Ridge Racer 6 Review
If you've played any recent Ridge Racer game, you know exactly what to expect in Ridge Racer 6--a slick, fast-moving racing game with interesting handling characteristics.
- Slick-looking menu design
- Fast action with a smooth frame rate
- Cool car design
- Good music
- Pac-Man in a spaceship.
- Exhaust notes are too subdued
- Announcer says nitrous so often that you'll eventually go insane
- Minor but noticeable graphical issues.
The Ridge Racer series began in the arcades, but it became synonymous with Sony's PlayStation line of game consoles. Each of Sony's three pieces of game hardware have launched with a Ridge Racer game right there next to it. The series has appeared on other platforms throughout history, but these have traditionally been a repackaging of existing Ridge Racer games. The Sony/Namco streak is broken now, because Ridge Racer 6 is now available just in time for the launch of the Xbox 360. The drift-crazy driving action is intact, as fast as ever, and comes along with a robust online ranking and racing system that breathes new life into the long-running franchise.
The racing and handling in the Ridge Racer series border on ridiculous. It's all about huge, perfectly executed losses of traction, which let you whip the tail end of your car out and slide around corners without having to slow down first. For the most part, if you're hitting the brakes in a Ridge Racer game, chances are you're doing something wrong. The cornering in the game is practically automatic, too. Once you've started a slide, all you need to control is the direction your car is facing. As soon as you can center it back onto your main direction of travel, it'll snap back into traction and start moving forward again. This means that you can whip around even the hairiest of hairpin curves without actually having to navigate the curve yourself. Just start the drift, and the game takes care of the rest. It's almost like a roller coaster ride that way. But the skill comes in making sure that your drifts are close enough to center to prevent you from losing too much speed. So you'll usually just want to barely slide out as you fly around turns. But there's still more to consider. In most race types, drifting adds juice to an onscreen nitrous boost meter that's broken up into three segments. Once a segment is full, you can bust it for a quick burst of speed. So there are plenty of cases where you'll want to keep drifts going for as long as possible, even if it means sliding out on purpose while heading down straightaways.
Faster drifts fill your nitrous meter more quickly, but you can't earn boost while nitrous is active. This creates a natural strategy of timing your boosts so that they expire just before a big curve, letting you burn off that excess speed with a long, fast drift that quickly gets you some more nitrous. That move's called an ultimate charge. The nitrous meter debuted in the recent PSP version of Ridge Racer, but here you can fill up more of your meter and unleash double and triple nitrous boosts, which are longer lasting and more intense--or, at least, they're faster than a regular old single boost. While it's all very simple on the surface, the game's handling can be quite demanding, especially once you get into tougher races and start driving faster cars. Above all, it's thrilling in the same way that previous Ridge Racer games have been. It's slow and easy at first, though the later races demand ice-cold perfection.
But by the time you get to those later races, you'll have seen every single track on multiple occasions, both forward and backward. The "world xplorer" mode, which is the game's equivalent of a career mode, starts you out with 111 races, but as you get to the end of its multirouted path, other, more-difficult routes appear on the map. There are hundreds of different events to choose from, but you're really racing on the same tracks over and over again, just in different car classes, in different directions, or with a slightly different rule set. Despite the almost immediate repetition, the world xplorer map screen provides just enough to keep you going with the constant promise of new vehicles as you complete races.
As you go from class to class, the cars get faster and sleeker, but the basics remain the same. There are different drift types to choose from. Mild drift cars tend to take turns normally and don't drift very much. Dynamic drift cars can't take turns too well unless you drift constantly. They also swing out much wider than the other classes, making it harder to keep them under control, and they have a higher top speed. The standard drift cars are a friendly sweet spot between the other two. They aren't usually much slower than dynamic drift cars, but they're much easier to control. The car designs aren't licensed, but the entire game uses fictional car manufacturers and designs based loosely on Namco's characters and games from throughout its 50-year history. So you'll see cars with Pac-Man on the side, or, if you're looking for a more modern reference, there's a car called the Mitsurugi Meltfire. The cars don't take damage in collisions, which is par for the course for the Ridge Racer series. Collisions with walls and other cars tend to slow you down a lot, but you can usually use nitrous to dig yourself out of most holes, provided you don't make big mistakes at the end of a race.
- Downloadable Game