Ridge Racer 6 vs. Ridge Racer 7
Missing sailboats, flat textures, rubbish lighting. Specifically chosen, rather dodgy-looking screengrabs circulated across the Internet a few months back and the conclusion was inescapable to anyone with a functioning set of eyeballs - PS3 Ridge Racer 7 looked worse than its 360 predecessor. Our tests on the other hand, told a very different story. The truth of the matter is that both games are very similar indeed, but it's the new PS3 version that is measurably superior in every way.
Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way. If you have a 1080p-capable display, there's a colossal night-and-day difference between the two games. Ridge Racer 7 is the world's first 1080p game to run (mostly) at 60 frames a second, and the crystal clear clarity this offers is simply sensational. On direct comparison, you can see that the Xbox 360 version is somewhat murkier - not just because of the reduced resolution, but also because of the generally darker colour schemes Namco has employed throughout the game. These have been radically improved for the PS3 game and the result is a game that's more arcade-like, brighter, slicker and livelier. It brings extra detail to the fore, essential in getting the most out of 1080p.
Namco has also thrown as many graphical tricks at the PS3 version of the game as it could possibly manage. While both games feature HDR lighting, it's used far more blatantly in the new Ridge, especially on the new PS3-only tracks such as Mist Falls. But as you can see from our comparison shots, overall detail levels between the two games are pretty much identical, give or take the odd bit of irrelevant scenery. This can work to the PS3 version's detriment however. Low-polygon scenery and models show up more easily at 1080p resolution, and close-up encounters with other racers can look a little ugly.
In terms of framerate, both games run for the most part at 60 frames per second - although the PS3 version does notably struggle to maintain it in some places when running in 1080i or 1080p (both modes run internally with the same 1920x1080 framebuffer). Not enough to impact the experience, but the game seems to be more solid running in 720p.
Tom disagrees with me, but for my money there's little doubt that Ridge Racer 7 is a more refined version of its direct predecessor in terms of gameplay. The basics are pretty much identical - it's in the detail that Namco has made some wise improvements. Progress through the world map is more logical than in the Xbox 360, and more rewarding. In-game innovations such as slipstreaming, the bolt-on additions and car customisations undoubtedly move Ridge Racer 7 beyond the Xbox offering. There are also six additional circuits not found in the 360 version, which definitely makes a difference in a game where the tracks are re-used so very frequently.
With some minor reservations then, Ridge Racer 7 is definitely recommended over and above its 360 predecessor. More refined gameplay and superior graphics win the day, and if you can get to play the title in native 1080p, the visual boost compared to the Xbox rendition is palpable. Both are lovely games, but the sequel edges it.