Ridge Racer 7
Back in 2006 at the dawn of the Playstation 3, Namco, released their seventh instalment in the Ridge Racer franchise. This launch title did provide an immediate exception as to what the next generation of video games had in store. As time has gone by, there's one particular aspect that should have been standard throughout the years that followed, and that we will get to.
Ridge Racer 7, as the name suggests, is an arcade style racing game. There's a great emphasis on drifting than ever in the series and also utilisation of the slip-streaming mechanic. While racing, a meter is filled up by performing drifts that contribute to using turbo. As a result, you can push your machine beyond the projected speed limits and gain a significant boost.
Controlling your vehicle feels intuitive, some actions occasionally look unrealistic, however, in an arcade racer that is forgivable. To enjoy this game thoroughly, suspending disbelief is required and the fun factors helps make that process oh so simple.
The main cusp of the game involves competing in thirteen Grand Prix series. You have the option to progress in this and divulge in side races. Before you do any of this, you must first compete in a manufacture trial. That's right, manufacturers are a key influence in this game. Between them, the Grand Prix and side mission racers, everything is neatly tied together.
Like any racer worth it's salt, you win races, earn money, buy new cars and customise. The 'machine connector' feature allows a number of ways to enhance your car. Vehicles are split into four categories, depending on speed. Rank 4 representing the slowest and 1 being the quickest. You will see repeating makes and models, but in a way that's a positive because certain vehicles are have designs that shouldn't be limited to one point in the game.
You can make the vehicle faster, handle better and drift more proficiently. The options available are not immensely in depth. Enough to make a difference yet far from anything to invest a substantial amount of time into.
In terms of graphics, these still hold up good by today's standards. There are areas that aren't so pretty. For example during some tracks you can see a flock of birds soar overhead. When approaching, these animations become noticeably pixelated. Unfortunately, graphics these days have spoilt us and such instances are immediately noticeable.
The level designs aren't nothing to sniff at. Granted, some tracks are repeated with slightly variations, however, you'll be hard pressed to find a game that incorporates this amount of themes. There's inspiration drawn from previous games, as a long time fan of the series, it feels like Namco is paying homage to the previous titles which is fantastic to see.
Sound wise, vehicle noise is on point. The soundtrack itself has techno elements, a classic staple in Ridge Racer, and presents Namcos distinct style. I did find a couple tunes unbearable to play, on the other hand, the remaining tracks really add to the experience. You always have the option to change the song at any point in the race. Which is a nice and much needed feature.
At the time of this review, multiplayer matches are available with a small community that are still challenging racers around the world. For recent and historical experiences, I've found the servers to be extremely reliable. A surprising positive for a game that's nearly fourteen years old.
There's another grant positive, one that gave a hopeful interpretation what the future of the gaming. Namco released over forty free DLC packs on the Playstation Store. These are additional side races and designs to decorate your machines with. Sadly, no other developer would follow suite to this extent. Each of these forty packs range from a couple hundred KB to a few MB, combined they provide a substantial expansion. All this extra content remains available and easy to access.
To summarise, Ridge Racer 7 is a thrilling experience that boasts a slick presentation. The implementation of additional content pushed it ahead of the competition and was extremely consumer friendly. The graphics remain attractive, though have noticeably aged and show intermittent flashes of visuals from a bygone era.
Arcade racers are not everyone's cup of tea, however, this remains among my most treasured racing games ever. It's not flawless but a gameplay experience that brings you back years later wanting more.