Just recently, an old tradition in gaming was broken for the first time ever. PlayStation hardware was released, and a Ridge Racer title did not accompany it. It's completely understandable, however unfortunate it might be. Ridge Racer just hasn't been putting butts in the seats like it used to in the old days. A lot of that is down to heavy competition in the genre from games offering a staggering amount of content compared to Ridge Racer, along with declining interest in the racing genre in traditional markets. After a disastrous new approach on the Vita, where a barebones version was sold for a discounted, but still high, price with the remaining content sold as IAP or offered as free DLC, it looked like Ridge Racer might finally be headed for the scrapyard.

It seems that Namco hasn't quite given up yet, however. The racing genre has found a surprising second wind on mobile devices, with games like Real Racing 3 [Free] and Asphalt 8: Airborne [Free] enjoying high popularity. The generally lower budgets of mobile games also make the value proposition work out a bit better, I imagine. It's my guess that these are among the reasons we're seeing Namco take another kick at the can with Ridge Racer Slipstream [$1.99], their latest installment in the long-running franchise. This isn't the first time iOS gamers have seen a release in this series, and there might be a bad taste in the mouth of anyone whose sole experience with the series is 2009's Ridge Racer Accelerated [$5.99], but I feel like Namco has read the market a little better this time.

That last version had a number of problems at launch. Very little content was included in the base game, creating a situation where players were essentially paying for a demo. There was no career mode to speak of, the controls were initially limited to tilt steering, and it performed very poorly on the devices of the time, in spite of using relatively low quality assets. To Namco's credit, they ended up adding quite a bit to the game via updates, but Accelerated still never quite managed to get things the way fans expect from a Ridge Racer title.

Ridge Racer Slipstream is a more savvy product, reflecting the modern state of the App Store in some good ways and some bad. It surpasses the previous title in any meaningful way you could think up, and I think fans are going to be pretty happy with it. One major specter of the past remains, however. This game has some performance issues, especially on older devices. If you're using an iPhone 4 or its equivalent, I wouldn't even bother. The game is like a slideshow. On newer devices, it runs well enough, but it really ought to be smoother than it is. The assets here seem to be the same as the Vita version, so everything looks great, at least, even if the framerate has issues at times. I did experience a couple of crashes while playing on my iPhone 5S, so hopefully Namco's on the ball with patches like they usually are.

ridge racer

The other bit of bad news is that, as is becoming increasingly standard in this genre, there are multiple currencies. You can earn both without paying for them, but the premium currency is pretty scarce. The premium currency can be used to unlock courses ahead of time, perform certain upgrades, and purchase three exclusive cars. Given the whole lineup of cars in the game at this point numbers twelve, that's a fair bit locked behind the premium currency wall, if you're the collecting type. Premium currency is earned by gaining levels, winning certain races, and as a daily login bonus every few days. You'll mostly earn it by leveling up, which is accomplished by performing certain actions in-race and completing missions. I found it trickled out frequently enough that upgrading my cars wasn't a hassle, but saving up to buy the exclusive cars will take a long time at the rate it comes.

The regular currency flows a little better and is used to buy new cars and perform most upgrades  to your existing ones. You can also use it to buy some largely useless boosts for each race. You'll earn some of this cash with every race, depending on your finishing position. The cars are grouped into classes, as usual, each containing a car that excels in grip, one that drifts more easily, a balanced type, and a premium car. They're not real cars, but series fans will recognize all of them well, and at this point, the fictional cars are part of Ridge Racer's identity. You can upgrade your cars' engines, gear shift, and nitro system, as well as sink some credits into cosmetic changes. In case your new to the series, here's a free tip: don't buy the grip cars.

From its beginnings, Ridge Racer has been about drifting. Playing the game is more or less about going from drift to drift, and that aspect has only been driven home by the nitro system introduced in the first PSP Ridge Racer. Nitro works like it does in any racing game, giving you a temporary speed boost. It's represented by a meter at the bottom of the screen, which is filled by drifting. Managing your nitrous is absolutely essential to winning in this game, so the better your drifting skills are, the easier things are going to be for you. There are different types of nitro systems you can use, with one even auto-charging your nitro, so you should be able to find something that works for you.

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The concept of slipstreaming is also quite important, as you might guess from the title. Basically, by positioning yourself behind another car for a certain amount of time, you'll get a speed boost similar in effect to a nitro. You can get away without using this in the early going, but you're going to want to learn how to use this to your advantage before you get too far in. Your opponents can use this on you, too, leading to some crazy turnabouts if you're not attentive.

