Ridge Racer has been one of those titles that seems to be an early adopter special. That is to say that it launches along with or shortly after a new gaming console does and takes advantage of an early adopter's want for new gaming software. Sometimes these titles are fairly good. Often times they are marginal at best. Namco Bandai's Ridge Racer, however, takes things to a new low.
Ridge Racer on the PlayStation Vita is simply the shell of what could have been an average or better racing title. It's a shell because of what's included on the game card (which isn't much). First-time players will quickly discover that the game offers a grand total of five cars and three tracks. On the car side, there is an additional set of vehicles that can be downloaded via complimentary DLC. On the track side, not so much. The company decided to provide gamers such a bare-bone game so that they can milk as much additional revenue out of consumers via post-launch DLC as they can. This is a blatant slap in the face for Vita owners -- especially since they just spent thirty dollars on what some might consider to be little more than a demo.
Limited on-card in-game content isn't the only aspect of the Vita release of Ridge Racer that's lacking, for it's career mode is nearly as underwhelming. Players of Ridge Racer's career mode will join one of four teams. All accomplishments the player makes then goes towards the overall total for that team. The issue here isn't with the mechanics found within this model; rather it's the fact that the races offer no real variety (an issue partially caused due to the embarrassingly small selection of tracks). Racing on the same tracks over and over again just to improve the player's driver level is quite unappealing as repetition sets in very early. To make matters worse, players have only four options (ghost car races, one-shot online races, three-lap circuits, and time trials) in terms of race types and none of them are all that appealing.
Not all with Ridge Racer on PS Vita is bad, however, as there are a few aspects of the game that were actually fairly well thought out and executed. The game's upgrade tree, for example, allows for players to upgrade the performance of his cars in three different categories. Ridge Racer also does a rather good job of merging the online and offline aspects of the game into one universal experience. The graphics are above-average and the sound isn't horrible. Even the racing itself was well done, with controls being tight yet comfortable and the tracks being unforgiving at just the right times to provide a white-knuckle racing experience for those who haven't yet bored themselves out of the game.
The issues with the game, however, all circle back to the fact that Namco Bandai is asking full price for what is basically an over-glorified demo of a game that, without DLC, doesn't exist beyond what's available on the card. It's offensive to early adopters of PlayStation Vita and gaming consumers in general. Ridge Racer's shortcomings and limited on-card content inventory are just too big of negatives for the game's few bright spots to overcome.
Final Game Guys grade: D
(Namco Bandai provided a copy of this game for review.)