Ridge Racer 6
Last year we saw the rebirth of the Ridge Racer franchise with the excellent Ridge Racer for PSP. Now Namco wants to profit from the hype that surrounds the Xbox 360 -the first next-gen console, as you all know- with Ridge Racer 6. Unfortunately for them, the X360 doesn’t really lack good racing titles. Does RR6 have enough potential to convince potential buyers?
Ridge Racer 6 further builds upon the solid foundations of the series. It’s still a super-fast arcade racer where hitting the brakes only causes laughter.
When you aproach a corner, you just need to let go of the gas pedal, steer your car into the bend and accelerate again to go into a powerslide. The more you slide, the faster your nitrous meters fill up. With those, you car gets a significant speed boost that can easily gain you several places. You’ll need them since you’ll have your hands full with the 13 competitors that all have a decent A.I. The control over your car doesn’t feel right, however. It’s almost as if it’s floating over the asphalt, instead of driving. The sloppy execution of crashes also could have used some more work. You can only notice that you’ve just hit a wall by the fact your car slows down significantly. You don’t even bounce back or sustain any kind of damage.
The biggest flaw about this Ridge Racer installment (and that’s where it greatly differs from the PSP version) is it’s sense of speed, or better yet, it’s lack thereof. You never get the feeling you’re cruising the roads at a juicy 250 km/h. Everything just seems to pass a lot slower. Here, RR6 completely pales in comparison to Burnout Revenge (that has just hit the Xbox 360). It’s only when you use a level 2 of 3 boost that you get an adrenaline rush.
The World Xplorer mode, that contains 111 races is the mainstay of the game and you can spend quite some time on it. The fun part is you decide how you finish the game. You can pick your own routes, so if you can’t complete a certain race, you can just choose another one. As you progress, you’ll unlock more cars, of which there are more than 100, divided over four speed classes. Later on, you’ll acquire special vehicles, such as the Pac-Man rocket. There are three types of car behaviour, each with their own strongpoints and weaknesses. They differ both in handling and sliding speed.
Now all that sounds interesting enough, but after a few hours of play time, the game can become quite boring. The gameplay quickly becomes monotonous (and it’s even wore if you’ve played the previous Ridge Racer games) and because of the limited number of courses (around fifteen), you’ll always race through the same old uninspired environments. Beaches, mountains, villages; we’ve seen them all before. Only the airfield course sparked my interest, but that’s probably due to my unconditional love for aviation.
The cars themselves look nicely polished, although they clearly don’t push the Xbox 360′s limits. Sunlight reflects beautifully onto the chassis and the framerate maintains a steady pace. The levels don’t look very detailed and the road textures are actually some kind of indistinguishable pixel goo. The game’s audio is worse. The racing cars sound more like tuned old Volvos than speed monsters, the techno soundtrack is crap and the commentator (some asshole named DJ) deserves to be lynched. Hearing “Nice boost!” or “Watch out, he’s using nitrous!” twenty times in an hour can drive a man insane. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Racing against humon opponents is always more fun than battling a CPU, so fans can enjoy themselves with multiplayer through Xbox Live for up to 14 players in both ranked and unranked matches. That’s a pretty high ammount and it’s worthy of praise that everything goes fluently and lagfree. Furthermore, you have a general leaderboard and the possibility to download ghost cars, which you can use in singleplayer Time Trial.
Ridge Racer 6 could have used some extra months of development since both its sense of speed as its car feel are simply inadequate for a game of this magnitude. Though Ridge Racer on PSP showed the right direction, this game quickly shows the same old problem that has plagued the series for years; the limited gameplay gets old real fast. Graphically, the game is only average and the sound is even worse. You can do a lot better on the Xbox 360 that Ridge Racer 6.