Many gamers have the fond memory of the original PlayStation launch in September of 1995, complete with the fine Ridge Racer offering from Namco as the now classic console’s initial title. It’s funny how someone can transplant a memory into the current day and expect everything to work out the way it did before. Namco has delivered another Ridge Racer offering a decade later for the Xbox 360 launch, but the rude awakening in this case is that the number emblazoned on the box after the title is indicative of the game’s quality, on a scale from one to ten.
The core gameplay of Ridge Racer has not changed since its original release. While that can be a good thing as far as some titles are concerned, in this case it just feels lazy. What’s more is that the entire presentation is just polished enough to be a next-gen title, and only barely at that. Once again players find themselves barreling down various roads, sliding and drifting around corners in the most dramatic and unrealistic fashion imaginable. There’s even an Xbox 360 achievement for doing a complete 360 degree drift through a turn.
For the most part, the entire range of the gameplay has already been described in what you have just read. While this version of Ridge Racer gives you more tracks and races than you could ever need, your desire to explore them is bound to wane quickly due to the lackluster presentation. There is never any need to touch the brake button although one is provided, there is no real car-to-car opposition and none of the vehicles take damage regardless of who or what you run into. It’s hit the gas, lightly let up on the gas through a tough turn, hammer the gas again to straighten out, rinse and repeat. That’s itů really, that’s IT.
The title does carry over the nitrous feature, which will build up gradually at rates dependent upon player performance. Successfully negotiating turns and spins make the nitrous meter rise faster. There are three levels of nitrous power that dictate how long and fast the boost will help you. It is usually prudent to leave the nitrous boost for the last lap when you have to overtake the last two or three racers in front of you to obtain first place. Once a player masters the subtleties involved in the drifting and nitrous mechanics, they will have mastered the game. This could take a player experienced with series about twenty minutes.
All of the cars and locales are fictional, and the vehicles are divided into four classes. Each type contains its own brand of drifting mechanic (mild, standard, dynamic) and the tweaking of the vehicles ends there. All other changes are strictly for show and will not help or hinder your racing skills or lap times.
This is how a whole lot of game content can be dull and lifeless for a player. Ridge Racer offers more than 100 cars to choose from, but since none of them offer any real racing improvements the point to unlocking or using them is nil. Namco considers Ridge Racer to be their ‘arcade’ style racer, and insists that players should take its lack of depth to be indicative of what a player would be find in a quarter munching arcade. What Namco fails to realize is that for the most part, the whole ‘arcade’ mentality is dead in America and most console gamers today demand a little more depth from their titles, regardless of genres. Ridge Racer offers Xbox live online play with up to 13 other racers, where you will find the typical assortment of “just for fun” and ranked races. As of this writing there was a bunch of new vehicles available as a free download on Xbox Live, but again all new cars will perform just like the ones already included on the disc.
You would think since Ridge Racer is supposed to be the ‘arcadey’ racing offering for the 360, Namco would have made sure the visuals were as top notch as they could be, separating the title from the rest of the glut of racers in which every console launch is inundated. Not so. The graphics are only marginally next-gen, with nothing really remarkable to say about them. All of the textures tend to border on the bland side and considering all of the environments are the product of Namco’s imagination, it should be a given that they would knock a player out of the driver’s seat visually. They don’t. The frame rate is a solid 60fps.
The sound is the same decent sound design from previous Ridge Racers and sports a techno-driven soundtrack. The racing announcer is also perhaps the most annoying and irrelevant commentator ever experienced in a videogame, and that includes all of the annoying announcers that have ever assaulted the ears of sports title fans. He continually overstates the obvious and repeats himself with his Ryan Seacrest brand of vanilla flavored remarks, leaving players annoyed with him in the first five minutes. Thank Namco for including the ability to shut him up.
Namco’s initial offering on the Xbox 360 is mediocre at best. If you’re trying to find a simple racer to appease someone who is confused with such daunting tasks as, say, reciting the alphabet, then Ridge Racer 6 might be what you’re looking for. However, if you’re a gamer who is aching for a racing experience worthy of a next-gen title, you really should look elsewhere.