Up until now Ridge Racer has been synonymous with a Sony game system launch, since PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PSP all had Ridge Racer games on launch day available for them. Yes, I know that Nintendo DS had Ridge Racer also, but it was an inferior product not developed by the same group that has made these other games, so it doesn’t count. So, it was kind of strange picking up Ridge Racer 6 for anything other than the next PlayStation system, but things change and now Xbox 360 is the place to be for the latest Ridge Racer installment.Ridge Racer is one of the original arcade, drive like a maniac sliding around corners, racing games that set the standards that a lot of other games have tried to imitate with good and bad results. The Burnout series of games might have elaborated on the arcade racer concept, but Ridge Racer was one of the first that set the standard that all others had to follow, though it is interesting that Namco has taken the nitrous concept from other more recent arcade racers and worked it into the Ridge Racer formula on PSP and Xbox 360.
But, is the original arcade racer still the best? Well, that is hard to say, since it is hard to compare Ridge Racer 6 to Burnout Revenge or other Xbox 360 racing game launch titles like Need for Speed Most Wanted and Project Gotham Racer 3, since they really aren’t the same style of games. These games are about high-speed road rage carnage, hop-ups and car customization, and earning the most style points while finishing the race in 1st place. Ridge Racer 6 is more about racing in its purest form. There is no car damage or crashes, you won’t be customizing your car beyond choosing from a set number of paint jobs, and style is needed to get more nitrous boost, since you gain it by sliding around corners, but it isn’t the same as in PGR3. Is this good or bad? I guess it is all up to what you are looking for in a racing game.
Ridge Racer 6 has over 200 races for you to compete in as you move through the choose your own path World Xplorer map that will have you racing in no nitrous, duel, and standard races. And as you complete races you will unlock more cars, tracks and other things. You won’t have to go through levels that have you hitting a certain speed or maneuvering through pylons like in Project Gotham Racing 3. No cops will chance you after the races like in Need for Speed Most Wanted, and forget about anything like Crash Mode in Burnout Revenge, but if you are into high-speed arcade racing then Ridge Racer 6 is the game for you.
The visuals in Ridge Racer are impressive and very detailed, but would you expect anything less on Xbox 360? The game moves at a steady framerate and you won’t notice any pop-ups as you travel through the hills and valleys or through the city streets in the game. Hills and valleys are one thing Ridge Racer 6 and all the Ridge Racer games have down to a science. I don’t think you will find any other game on the market with more perfectly tuned ups and downs during every race. You can just feel your car struggling as it powers its way up a long hill and then the engine having a hard time staying up with the car as you fly down the other side of the mountain at breakneck speeds. The only thing that may be a little annoying at first if you have a standard television is that the game is always letterboxed. So, expect to have a black border above and below the screen at all times. I am guessing they did this so everyone that plays the game, no matter if they have a HDTV or not, can experience the same view. It was just kind of surprising to me that I couldn’t turn it off and go back to my square picture that fills the screen like in older Ridge Racer games, but I got used to it after a little bit of play.
Ridge Racer 6’s audio is also top notch and if you are familiar with the soundtracks from previous Ridge Racer games you will feel right at home. The music has a mix of techno, rock, jazz, and dance beats to it and it fits well with the racing action on the screen. And if you don’t like it you can use your own custom soundtrack on your Xbox 360 hard drive instead. The sound effects are also well done and standard racing game fare. You will hear tires squealing as you fly around the corners and engines revving to the max as you slam the gas down at the starting line. The announcer is also decent and has more things to say this time than in previous Ridge Racer games, but he will still start to get repetitive after awhile.
The controls are spot on and you shouldn’t have any problems drifting around corners at full speed after a few races, though I have to admit that I am a Ridge Racer fan and have played every version on PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PSP, so maybe I am more use to the controls than someone who has never played a Ridge Racer game before. I don’t think it will take too long to get a handle on them even if you are not a Ridge Racer veteran and once you do the game becomes even more fun as you execute nitrous drifts around long corners for big nitrous meter boosts.
The online play is also decent and I didn’t notice any more lag than other racing games I have played in the past online. The game did lock up on me twice right at the beginning of two online races requiring me to turn my Xbox 360 off and back on to continue playing, but this could’ve been caused by a number of things. It could’ve been the semi-famous Xbox 360 overheating problem, a bug in the game’s code, my Internet connection, the person hosting the games Internet connection or them being a jerk and exiting the game without notice. Either way the online experience when everything was working was fun and should be enjoyable for you most of the time also if you like online racing games.
The other online mode is Global Time Attack and in this mode you race by yourself on the track as you try to set the fastest time possible. After you are done you can upload your time to the Xbox Live service and compare it to other people’s times around the world. You can also download ghost data from other players from around the world and race against it offline to see if you can beat it.
Lastly, if you don’t have a broadband Internet connection you can still play the game offline with a friend in 2-player split-screen mode that is still letterboxed for some dumb reason. This mode moves along nicely by the way and I didn’t notice any huge difference between it and the full-screen single-player mode of play. I just wish they would’ve stretch the screen to fit my standard TV since the split-screen windows are even narrower in height than the standard game because of the letterboxed view.
Ridge Racer 6 is a great game and a nice addition to the Xbox 360 launch lineup. It is not as deep in gameplay options as other racing games on the market or on the Xbox 360 right now, but I don’t think that is what Namco was going for with the game. It seems like they wanted to make a high-speed arcade racing game that takes advantage of the increased power of the Xbox 360 while introducing nitrous boosting options that enhance the classic Ridge Racer formula without breaking it. If this was their goal then I think they accomplished that and the game should entertain any Ridge Racer fan or anyone looking for a plain and simple arcade racing game that has lots of races to unlock and compete in with a touch of online play and ranking modes to keep you busy after you have beat all the competition offline.
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