Ridge Racer 7
An ancient Japanese proverb (should) state: A new Ridge Racer game must be released with a new PlayStation console. PS1, PS2 and PSP have all launched with a Ridge by their side, and what do we have here? The PS3 arriving on the shelves accompanied by Ridge Racer 7. It seems as if nothing changes, and that is in fact, a very good thing.
The last few Ridge Racer games have been flat, tedious attempts to broaden the formula with story-driven gameplay, which lost track of the reason why the series was a success in the first place. That's to say, simplicity, via addictive arcade racing. Ridge Racer 7 is a welcome return to form because it doesn't try to do anything new. It is completely satisfied just delivering the turbo-charged thrills and powerslide-crazy cornering that made the original such a monster.
The back-to-basics approach means that anyone who has played a Ridge game before will be grinning like a boy racer within seconds of revving up the game, but if you're new to the franchise, here's what to expect. First, realism is not a focal point here. RR7 is in fact the anti-Gran Turismo, and it isn't too familiar with the laws of physics either. Cars are never referred to as such, instead going under the moniker of 'machines', possibly because despite looking like cars and sounding like cars, they move in a way you've never seen a car move before. They actually seem to levitate an inch or so above the track, surging along with absolutely no sign of traction to interfere with your quest for light-speed.
The visual quality of Ridge Racer 7 is absolutely top-notch. With eye-watering displays of pin-sharp detail, stunning lighting effects and a 60 fps (frames per second) display, the graphics can at times leave you astounded. Just remember to keep your eyes on the road.
The 'machines' don't see any need for slowing down, either. As you approach a corner, take your finger off the accelerator for fraction of a second, swing into the apex of the bend and stare in wonder as the vehicle power slides round with hardly any loss of speed. Of course, you might turn too heavily and end up sideways on the track, skidding as you fight to keep your back-end in line with your front tyres, a quick turn into the skid will see you right. Even though you always feel as if you're on the verge of losing control, these cars don't want to spin out and will gladly drift along until you correct them. Just make sure you don't crash into the barriers - a sure-fire method of dropping from first to sixth and perhaps the only way of losing serious momentum in the game.
As if the game's precision handling with the analogue stick isn't a challenge in itself, Ridge Racer 7 also supports Sixaxis control. You steer by simply leaning the pad left or right and you change gears by tilting up and down. Unlike say, MotorStorm, the Sixaxis controls seem somewhat of an afterthought here. Far too unresponsive for such narrow margins, you may try it once but I doubt you'll try it again.
With non-stop speed and breakneck corner taking, this is clearly an abstract racer in the Burnout mould right? Wrong. What makes Ridge Racer unique is that, even though the entire race is driven at top speed, it requires total concentration, control and pin-point precision to capture the chequered flag. Your performance has to be consistent throughout. To help you achieve success, here's a few tips. On the starting grid, keep and hold your rev counter at the three-quarter mark to storm out of the blocks. Maintaining maximum speed throughout, overtake traffic by using the slipstream of the car in front. Also, try not to hit any rivals or barriers, and most importantly of all, make sure you drift with the grace of a "drift king" to fill up your boost meter - without which you don't stand a chance of winning. The slightest error can cost you the race and while that may infuriate a few, the large majority will revel in this neo-future quest for slick artistic perfection.