Ridge Racer Vs. Wipeout Pure
Which is best for you?
It would only seem logical for a reviewer such as myself to do the cliché and refer to a series of onomatopoeias to start a review about two incredibly fast racing games. Taking into consideration that I am neither logical, nor am I cliché (arguable by anyone that is not me), I will spare you the misfortune of any other review that somehow gets published. On the other hand this is gamer's “hell” so, without further ado: Vrooooom! Zooom! Pow! Blam! Chug! Chug!
Ehh Hmm.. The PSP marks the launch of what many are calling, “ the first large scale handheld console wars.” While the subject has been beaten to death in various forums, media articles, and the rabid fan boys proclaiming their love in the form of four letter adjectives and numbers representing letters (ie: PSP t3h 1337 #11!1), it's obvious that this truly could be the beginning of a new battle in the gaming industry. While both systems have had successful launches, it's undeniable to Nintendo fans that the PSP's large lineup of quality launch titles is a sign that Sony means business. Although the DS definitely wins the award for innovation, Sony knows that innovation doesn't always equal fun, and Ridge Racer along with Wipeout Pure are perfect examples of how something we know and love can still feel fresh and entertaining.
Ridge Racer synopsis: The Ridge Racer series has an ongoing relationship with Sony, as with each launch of a console (or handheld), they have been there. Originally released on the PS1, Ridge Racer brought the excitement of arcade racing and at the time, arcade quality graphics to our homes. The PS2 launched with another sequel to the game, and although it was fun, it just didn't hold up to the original. Now, in it's portable form, you can take the game back to the arcade, or anywhere you want (but I don't suggest taking it to your grandmother's funeral), and the excitement of the original is back again.
In it's latest rendition, Ridge Racer compiles just what was great about the series. In a “greatest hits” move, the game compiles some of the best tracks put together in past games, as well as a few “re-mixed” courses. Although there isn't a real large collection of individual courses, as you progress the tracks open and close at different locations to make each experience a unique one. There is potential for a feature like this to go stale quickly, but you'll never feel cheated or bored when you are playing the same track over and over. They're extremely well designed and all accommodate the drift style of the game quite nicely. Locations generally consist of scenic beach areas, city skylines, and an occasional waterfall. While the game moves fast, it's hard to not notice that these backdrops are simply beautiful.
If one criticism could be made about the series is that Namco has never put forth the effort to grab licensed cars for their games. On the other hand, after experiencing the drift style racing, and the speed at which the game moves, it's no wonder that they have left the idea alone. You have the option to brake, accelerate, and hit your nitro boost, and in reality, you will never hit your brakes. When rolling into turns you just let go of your acceleration and your car will slide like no other. Once you have drifted out of the turn, hit your acceleration again, and you will be speeding forward, and in doing so successfully, your nitrous meter will fill up. While the Nitrous boost isn't as intense as say Need for Speed Underground, you'll still experience the motion blurring effects and flaming tail pipes that made that game so fun.
Wipeout Pure Synopsis: Much like Ridge Racer, Wipeout has made it's name on all of Sony's Console. The pinnacle of the series was “Wipeout XL”, but with the launch of Wipeout Pure, that all could change. The last release for the PS2, “Wipeout Fusion”, was a fun game, but for fans of the series it was a huge letdown. The game just didn't push the console the way past versions of the game had, and it just didn't feel as responsive or fun. When learning of the release of Wipeout Pure I was both excited and skeptical at the same time. Being a long time fan of the series there was definitely a bit of anxiety when I first put my hands on the game. After 5 minutes of gameplay this was all put to rest.
Futuristic hover battle racing is probably the best way to describe Wipeout Pure. While not centered on vehicular combat, the game has a decent arsenal of weapons to take out foes or give you a speed advantage over the competition. These weapons include missiles, earthquake attacks, bombs, disruption of driving, and other assorted goodies. As a driver, you are also open to these attacks, and your vehicle has a life bar to indicate your status. In past games, you would have to drive over an f-zero patch of track to re-gain health, but now regeneration can be achieved by converting power-ups. Essentially, if you get a weapon that you don't want or need, you can hit the circle button and saprophyticaly consume it for energy.
