Friday 9 January 2009

Dirge Racer

Hello again, and a happy new year to all. Let me also be the first to wish you a Merry Christmas. Fuck yeah.

Right, on to the meat (and 2 veg) of today's offering.

Ridge Racer. A series of games that really should have finished at the first attempt. Because everything since then has been total and unequivocal shit. It actually seems that the further the more sequels progress, the more and more unrealistic the racing environment becomes...

Now, I personally think that the first Ridge Racer was an incredible game. I used to love play the full-scale version, where you actually sat in a Mazda MX5, with a full cinema screen in front of you, and surround-sound making for the last word in immersive driving experiences, long before the fabled Red Letter Days became commonplace. Even after this vanished due to being a colossal waste of money on Namco’s behalf, the game in the arcade cabinet was still fun. Okay, granted, the driving physics were very odd. As long as you were drifting, you would make it round the corner. Every single time. But this was in the days just after Virtua Racing, where driving physics had not been given the Gran Turismo benchmark just yet. Plus, it was done in such a way that you really did feel like it was your talent as the driver that got you round, not Scalextric style handling. The fact that there was only 1 car, and 1.5 tracks could be overlooked too.

I tried playing Ridge Racer 2 when it hit the arcades, but it was just not the same. Everything looked similar, but it lacked something. I think it was down to lack of improvement. It was just the original Ridge Racer, with a few new cars & tracks. Actually, looking back… I don’t even know if the cars were new, or just all of the ones that you couldn’t be from the first RR. But, this was not the era of Sega Rally. The first game to really nail the handling. It was perfect. I had Ridge Racer on the PS1 by this point, but after Sega Rally on the Saturn, I don’t think I played it again for months, apart from small sprees to remind me how good it’s Sega counterpart really was.

The next Ridge Racer I came into contact with was Ridge Racer 4, on the PS1. This had a total play time of about 15 minutes, because I hated it. I really, really hated it. The handling was still awful, and the car designs left a petrol-head like me practically in mourning. I only bought it because it was in the bargain bin at some big department store, whose name eludes me right now, and because it came with the first real attempt at an analogue driving pad. This also proved to be horrible. Game returned. After this, I did not play a Ridge Racer game again for a long time, because of Gran Turismo 2, 3 and 4, Sega Rally 2, Daytona on the Dreamcast, Grand Theft Auto, Scud Race, Out Run 2, swathes of Need for Speed games and many, many others. Every time I saw a Ridge Racer game advertised, I would habitually avoid it. Then I acquired a Nintendo DS, and a PSP. Now, I waited what seemed to be an eternity for Gran Turismo mobile to come out before I gave up. Ford Racing LA Duel was arse, and there was nothing of any note on the DS. Except Need for Speed Most Wanted and Carbon, but they just didn’t cut it graphically. So I thought I would indulge once again. I bought Ridge Racer for the PSP, and for the DS. I was amazed to find that the PSP version, while being graphically very good, had deteriorated to a level below the first ever Ridge Racer on the handling front. It was diabolical, a total travesty! As long as you were drifting, you could make it round every corner. Even hairpins, during a Nitrous boost, and facing the wrong way! What?!? Plus, the AI was simply awful. Nitrous would spontaneously respawn, and car weight was completely variable. Particularly during races! A boy-racer’s dream, this game. Therefore my idea of hell. So after giving up on that I thought I would give the last bastion of hope a try. The DS version.

Well, as it stands, the last time I played it, I was stuck on a race, where despite using the fastest available car, on a track I have now driven hundreds of times, I still cannot beat the dark blue car with the big spoiler. I have given up. Again. Fuck this.

So I officially resign from Ridge Racer. The banger racing of the driving world. But I just don’t get it. Namco make games like Soul Calibur. Undoubtedly one of the finest beat ‘em up series of modern times. How could they screw up this bad on their flagship driving game franchise?

Well, that’s it. Back to Test Drive Unlimited. Mmmm, yes.

- Galford.

No comments: