From the PS One through to the PS3, every Sony console launch – including the PSP and PS Vita – has seen a new Ridge Racer release. However, since the PS4, Ridge Racer has been all but abandoned by Bandai Namco. The last-gen machines didn’t get any Ridge Racer love, and the new PS5 and Xbox Series X|S haven’t, either. Well, not until now, at least.
I am, of course, talking about Ridge Racer 2 for the PSP, so it’s not a new Ridge Racer in the proper sense, but for many, it will be the first time a Ridge Racer game has been available to play on a home console. And, in fairness, it’s not a bad job at all, though I would much rather be playing Ridge Racer 6…
For the uninitiated, Ridge Racer 2 is a very simple arcade racing game. The cars are all fictitious, there’s no in-game currency or loot boxes, no convoluted multiplayer, and more importantly, no punishment for drifting like them Duke boys do down in Hazzard County. In fact, sliding your car around bends at incredible speeds is encouraged and rewarded. The driving model in Ridge Racer 2 is not realistic in any sense of the word, and that’s what makes it so fun. In what other racing game can you ping into a bend, slam the e-brake and throw off a big 360 spin, and come out the other side faster than you went it? I rest my case.
Drifting serves another purpose outside of looking cool as hell. A nice long drift will fill up your nitrous gauge, giving you something extra in the tank for those last-second dashes to the finish line. In fact, during the latter stages of the 16-tour campaign, when the A.I starts feeling a little bit too smart and starts playing super aggressively, these nitrous boosts need to be banked and used at the right time to ensure success. Or, you can just knock the difficulty down to easy in the settings, but where’s the sense of pride and accomplishment in that, eh?
With a little squint of the eyes and the lights turned down low, it’s almost as good. Almost.
The whole experience is played out to a soundtrack that wouldn’t be out of place at a 90s rave. Heavy electronica mixed with jazzy piano tones and plucky basslines is not my thing, though I will admit that before I remembered I have Spotify on my PS5, I found myself absent-mindedly nodding my head to the soundtrack. It just fits, and if that kind of music does it for you, all the best. Me? It’s The Killers or nothing, and I’ve got fond memories of playing Ridge Racer 6 on the Xbox 360 as a teenager with the Mormon rock band providing the tunes. So, naturally, I recreated the experience here and sent my tiny little brain back to being a 16-year-old boy for a few hours.
To be fair, Ridge Racer 2 on PS5 does actually tickle that nostalgia itch quite nicely. As I said, Ridge Racer 6 was my jam on the Xbox 360, but unfortunately, the game has not had a digital re-release, at least not outside of North America. I only discovered that it’s backward compatible on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S when I was writing this review, but for luck nor money, I can’t figure out a way of getting it onto my German-based console. So, this Ridge Racer 2 PSP release on PS5 and PS4 is the closest I can come to reliving those glory days.
Yes, the graphics aren’t quite as good, obviously, and it’s missing the split-screen multiplayer my friends and I would play, but that’s expected as it’s a PSP game running on PS5 and PS4 via emulation. But, with a little squint of the eyes and the lights turned down low, it’s almost as good. Almost.
You have to remember that this is a game that was first released in 2006 on a handheld console that can be emulated by the cheapest smartphones of today. The graphics are fine, mostly, but the decals on the vehicles do tend to look a little off up close. Likewise, the background environmental details are lacking, especially in certain stages with their big pixelated mountains. And perhaps my biggest gripe on the visual side is that the UI is just too darn big and it’s not as clean and crisp as it maybe could have been. That all being said, if these are the compromises we must make to enjoy the older games of yesteryear lest they be forgotten.
If you’re a PS Plus Premium subscriber, there’s no question that you should download and play Ridge Racer 2. It’s simple, fast, and fun, and in the current climate of live services and stupid dancing emotes, there’s no racing game quite like it anymore. For a quick nostalgia fix it’s highly recommended, and who knows, maybe it’s just a toe in the water for Bandai Namco to gauge interest for a potential Ridge Racer revival? Heck, there’s the next game’s title right there: Ridge Racer Revival. Fingers crossed…
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