Ridge Racer is broken up into a few different modes, all of which are standard for the genre. You can just hop into a one-off race, or you can make your races count for something in the world tour mode. Here, you'll enter into increasingly difficult series of races. You can save the game after each race, so you won't have to make it through each series in one sitting. Winning a series unlocks new cars and tracks for use in the other modes, but the different cars don't make a huge difference beyond higher-class cars being much faster than the first models. The track designs are good, but in classic Ridge Racer form, the game opens and closes different sections of track to form "new" tracks, but the end result are some tracks that share 80 percent of the exact same blacktop. Aside from the world tour, you can enter a time attack mode or race against up to three other local players using the PSP's built-in wireless support. The multiplayer mode is a lot of fun, especially since the competition from other players is often stiffer than what Namco's drone drivers have to offer.
Another big part of Ridge Racer is another staple of the series. Ridge Racer has a fantastic soundtrack that fits right in with the previous entries in the series. In fact, you'll be able to select from a handful of different playlists. Some of these consist of all-new material, but you can also dig back into the Ridge Racer archive and hear new remixes of old Ridge Racer songs, or you can just go back and listen to a selection of music directly from the old Ridge Racer games. The series has churned out some really stellar electronic music over the years, and it's great to have so much of it packed into one place. It would have been nice if Ridge Racer featured some sort of more directly accessible way to simply listen to these tunes outside of the game, though.
If you already don't like the way Ridge Racer plays, this new installment won't convert you. It's still all about huge powerslides, almost never bothering to hit the brakes, and moving as quickly as possible. But if you're unfamiliar with the series, you should know that this is a great, fairly casual racing game that delivers where a racing game counts most: bucketloads of high-speed action. If you're already a fan of the series, you'll love the way the game plays on Sony's new handheld. Additionally, the stellar presentation definitely puts it up there as one of the most technically impressive games on the PSP.