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Ridge Racer 7
Score: 86%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2 / Online: 2 - 14
Genre: Racing/ Racing (Arcade)

Graphics & Sound:
Ridge Racer 7 was the first game I got a chance to play on my PS3. Not the first game I got in, just the first game that I got a chance to play. Actually, the first race I got to try on it was with a HDTV and PS3 hooked up in the back of J.R.Nip's VW Golf, as I was preparing for our Midnight Run on launch night.

The first look at Ridge Racer 7 in all its glory could be summed up in one word, "Wow!" The cars and the environments had a realistic clarity and crispness that was an amazing sight to behold. The lighting effects were excellent and the ambient animation contributed to the sense of realism.

The music in Ridge Racer 7 is a wide selection of Techno. Okay, I know that might sound a bit odd, but there are a lot of songs to choose from, but they range from ambient to house to rave. A lot of songs, with different feels to them, but all sticking close to the Techno genres. Namco understands that not everyone is a Techno fan, so there is a device in the game that would allow you to listen to your own music. Unfortunately, this doesn't work with music ripped to your PS3's hard drive or memory sticks, but instead is designed to only work with music downloaded from the PlayStation store... of which, as of this writing, there is none. Like the "Special Event" feature described in GamePlay, this feature isn't being considered heavily in this review - primarily because it doesn't (currently) do anything. Sad, though. Even the original Ridge Racer allowed you to play your own music - and that was on an original PlayStation system, without the benefit of a hard drive for storing your music.


Gameplay:
The gameplay in Ridge Racer 7 is fun, but is, for the most part, identical to Ridge Racer 6 on the Xbox 360, with the (thankful) exclusion of the over-the-top announcer's voice. For those who aren't familiar with the Ridge Racer series, Ridge Racer 7 is a racing game with a very Arcade feel to it. This is not the racing game for those who prefer simulator-level realism or tweakers who want to upgrade and tweak the performance of the cars. Ridge Racer 7 is the kind of racing game where you jump into a car and race with your throttle wide open. Taking a corner too recklessly will throw you into a spin, but unlike in most other racing games (and reality, for that matter), you're likely to spin around for a few revolutions and then continue on your merry way... even around a corner. This is not realistic, but it is forgiving.

There are several modes in Ridge Racer 7. The main "Career" type mode is the Ridge State Grand Prix. This is a challenging Multi-Race style event where you'll earn points from each consecutive race, based on your placement. Surprisingly, Ridge Racer 7 allows you to retry each race if you don't like your results. Often, games that feature Grand Prix style events will only give you the option to continue or to restart the entire event. Based on the difficulty of these races, I think this helps to reduce frustration a bit.

If you're not ready to take a shot at the Ridge State Grand Prix, you may want to practice a bit in the Arcade mode. This mode offers single race gameplay using any available Arcade vehicles. This is essentially the Quick Race mode in Ridge Racer 7, allowing you to jump in and race quickly.

There are a few different types of online and online-enhanced events. The most self-explanatory is the Online Battle. Online Battle pits you against opponents from around the world in races with up to 14 players. You can play for stakes if you desire, but you also gain Online Battle Points (OBP) while playing in this online mode. OBP is a stat that is tracked and ranked. The "Online-Enhanced" modes include Global Time Attack and UFRA Special Events. The Global Time Attack is a timed race, where it's just your skills against the clock, with an online twist. Times are recorded and ranked online. Thus, it's you against the clock until the race is over, then its your time against the world. Cheeky. The UFRA Special Events item was built into Ridge Racer 7 as a "hook" to allow for adding additional content later. These UFRA Special Events will be made available for download via the PlayStation Store in your PS3 browser. As of this posting, however, no content has been made available, making UFRA Special Events a neat idea, but not taken into consideration in this review.

Ridge Racer 7 does offer some modification possibilities for those who need to be able to tweak their machines. The tweaking opportunities in Ridge Racer 7 are nowhere near as detailed as in some other games, such as Need For Speed: Carbon, however. One of the more interesting options for modification, however, is the type of Nitrous you have equipped on your machine. The available choices are Basic, Standard, Flex, Quad, Long, Reverse Charge, High Nitrous and Auto. Each has their own pros and cons, of course. This may not be useful in many other racing games, but is a nice feature in a game that depends so heavily on nitrous as a gameplay device.

As for racing in Ridge Racer 7 in general, the control is solid, and it's a joy to race around in such beautifully detailed environments. If you're looking for a nice looking racer for your system, minus the need to heavily modify the cars and without the details and over-the-top precision found in some racing "simulation" games, Ridge Racer 7 is a nice addition to your collection.


Difficulty:
While Ridge Racer 7 leans more to the arcade side, it still provides a decent challenge. Some of the races will be quite difficult and will require an excellent knowledge of the track, great control of your machine and perhaps a bit of luck.

Ridge Racer 7 is an example of a game that is fairly easy to pick up and play, but gets more and more challenging as you progress, requiring a better and better control of your machine.

If you want to improve your performance in Ridge Racer 7, you'll want to practice strategic acquisition and use of your nitrous. You gain nitrous when you perform high-speed drifts. This makes earning nitrous a trade-off, however; drifting actually will slow you down. The amount of nitrous you gain depends on your speed and the tightness of the curve, but if you perform a clean drift, this usually offsets the resulting drop in speed.

Using this nitrous when you're close to your top speed will allow you to actually exceed the car's top speed. Using nitrous in turns can make maintaining control of your machine difficult and can cost you valuable time and allowing others to gain on you, but if you drift in a turn near the end of a nitrous usage, you can score some serious nitrous with an "Ultimate Charge". You'll see your nitrous gauge flash red and often the announcer will indicate that you've performed a nitrous drift. Nitrous usage plays a very important part in racing in Ridge Racer 7 and is definitely worth practicing.

Another useful skill in Ridge Racer 7 would be Slip-Streaming. This is the act of staying as directly behind another car as possible. Doing so allows the other car to do the work of moving the air out of the way, effectively making it easier for your car to accelerate. Mastering the skill of following behind someone and then just barely missing them as you slip around them will help you to do well in parts of races when you really need to advance, but can't seem to get Nitrous to save your life.


Game Mechanics:
Ridge Racer 7 is not a revolutionary game. It is, however, a natural extension of the Ridge Racer series and manages not to break anything that fans of the series already like, while getting rid of the overly aggravating "DJ" announcer that plagued a recent game in the series.

The graphics look really good on the PS3, fulfilling one of the most important aspects of a launch title, I suppose. The gameplay is also very solid, probably most directly due to the lack of anything too utterly original.

Ridge Racer 7 is not ground-breaking or genre-changing, but if you're a fan of the Ridge Racer series and you're looking for something to show off your PS3, then Ridge Racer 7 is worth picking up. Especially if you're upgrading to a PS3 and getting rid of an older system.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins