Ridge Racer 3D Review
Developer: Namco / Publisher: Namco / Played on: 3DS / Price: $39.99 / ESRB: Everyone [Mild Suggestive Themes]
If Ridge Racer were a car it’d be a Lamborghini Gallardo with those mental gull-wing doors, luminous green paint, bright orange wheels, neon under-lighting, a purple titanium exhaust that spits flames three feet behind it, and a booming sound system pumping out an endless stream of happy hardcore. And, boy, would we love it.
Ridge Racer is all about over-the-top racing flair, with a hearty order of slick style, and an extra large serving of speed. It’s always done a good job of showing off new technology, too, particularly on PlayStation formats (gamer legend goes that if you have a Ridge Racer game at launch your hardware will be a success). Ridge Racer 3D hits almost all of this on the head. Almost.
It’s got the slick intro movie that, with the addition of 3D, is so cool it will literally make you smile in approval. It has the tracks that offer a worthwhile variety of big jumps, mental hairpins, and long straights that just beg to be blasted along with a face-ripping triple nitrous boost.
It’s got the music, with multiple ‘CDs’ each with different new and old tracks that you select before bopping your head to bonkers Japanese rave beats. And, of course, it has those sublime drifts – the 150mph powerslides around bends that are so tight that, if it even had the slightest regard for realism, would have your brains decorating the windshield in an instant.
It’s the technological showcase that Ridge Racer fans will most instantly notice as absent. Like we said, the courses are varied enough in how they play, but don’t look as slick as we expected – not like our anticipated Ridge Racer, the shit-your-pants stunning version that we witnessed on PSP almost seven years ago. That sought to amaze. This merely seeks to satisfy, it seems.
And the cars. Just… ergh.
They look decent on the menu screens, all high-detailed and smooth with shiny paint and reflections. But fire up a race and a fair few of those polygons decide they’re not up for it. The in-game car models are straight-up ugly. There’s no beating around the bush – they should look a lot better than this.
On the complete other hand, though, if you want a game to really show off the 3D trickery on your new handheld, Ridge Racer 3D sits alongside Pilotwings Resort as easily the snazziest of the launch-day bunch.
Flicking that 3D slider up during a race sees those long straights stretch far into the distance and the white lines on the road flying towards your face. Hold the 3DS closer than you usually would and it really is a breathtaking experience as you blast through tunnels or whiz past environmental landmarks. Slap in a pair of earphones and it completes the experience – the 3DS’ vastly improved audio over the comparatively grainy-sounding DS is an upgrade not mentioned often enough. It’s just a shame that the unit’s built-in speakers are so damn quiet (which is especially noticeable to DSi XL owners).
The game’s main mode is ‘Grand Prix’, which has you competing in Race Events – mini tournaments consisting of multiple racers that require you to finish in a qualifying position (usually third or above) to move on. Completing Race Events unlocks new machines and nitrous kits for harder, faster tournaments, as well as earning coins, which you can exchange for ‘support items’ such as a full charge of nitrous or an automatic Rocket-Start.
Outside that, you’ve got ‘Quick Tour’, which is like a standalone race event from the Grand Prix mode, however one that lets you dictate its length. ‘Standard Race’ gets you into the action instantly in a quick race, as does ‘One-Make Race’, only this one forces the AI drivers to use the same car as you.
There’s a ‘Time Attack’ mode as expected, but more interesting than that is a ‘StreetPass Duel’ mode that has your 3DS trade ghost data with other RR3D players you pass by in town. Flip open your 3DS later and, with any luck, you’ll find new ghost times to race against. It’s a cool feature, but we’d have preferred online racing.
Surely the biggest disappointment of the game – and a common offence among the 3DS launch titles it seems – is the unfathomable lack of online play. It would have bumped two points instantly if it let us jump online and race against players around the world.
But unfortunately the only versus play you’ll get out of this bad boy is that of the local variety. There’s no single-cart play either, so each player – up to a maximum of four – needs their own copy of the game. Players’ names and profile pictures do appear above their cars, so you know exactly who you’re catching as you race. But it’s not online.
Ridge Racer 3D is a Jekyll and Hyde of a game. On one hand it’s a super-fast, super 3D arcade racer with all the gameplay elements that Ridge Racer fans need – speed, nitrous, mental drifting, and techno music. Throw in the meaty single-player offerings and some of the most impressive 3D we’ve yet seen on the handheld and there’s no doubt this sits high on the list of games to buy for early 3DS adopters. In fact, on those traits alone we fully recommend it. You can’t go wrong.
But on the other hand we expected more, as it disappoints with its less-than-dazzling vehicle and environmental detail, regurgitation of tracks we’ve raced multiple times before, and the omission of online multiplayer. Namco’s first 3DS effort is pretty darn good, but it could have been mind-blowing.
7.5 / 10