One of the big things missing from the last game on iOS was a proper career mode. That's been corrected here, as Ridge Racer Slipstream features a beefy campaign with over 100 races in total. At present, there are 10 tracks, all pulled from prior games in the series. You get one track from the PSP Ridge Racer, five from Ridge Racer 6, and four from Ridge Racer 7. These courses are also available in reverse, which is perhaps an easy way to increase the track count, but certainly effective in terms of producing new challenges. As is the norm for the series, the difficulty curve ramps up pretty quickly, and the AI is not above using cheap rubber-banding to keep up with you. It's very important to save some nitro for the final stretch, because that's usually where the race is decided.

In addition to the career mode, you can also play some one-off races that you can set up how you like, quick races to just jump into the action with a random car and track, or knock-out races where the racer in last place gets dropped with each lap. You'll earn credits and experience for running these races, just like career mode, so you're not wasting your time if you feel like running them instead. They're a good way to earn some side cash to upgrade your cars or buy a new one. Of course, unless you're doing a quick race, your car and track options are limited to what you've unlocked in career, so you can't completely ignore it. There's also a greyed-out option for online multiplayer, which is apparently coming in an update in the next month or two. That's about all I can say for that at the moment.

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There are lots of control options, so some lessons have clearly been learned in this area. You can use tilt controls or a number of virtual control setups. Purists will probably want to go with the virtual set-up that allows manual control of acceleration and braking, but I spent most of my time using the layout that auto-accelerated, and it worked pretty well for me. You can engage a drift by either letting go of the gas for tapping the brake as you steer into a turn, with your brakes essentially being useless otherwise. It's not exactly a braking game. I'm a long-time fan of the series, and I'm pretty happy with how this version controls. Some racing fans might balk at the steering controls being reduced to simple left/right arrows, but that's perfect for Ridge Racer, in my opinion.

In the end, that's really the crowd I'd recommend Ridge Racer Slipstream to the most. This is a good, well-made Ridge Racer game for your mobile device. It plays the way it should, the content is fully accessible without paying if you have patience, and there's a good amount in here with more likely to come. There are probably better choices on the App Store for arcade racing fans, and some of them are free, so in the broader market, this might not be the best racer out there. What it does offer is a delivery of a promise made long ago: a proper iOS version of an arcade classic, with a feel unlike any other.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • bigjack66

    Sounds like they're still overcharging for minimum content compared to every other racer here and on consoles which explains the slow painful death. There's a lot of this going about where developers just aren't looking at the competition and have their head stuck firmly where the sun doesn't shine! ( I don't mean under your pillow )

    • chief78

      They're not overcharging. When PS vita users payed $29.99 for TWO cars and TWO tracks and had to buy the rest or find a launch copy with a DLC code to flesh it out to a whopping 5 cars and 6 tracks.....$2.99 ain't $#!+ to ask. A RR title giving u essentially the same amount of cars and tracks as the consoles, plus a good possibility of expansions, that's pretty solid. I still don't trust Namco Bandai (or reverse....whichever) to follow-through after the burn on the last iteration, which is why I won't buy this....even for a measly $3 (and I can't see myself not wanting a real controller, since that's how I've always played and there's a lot of quick inputs that only a controller can handle). But if that's not a concern, the $3 def shouldn't be....

      • http://www.googlepants.com/ Wizard of Odyssey

        Very well said!

        It still feels like these companies are experimenting with the best way to optimize micro transactions. Some are OK but nobody wants to feel ripped off.

    • bilboad

      I've been playing this game a lot since its release, and in my opinion it plays like a premium game. There's a ton of content here for $3, so I definitely don't agree with your "overcharging for minimum content" comment.

      There are also no timers in the game, and I haven't experienced any need for grinding. While going through career mode, any time I've reached a point where I really needed an upgrade or a new car to win a race, I have had enough currency to do so. The game isn't exactly generous with the currency, so if you're the collector type who wants to own every car in the game early on, or you feel a need to upgrade your car to the max as soon as you buy it so you can breeze through races without having to build up your track knowledge and driving skills too much, then you probably will feel strapped for cash. However if you just pick a car for each class and stick with it, and only upgrade it when you've hit a wall and can't win the next event without upgrading it, then I think the rate at which currency is handed out is just right.

      There is one slightly better car in each class which can only be purchased with a large amount of the premium currency. However I've seen no reason whatsoever why you need to buy that car. The other cars which can be purchased with regular currency work just fine and allow winning everything. So I think these cars are just there so Namco can make some extra money off collector types who want to own everything.

      The game plays great on my iPad 4. In my opinion it does a great job of reproducing the Ridge Racer experience on a mobile device. Just like the console versions, it has a totally fantasy physics model, so if you didn't like Ridge Racer on consoles you probably won't like this either. The reverse is also true though. If you loved Ridge Racer 6 or 7 on consoles, then there's a very good chance you'll love this too. Don't let the fact that it has IAPs stop you from trying this game.

