|Dev: Namco Bandai|
|Pub: Namco Bandai|
|Release: March 27, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Mild Suggestive Themes|
by Steve Haske
I know I'm probably in the extreme minority here, but I'd rather play a new Ridge Racer than a new Gran Turismo. Despite their extreme differences in gameplay approaches (obviously an entirely subjective matter of taste), you can always count on both series to deliver a quality racing experience within its own realm of high-octane design.
When measured up to the more diverse or agenda-based racers like Burnout or what's become of Need For Speed, Ridge Racer now almost feels like a throwback to the older days of racing games. However, that doesn't mean its focus on its particular brand of arcade mechanics, namely the insane powersliding that's necessary to excel at the game, can't still be enjoyable. Ridge Racer has never relied heavily on realism, anyway. The Namco-themed automotive sets are based around the company's classic arcade games and, really, it may be the only racer where you can so noticeably hit a sharp turn going 100-plus miles per hour, scream through it in a wide arc, and come out on the other slide fishtailing so violently your car's almost done a 180—and still maintain a solid lead.
And yet the series has never been easy, either. Sure, the physics are so ridiculous it's almost comical to watch. But with just about every game in the series, moving up in the grand prix means you must develop a vigilance to tracks' increasingly devious combinations of hairpin turns, learn exacting timing when entering and exiting tight spaces and intuitively know just how much nuance to put on a powerslide, whether it's when to let off the gas or when to punch it. In a lot of ways cornering is Ridge Racer, which is duplicitous enough in its own right. Despite what you may think—how hard can learning to powerslide correctly be, anyway?—series vets know that it can take as much dedication and patience to master Ridge Racer's subtleties of drifting as gearheads spend fine tuning their performances in Kazunori Yamauchi's hardcore driving simulations.
All of this is true in Ridge Racer 3D, so if you've played a Ridge Racer game in the past decade you know more or less what you're getting into. There's the added depth of 3D effects in full play here, as well, though the core Ridge Racer experience doesn't stray far from the beaten path long established by the series. There's several modes to go through, but the game's main course remains, as it always has, the grand prix mode. Like any good racer, things start out slow here. In fact, if you think you're playing Ridge Racer at all, really, in the first few hours of play, you're sadly mistaken. 3D's grand prix is set up in a non-linear fashion that's divided up by four-race events, so you can pick and choose the path you want to take or the races you want to run. (Alternately, you can just race every event available before moving on, as well.) Races are tiered to different driving levels, for beginners, intermediate, and expert players, whose cars are separated by speed class.