Once upon a time, Ridge Racer ruled the arcade racing genre. When the original title hit arcades in 1993, it was the first time many people had seen detailed, texture-mapped 3D graphics. Later, as a launch title for the original PlayStation, it quickly became the poster child for a new generation of racers. Its star has faded, albeit slowly, in the years since, as racing games have polarized into either hard-nosed sims, and over-the-top manic arcade racers. Ridge Racer Slipstream, the series’ first go-round on Android, looks to play to the series’ legacy, rather than imitate the competition.
If, like so many of us, you’ve lost track of the series in recent years, don’t worry; this is Ridge Racer as you remember it. You won’t be jumping over mountains and smashing through buildings like in Asphalt 8, nor will you be carefully negotiating real-world courses like Real Racing. Instead, you’ll find a solid middle-ground of classic arcade action, where drifting and nitro boosting are the orders of the day. It’s fast and fun, but still based on skillful driving, rather than grabbing power-ups.
There are no licensed cars or real-world locales, to be found, but there are tracks and vehicles from the series’ past that add a nostalgic touch. It’s fun seeing some of the iconic locations from the series’ early days gussied up with a new coat of paint. Slipstream isn’t likely to win any beauty contests, especially when compared to Aslphat 8, but it’s still nicely detailed and brings old tracks to life in a new way. Series icon Reiko Nagase returns with her usual commentary, further reinforcing the nostalgic feel of the title.
The same solid mechanics you’d expect are there, with the minor addition of the titular slipsteaming mechanic, which allows you to gain a speed boost by riding behind other racers. This puts the leader at a disadvantage, which tends to add more back and forth competition and keep races close, but it doesn’t radically change the game’s strategy, either. Drifting is till the core mechanic, and works just as it always has, tapping the break into a turn and allowing you to handle sharp corners. This charges a nitro meter, than can be used to trigger boosts, albeit not as frequently as many other games.
The real problem with Slipstream is that there really isn’t much there. There are only 10 or so courses, plus mirror versions, and a handful of modes, none of which stand out. There’s a career mode to work through, which will take you a while, but this offers little variety. The pacing of the career mode is a bit slow, too, which isn’t surprising for a free-to-play app, although it isn’t as bad as many other games out there and you can certainly grind through it without having to pay. Since there aren’t that many cars, you really won’t spend as much time chasing expensive upgrades, which is important in a single-player racer.
And yes, you read that right: Slipstream is a strictly solo affair. There are online leaderboards and social features, but you can’t actually race against your buddies in a live online (or even local) match. This seems like a serious missed opportunity for a game like this, especially one with no cost barrier, where it should be (theoretically) easy to recruit your friends for a race.
If you’re still nostalgic for the classic Ridge Racer series, Slipstream has you covered. The latest mobile version is a real-deal classic Ridge Racer title packed with all the series’ hallmarks. Alas, there’s really little else to differentiate it from the many other racers out there that are faster, prettier, more realistic, or just more fun. It’s admirable that Namco didn’t want to betray the core of what their series is, but they also didn’t do much to bring it up to date.
Slipstream is undeniably Ridge Racer, but the classic racing formula is starting to feel a little stale, and Namco has added very little to make it feel fresh.