      The main flaw I would say is that there is very little help in the game. There's a very minimal tutorial at the start, but it only scratches the surface of what you need to know to play the game successfully. There is no documentation about what the various tuning options mean for instance. Anyone who hasn't played the console versions has a good chance of getting confused or frustrated.

    • Dueler

      If $3 is too much then don't buy an iphone.

    • apolloa

      Overcharging? Are you nuts? Have you seen just how much EA and Gameloft charge you for in game purchases on their racers? Or you can graft endlessly for hours and hours and hours and hours. So RR is an utter bargain for the price. I would LOVE for far far far more games to cost $5 let alone $3 with no IAPs, the world would be a better place.

      • BulkSlash

        I can't comment on Real Racing 3 or Asphalt 8 as I bailed as soon as I reached the point where it was clear I wouldn't be able to win a race without paying money. But to buy one "Stage 2 upgrade" for a Class 2 car of RR Slipstream is 86,400 credits. Your average race will give you 3500 credits for coming first. You'd have to win 25 races to afford a single upgrade, and you need more upgrades than that to win races at that level. Or you can pay £6 for enough credits to buy one upgrade...

        I don't mean to be rude, but I don't see how this game is any better than RR3 or A8. It does start off very favourably, with Class 4 upgrades being very cheap (presumably to con players into thinking it's not like RR3 or A8), but once you're halfway through Class 3 and above if you want to progress you either need to grind excessively or pay money. I don't understand how the reviewer can so easily recommend the game.

        If there was a £10 full-unlock IAP, I'd happily pay it (assuming it can be re-downloaded), but as the game has no iCloud support, any money I spend on my iPhone 5 can't be transferred to other devices and any money spent is lost if I delete the app.

        I've been playing Ridge Racer since the original PS1 game and this is just a massive disappointment, especially when the graphics and gameplay are so spot-on. :(

      • apolloa

        In that case, it is worst because you are paying for a product with IAP or you have to grind. I assumed as it wasn't mentioned in the review that the game did not feature IAP's so thank you for enlightening me buddy. I shall steer clear of this as I personally enjoy RR3 and having one racer that needs endless grinding is enough! Although Flashout 2 should be out soon and with any luck no IAP's?

      • BulkSlash

        I think for me the grinding is the main issue. I like stuff where progression is fair/balanced e.g. Rage Racer on the PS1 hands out enough cash after each race to enable the player to regularly buy upgrades or new vehicles when needed. RR Slipstream starts off like that, but then once you're really into it, the AI cars suddenly get much faster and the amount of credits needed to buy upgrades becomes excessive, requiring either grinding or IAPs.

        The irony is I'd be perfectly happy to pay say £15 to unlock the full game. The problem with the current game is any money I spend is lost if I delete the app because there's no iCloud save or "Restore Purchases" button and no way to share my progress on my iPads. Compare that to say Sonic All-Stars Transformed which does have a "full unlock" IAP that can be restored on any device and I know which I'd prefer developers to offer! :)

  • TheRybka

    No. I'm not going to pay a premium price to pay more for "premium" IAP. Also, login bonuses are the resort of freemium games - you shouldn't need any motivation to launch the app other than the point that it's a joy to play.
    Too out of touch in a competitive market. The name alone isn't enough for me. I'll pass.

  • worldcitizen1919

    Excellent racer. Absolutely love it. Quality everywhere. And lots of fun

  • CecilMcW00t

    Excellent game. It's definitely a premium game. The IAP is very minimal. The premium currency cars aren't much better than the other 9 cars in the game. If you are a collector type, just be tough with yourself and like the previous poster mentioned, purchase one car per class and stick with it. By the time you finish the campaign and finish buying the rest of the cars, you should have enough premium currency to go ahead and grab one of them. But wait for one of them to be featured in the daily sale.

  • MFiGamer

    Good game, would play better with an official MFi game controller though.

  • chinito77

    Ridge Racer Accelerated started off horrendous but thankly was fixed with upgrades. I loved that classic RR look plus I could use my RR songs from my collection. I enjoyed that game so much that I bought it twice, once for my iPhone and then for my iPad. Too bad they never added a Retina update.

  • chinito77

    I spent quite some time with this game to the point where the novelty has started to wear off. This game is basically a RR7 offspring, same tracks, same perk system, and music which is OK at best. I can't understand why they left out some of the better music and no iphone/ipod music support other than playing a playlist in Music first then jump into the game. I can't tell you how sick and tired I am of the Lost Ruins level. You race on the same tracks over and over then in reverse over and over. Not to mention that the online mode is a joke. I did end up buying extra coins later on since the difficulty really jumps later on. While all this may sound really bad, it's a good game which just falls a little short of being great. Graphically, it's a great RR title but I still lean towards RR Accelerated HD. I look forward to upcoming patches and upgrades.

Ridge Racer Slipstream Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 4