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Ridge Racer 2 is, it has to be said, a bit of a reviewer's nightmare. Like nineties survival-horror redux Resident Evil: Director's Cut, it replicates the content of its illustrious predecessor to such a degree that it's left with few distinguishing characteristics of its own. So it's paradoxically a game that is totally essential (at least to those who haven't sampled the first PSP instalment), yet represents poor value and a complete lack of ambition from Namco.
A few additional circuits and skin-deep additions mean this instalment feels like a true "1.5"; a modest expansion of a great game, not a full-blown follow-up. The sum of its parts amounts to just about the most complete portable racing experience money can buy, featuring every track from the four original PlayStation titles and mid-nineties arcade game Rave Racer. It's still mega-fast, still incredibly stylish, and still plays like a dream.
Trouble is, much the same could be said of version 1.0, a game RR2 somehow manages to render obsolete whilst simultaneously failing to make a compelling case for its own existence. The new content essentially consists of six more courses lifted from Ridge Racer Type 4 and a couple from the earlier games. They're really good, but fill in the blanks in much the same way you'd expect downloadable content to add a little extra to a finished project. Downloadable content would have been one thing, but it's harder to justify shelling out on another retail game for the sake of a few more remastered circuits.
Right away, it feels like you're diving into a "Game of the Year" revision of the original. The menus, options, World Tour setup and selection screens range from extremely similar to completely identical to those seen in its predecessor, an impression not dampened by the reprisal of the last game's menu music. New mode variants feel strictly tertiary to the main gameplay, and include Arcade (normal races but with checkpoints), Survival (the last placed car is eliminated at the end of each lap), and Duel (a one-on-one). They're of fleeting interest on their own, and that they are rarely implemented (Duel aside) into the World Tour also seems like a bit of an oversight. There's a good selection of courses - more than twenty in all - though in the beginning, you'll be racing largely in the same cars and on the same tracks as the previous game (tracks that were already been carried over from older titles when they appeared in the first PSP outing) and at times, its discouragingly difficult to distinguish the game from its predecessor.
Still, if you missed the first game, the World Tour still offers up a formidable amount of action. Events consist of a series of 3-lap races, and with the gameplay remaining completely unchanged, you once again get the pleasure of an arcade racer that has fun powerslides galore and near-perfect feel to its handling, as you start at the back of a 12-strong grid and must work your way to the front.
As is perhaps to be expected, many of the pros and cons remain the same. The A.I. does appear to have been beefed up a touch and in later races competitors don't fade away so much when you overtake the leader, though throughout Ridge Racer's history opponents have never played the most active of roles in the racing, save for acting as road-blocks when ambling around tight corners. The game's most impressive achievement lies in its cohesiveness; it's easy to forget that it has content lifted from five different titles, all of which in their original guises presented their own distinctive handling nuances and visual styles. With remarkable judgement, a middle-ground is reached between the series ever-changing powerslide characteristics, and Namco have settled on a system that suits all tracks equally well, and none feel out of place as a result.
The circuits are a work of art; a real labour of love for Namco, and their consistently outstanding design makes for a super blend of challenging action and unadulterated fun. New to RR2 include Rage Racer's "Mythical Coast" track with its unforgettable harbour side scenery, whilst it's also fantastic to see RRT4's night-time courses back, still revelling in their neon-drenched finery. Also thrown into the mix are some shorter ones; "Shuttleloop Highway" is made memorable by its pit-straight fireworks display (linked with a millennium celebration at the close of RRT4) and the twisty fun of "Phantom Mile", which typically takes less than thirty seconds to navigate. Even without any tweaks, the graphics engine is still a peach, presenting considerable speed and scenic detail with no signs of frailty. The soundtrack is accomplished and highly comprehensive, featuring an array of tunes that span new compositions, mixes and remasters from the series' glory days; the result is a typically eclectic Japanese video game soundtrack that draws on pop, soul, breakbeat and jazz, to mostly stylish effect.
