of the Pacman theme tune – fantastic! Engine noises are grunty too. My only annoyance was a Burnout 3 style DJ who kept on urging me to “keep on going!” and some such nonsense.
The main difference between this and previous Ridge Racer titles is the addition of a Nitro boose. Okay, Nitro is nothing new but Ridge uses it in a novel way. Remember the absolutely insane power slides from other Ridge titles? Well as you slide around corners in physically impossible ways, you will charge up your Nitro. Once you fill the bar, give R a quick press and you will be launched forward at a stupid speed. The Nitro boost is accompanied by the obligatory speed lines at the edge of the screen. Often, a well timed Nitro boost can be the difference between second and first so learn to use them at the right time.
Ridge Racer helped to bring the PlayStation to the masses a decade ago. Its superslick graphics, supercool music and superfast gameplay made it one of the 'cool' titles which helped break the PlayStation to a new generation of gamers. Ridge Racer on the PSP can hopefully do the same thing for portable gaming. It is well worth picking up, even if you aren't a massive racing game fan. Anyone can pick up its simple gameplay and have a blast playing WiFi with their friends. If you are trying to decide which PSP title to pick up in the weeks ahead, give this one a go. You won't be disappointed.