Set against vibrant landscapes, best described as gorgeous, it goes without saying that Wipeout Pure is a visceral experience. Being the first game I played on the system, entering the first race resulted in me exclaiming, “Oh crap...”. Once you start playing, you are there, you're immersed into the game, and you don't want to leave. While controls may seem a bit odd at first glance, once you get the hang of air braking, the game becomes less tedious and more fun. Competition is rather fierce, and in the higher levels, the difficulty is of the highest caliber. Races are fair though, and the AI puts up a fight when they should. My only complaint is that when going through tournaments, its usually just between you and one other person for 1st and 2nd place. Tournaments generally finish with just a few points difference between you and that one competitor, while everyone else is far behind.
So, what should I buy?
While both games are extremely different from each other, it's easy to break this all down into categories:
While Ridge Racer isn't as detailed as Wipeout Pure, it runs at frame rates that just seem impossible. Wipeout Pure is the clear winner in pure aesthetics, with it's innovative interface and unique track design, but the clarity and smoothness of Ridge Racer holds it's own flame.
Gameplay: Wipeout Pure
Tracks are tough, enemies are tough, and the game somehow makes the challenge envigorating and exciting. Ridge Racer pulls ahead in fun factor, as it is a much less stressful game to play, but it lacks the challenge and enemy AI that Pure boasts. When playing through Ridge Racer's first 4 or 5 hours of gameplay, it feels as though you are just playing against yourself. It only takes about one good lap to be in first place, and as long as you don't mess up, it's yours for the duration of the match.
In terms of modes, Wipeout Pure proves why it is the winner of this category. Ridge Racer's modes include time trials, single races, and the tournament mode. On the other hand, Pure offers tournament, time trial, and an interesting mode called “zone mode”. Zone mode is a no-holds bar speed fest in which you alone race on tracks that look similar to the tron universe. The goal is to not run into walls and do laps to gain points. The twist is that it increasingly gets faster and faster, to the point that it is nearly impossible to not run into walls. It's intense, and extremely addicting to say the least. This alone raises the bar over Ridge Racer's non-damage causing wall smashing.
Sound: Ridge Racer
In the past, the Wipeout series has always had an amazing collection of electronic music acts to support it. While Pure is no exception to this, nothing really sticks out at you. Heck, Wipeout XL's soundtrack even did well in terms of album sales here in the states, but that was an era when electronic music was arguably at it's peak. Instead of opting for the fitting four-four beat, Pure embraces breakbeats and drum and bass garb. While I am a fan of both, nothing on the soundtrack had me really bobbing my head.
Ridge Racer has a similar style of sound, filled with electronic beats made by mostly unknown Japanese artists. While I had thought that Wipeout would be the no-brainer in this situation, Ridge Racer shocked me. While I wasn't going to jump out of my seat and start dancing, the soundtrack could definitely accommodate someone who might want to. Variety is the key here, and while not every track is great, there are some gems that just get stuck in your head all day long. Not to mention, this is the first soundtrack I've heard that featured micro-house as one of it's styles.
Sound effects are on par for both games, and effectively fit each respectively. I believe Wipeout has a slight edge over Ridge Racer because of some of the great weapon sounds, as well as the nice cold breeze that fills your ear when you hear your vehicle whizzing by. Overall though, Ridge racer wins this category.
Longevity: Wipeout Pure
While Ridge Racer technically has many more tracks than Wipeout, the challenge of obtaining those is rather slim. You'll fly through the first half of Ridge Racer, and won't look back. Wipeout is a tough game, and you'll be wanting to come back more and more to accomplish all you can.
Both games support wireless multiplayer, but Wipeout also supports downloadable content which is promised to be released sometime soon, and there is supposed to be a lot of it. This could include new tracks, vehicles, music, or a number of other things. In fact, someone has already found a hidden web browser embedded within the game, showing the potential of what is to come with this.
Overall: Wipeout Pure
Lightning fast gameplay, immersible environments, and an undeniable addiction factor set this game at the top of the must have PSP launch titles. While Ridge Racer is an extremely fun and exciting game as well, the longevity of Wipeout pushes it just slightly over Ridge Racer. These are both great games, and depending on what type of racing game you enjoy, it's really apples and oranges. If you are a fan of either series, you won't be disappointed, and may in fact be surprised how these two have turned out.
Wipeout Pure: 9.4
Ridge Racer: 9.3