There's a good few weeks worth of play in the World Tour, with more than fifty events spanning six speed classes and a comprehensive selection of special cars to attain, so you can relive the halcyon days of battling the Angel and Devil cars and drive them yourself should you triumph. Local online options are a nice touch for those who fancy racing with friends, and so there's plenty to do, though as before, the biggest obstacle to the game's perceived value will be that large parts of the experience are lifted from the first PSP instalment.
Out of context and in its own right, Ridge Racer 2 is a brilliant racer, however it feels like the game its predecessor should have been, not the one that should have succeeded it. The long and short of it is, if you haven't played the first PSP Ridge Racer and have even the slightest inclination towards arcade racing games, then this is a must-buy. For fans however, a second helping of retro content and a lot of retreading old ground makes it rather harder to recommend.
When is a sequel not a sequel?
Namco, a Japanese company, is one of the most respected developers among 'hardcore' gamers, but it seems even they can't turn down a simple opportunity for a rehash and some easy money. Ridge Racer 2 for the PSP is the sequel to the stunning PSP launch title, but it's one of the cheapest sequels I've ever seen. Theres no change!
There's simply not enough new content to make the game a proper sequel. If it had been released at a budget price, then it wouldn't have been anywhere near as offensive. Still, Ridge Racer fans are a special breed, so the small number of new additions might well be enough to make them part with the cash, especially when the new tracks mainly come from Ridge Racer Type 4 - plus a couple from Rage Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution.
The multiplayer mode on the other hand is a great way to wile away time- theres plenty of track variety.
Having now played the much hyped ridge racer 2 I thought it was time I told the reviewing commuinity exactly what i thought of it. Its at this point I try to think of an interesting way to introduce the subject and to grab your attention about new gaming brilliance. However this time I don't feel like i really should put the effort in as it would be a very good reflection of the game designers behind Ridge Racer 2.
The first PSP ridge racer title can basically be summed up as simply a graphical re-working of older titles, with little in the way of new game play. As a new console's launch title this is almost acceptable but surely there should be a few new touches in the sequel. Do we not deserve something new for our money? Well apparently Namco do not think so.
I can see the argument in that a game's sequel should be similar to the original to breed contempt and familiarity to it but this game goes to far. Gamers should not expect anything new in terms of layout. Infact let me just list all the things that are IDENTICAL to the previous title: the menus, the graphics, the sounds, the loading prompts, the game structure, the multiplayer mode, the tracks (the new ones here have still been seen on other titles), the cars (again some new old ones), the controls, the HUD, the classes, the icons.
The game does still have a lot of good point though, yes the grahics are very similar but they are still beautiful. The draw distance is good and the frame rate is high enough to generate a real sence of speed. The music is of the correct style and tempo to add to the adrenaline rush. The controls are still easy to pick up and provide enough depth for the expert gamer. These are all very good points but can be experienced at a fraction of the price on the original rather than on a new sequal. This game provides very little that you could call NEW.
The actual game structures follows the same basic structure as previous titles. With a series of races grouped together into a World Tour. As you race against compter controlled cars to win races and unlock new cars and courses. Again nothing particually new there.
For the first half of Ridge racer 2 the average gamer will not be challanged. It is very easy to simply turbo slide around every corner and cut through the field like a hot knife through butter. By the end of lap two you will be so far ahead you can just sit back and admire the view. The difficulty level does raise towards the end of the game to a decent level. However I hate the fact that for long periods you never really feel to be actually RACING other cars. Yes, there are other cars there but they just seem to be out for a sunday morning strole.
After slating this game for its lack of originality it is important to point out that there is a good solid game here to be enjoyed. The major trouble is that to fully appreciate it you need to be new to the ridge racer series. As most gamers have experienced at least one previous title, this game will only truely appeal to a select few. I personaly would reccomend a second hand copy of ridge racer (currently less than 10 pound on ebay) and forget this title
Overall = 6/10
Ridge Racer is back with an adrenaline fuelled racing experience featuring many new courses and vehicles. Put your foot down, kick in the nitrous and roar through 42 intense, challenging courses. Master the drift handling and take corners at exhilarating speeds to leave opponents trailing in your wake.