23 October 2005
Ridge Racer for PSP
With Rage Racer on the original PlayStation, I learned to love Namco-style drift racing. So when I snagged a cheap copy of Ridge Racer for my PSP, I was eager to experience the handheld translation. The good news is that this single handheld version is worth owning over all five of the previous installments.
The reason? Ridge Racer PSP has all of the important tracks from the previous games. This isn't as hard as it sounds, since all previous games only had three or four tracks to race, with the option of then racing each of those tracks in reverse. So instead of owning Ridge Racer, Ridge Racer Revolution, Rage Racer, R4: Ridge Racer Type 4, and Ridge Racer V, this one game does it all. It also contains some audio tracks from previous games, but from what I can tell, not the ones I really liked from Rage Racer. A disappointment, but I'll live.
What matters more in a racing game is control, and Ridge Racer PSP has that down pat. The little analog nub on the PSP is as natural after five minutes as the NeGcon was on a PlayStation. Drifting is easy, and enjoyable. The variety of cars, with different engines and handling and upgrades, is thoughtful but mostly unnecessary. The addition of nitro, earned through successful drift, is mildly amusing but strikes me as mostly a gimmick.
Visually, this is a great title to show off the PSP's abilities. I love seeing the Rage Racer tracks brought to life in higher resolution and detail, and I can imagine devoted fans of the other games feel similarly. The blur effect when zipping along on full nitro is impressive.
However, the late-game races have left a nasty taste in my mouth. There are several special races, against a single opponent, which are horribly rubber-banded. The AI slows down your opponent to keep you in the race, but then speeds up unrealistically when you start to lead. Two ways I've seen this cheating manifest itself. These special opponents get to use nitro in the first 15 seconds of a race, something I cannot do. Second, I've lost by less than a second in total time to the AI with an average speed of 180mph during one race and 192mph the following race. If it were really racing its best the whole time, there's no way I could lose by less than one second each time! On the other hand, the AI for the non-cheating cars in standard races is pretty pathetic, to the point that you might want to consider them simply slow-moving obstacles rather than opponents.
While Ridge Racer PSP is still my favorite PSP game by far, over Lumines and Twisted Metal: Head-On, I still think the rubber-band AI is a dirty trick, and my final estimation of the game is lower as a result.
--Matt Matthews at 14:16
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