Namco's Ridge Racer series has been around the block a few times on Nintendo platforms, starting out with Ridge Racer 64 all the way up to Ridge Racer DS with a pit stop on Gamecube in between. Now the franchise is drifting on over to 3DS with the appropriately named Ridge Racer 3D, and we took it for a spin in New York City this past Wednesday.
The preliminary verdict? Hey, it's Ridge Racer. If you like what the series has been doing all along then you'll most likely get a kick out of this stereoscopic lap.
Ridge Racer is an arcade racer with a big emphasis on ease and pervasiveness of drifting. Drifting enough fills up your three boost tanks, which can then be unleashed either alone, in pairs or all three at once for a real ripper. We were able to try two different classes of car across a handful of somewhat simple tracks, we reckon found early on in the game, and came away satisfied with what unfolded. Cars handled well with a nice weight to them, with an overall tighter feel than Ubisoft's Asphalt 3D, which was also playable at the event. Drifting is still handled by strategically tapping accelerate while going around bends, and we noticed our particular brand of ham-fisted steering translated quite differently among the different types of car, some drifting a bit better/more out of our control. There were even some customisation options thrown in. The sense of speed was decent, but we weren't exactly zooming about in the fastest of cars. All in all, it's solid.
AI opponents were pesky but not cheap and felt like they were actually putting up a good fight instead of inane rubber-banding, and solo races accommodate eight competitors on the track at once. Four-player multiplayer is promised but was unavailable to try out.
It's not a game of surprises, but so far it seems to play exactly what you'd expect out of a portable Ridge Racer. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as Ridge Racer can be pretty fun.
What is kind of surprising is how the game looks. Ridge Racer 3D is not the most stunning of games, and much of the time looks like a lower-end PSP game. The touted 3D effect works very well for it though, making it slightly easier to judge the track's turns and competitor distances. Only a small amount of 3D was really needed to get the full effect, which enhanced the visual enjoyment quite a bit. It helps that, being a racing game, you're constantly moving forward and sort of automatically getting the best out of the new visual trick, and a few gimmicks like confetti hitting up against the camera as you cross the lap line add a nice touch of depth.
The 3D also solved a minor problem this writer typically has when playing racing games for the first time. Usually I have the problem of crashing into walls on sharp turns that I didn't know were there on the first couple of races, mostly because I get confused as to where the turn begins. I didn't have such problems here, but more time with more tracks would be needed to determine if the 3D is genuinely helpful or if the tracks were just designed in such a way that it wasn't an issue.
In short, it's Ridge Racer with some 3D. Fans of the series will likely eat this up despite its somewhat underwhelming graphics, and those looking for a fun racer out of the gate, it looks like this one will do just fine until the next best thing hits.