The best Ridge Racer plays great on PS5

One of the interesting things Sony has started doing with its PlayStation Plus subscription service is offering up a variety of previous-generation titles in a form that will work on the PS4 and/or PS5. They’ve tinkered with this previously, but with the revamp to PlayStation Plus and its subscription tiers a while back, they’ve expanded the catalogue considerably, and there are some real gems in there worth playing. Like, say, Ridge Racer 2 for PSP.

Ridge Racer 2, despite its name, is not the second game in the series. It is actually the fourteenth if you go by release order and include the arcade versions. It is also not a port of the arcade game known as Ridge Racer 2. It is, rather, an expanded version of the PSP title Ridge Racer (itself also not the same as the original Ridge Racer for arcade and PS1, just to confuse matters) that essentially acts as a “Best Of” compilation for the series as a whole.

Ridge Racer 2

If you were wondering why PlayStation Plus features Ridge Racer 2 for PSP and not Ridge Racer, it’s because they’re the exact same game in terms of presentation and mechanics; Ridge Racer 2 simply has more “stuff”, so putting Ridge Racer PSP in there would be completely redundant. And I really mean “exact same game” — everything about it, aside from the number of cars, tracks and pieces of music available, is literally identical. So don’t worry about missing out on anything.

Anyway, although not the most technologically advanced entry in the Ridge Racer series by virtue of the fact it was designed for the relatively humble hardware of the PSP (which, power and capability-wise, occupies a spot somewhere between the PS1 and PS2), Ridge Racer 2 is an absolutely phenomenal arcade racer, and regarded by many fans of the series as the best game overall. Sure, Ridge Racer Type 4 has its fans — and I certainly love me some Ridge Racer Type 4 — but it’s hard to argue with the sheer amount of game there is in Ridge Racer 2.

As previously noted, the game acts as a “Best Of” compilation of Ridge Racer, incorporating 18 tracks from previous Ridge Racer titles, including two from Ridge Racer, three from Ridge Racer Revolution, four from Rave Racer, eight from Ridge Racer Type 4 and four from Rage Racer. On top of this, there are 42 new tracks (actually 21, with the opportunity to race them the opposite way around making another 21).

Ridge Racer 2

And to complement the sheer number of different courses to race on, there are 62 different cars to acquire, including, in true Ridge Racer tradition, some delightfully silly ones, such as a miniature aircraft piloted by Pac-Man. Strangely, a few of the special cars found in the first Ridge Racer for PSP are omitted from Ridge Racer 2, while others have been adjusted somewhat. These few missing or changed cars are, today, literally the only reason you might want to explore Ridge Racer PSP as opposed to its superior successor.

On PS5, the game looks, sounds and plays great, with the 3D visuals looking surprisingly lovely upscaled to modern displays. While some objects are still recognisably rather “low-poly” in nature, the increase in colour depth over the original PSP — no more dithering — and the often spectacular lighting effects used on the courses mean that Ridge Racer 2 actually stands up really rather well as a fairly “modern” looking game in some respects.

With one exception, that is: the interface. While the 3D visuals in Ridge Racer 2 are upscaled beautifully, someone really needs to tell Sony and Namco about “nearest neighbour” filters, because the horrible bilinear filtered upscaling they’ve done on all 2D interface elements is ugly at best and introduces some quite noticeable visual artifacting at worse. Had the 2D art simply been upscaled with a simple nearest neighbour filter, it would, of course, look somewhat pixelated, but that’s infinitely preferable to the smeary mess we have here.

Thankfully, although this puts something of a dampener on the otherwise good looks of Ridge Racer 2 running on PS5, it shouldn’t be enough to put most players off. After all, the main point of the game is looking out at those 3D vistas screaming by at high speed, slamming your car around corners and driving sideways for significant portions of each race.

Ridge Racer’s drift-heavy, arcade-style handling is as wonderful as ever, bearing little to no resemblance to actual driving but being all the more enjoyable as a result. And it’s an absolute delight to be able to return to this wonderful game on the big screen without having to faff around with the dodgy image quality from the PSP’s AV cables.

If Sony would fix the ugly 2D art, it would be a completely unreserved recommendation. As it stands, it’s still a brilliant game that plays excellently on PS5; just be prepared for a few aspects of it to not look quite as nice as they perhaps could!

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Pete Davison
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