Ridge Racer 6 Xbox 360 Review

The Xbox 360 launched with a couple of big name franchises covering the racing genre with Project Gotham Racing and Need for Speed keeping most petrol heads happy, but now an old favourite has pulled on to the starting grid with the release of Ridge Racer 6, catering for the other end of the market. It’s a series that has not been at its best for quite some time on the home consoles, with the sub-standard Ridge Racer 5 and quite frankly awful R Racing tarnishing the reputation of this once great series. Can this latest instalment re-establish itself as a serious competitor in an already well catered for market and give these two big guns a run for their money and take pole position?

Graphics

Graphically Ridge Racer 6 matches up well to its competition, with some suitable detailed and very shiny car models and well detailed race tracks. Although the game isn’t realistic you could be forgiven for thinking it was at first glance, with everything looking beautifully realistic, the cars may not be licensed versions of real world cars, but they look every bit as good as Project Gotham’s Ferraris and Lamborghinis or Need for Speed’s lower spec everyday car models. You get plenty of reflections on their paint jobs, and everything is suitably detailed for a next gen racer. Tracks and environments are equally detailed and realistic looking, with some beautiful backdrops to do your racing in, with locales ranging from urban areas of cities, airports and even some seafront action at the docks, to more rural areas travelling round the green hills of the country interspersed with smaller townships, so plenty of variety in there for people who like their scenery. Racing is done at various times of day or night too, not all day or all night racing here, and whilst everything is brighter and more detailed in the daytime night time is equally as impressive to look at, with plenty of neon lit cityscapes, and other lighting effects being more obvious.

Night time driving also emphasises the blur effect of the game, with cars’ tail lights leaving little trails behind them. It’s a little thing, but it’s a nice touch. If there’s one bad thing about the night time driving though it’s that it is at times a little too dark as your cars’ headlights don’t light too far ahead of you and the more rural areas are pretty much devoid of lighting. But, it’s a small thing and doesn’t affect the gameplay. The game sports HD support and everything rolls along at 60 frames per second making everything as smooth as silk. Overall the game isn’t quite as pretty as Project Gotham, but slightly better than Need for Speed, putting it in the middle ground of 360 racers available, not that there’s much difference between any of them in quality of visuals.

Gameplay

When it comes to gameplay Ridge Racer takes a different approach to the more realistic games already available for 360; No licensed cars or real world locations here, and this is reflected in the pure arcade handling of the cars. This is a welcome addition to the 360’s racing line up, as great as the PGR and NFS are in their respective approaches to the genre, some people just don’t want realistic handling or ‘Fast and Furious’ storylines, they just want a quick blast around the track with some all out arcade action. These are the people that Ridge Racer 6 is targeted at, and it gives them just what they want. Despite the next gen visuals the gameplay is satisfyingly old school, with plenty of drifting around corners, which is not just fun, but an integral part of the game mechanics, the more (and faster) you drift the quicker you fill your nitrous meter. The nitrous isn’t just one single tank though, you get three tanks of nitrous which when filled you can either activate one tank at a time for short boosts, or two or even all three at once for some longer distance boosting. Probably best you stick to the shorter boosts until you get familiar with the game though, a good number of the tracks feature some quite lengthy winding sections which aren’t something you’ll want to take on at top whack, not until you’re more experienced with the game anyway.

The tracks take the familiar route of being set in cities and rural areas, with various tracks set in each locale but taking different routes through the area, it’s a well worn practice and one that works well saving the games designers from having to create too many environments for the tracks whilst giving the player plenty of variety in courses to race on. Races are made up of three circuits of any given track with you up against 13 other cars, quite a large number of opponents for a racing game, and it’s a straight race to the finish, no shortcuts on the track or alternate routes, just straight car on car action. It all sounds a bit basic, but it’s what some of us have been crying out for.

The single player game is split into 3 modes, World Xplorer (a career type mode), single race (as it says, a single race) and Global Time Attack, which is just a standard time attack mode with the added feature of uploading your times to Xbox Live so you can rate yourself against other players the world over. World Xplorer mode is the real meat of the game, and is a little different from other games career mode, with you driving your way through a network of races going from left to right, but although the actual races themselves are on set routes with no deviation, the order you take your races is a different matter.

The races are set up as a series of blue hexagons on the menu screen and although you’re going from left to right there are multiple routes you can take from one end to the other. As you traverse from left to right the races get harder, difficulty is also determined by the route you take across the network of races, the closer to the top of the screen your route takes you the tougher the challenge will be. To take on these harder races though you’re going to need some faster cars and the main way to unlock them is by completing all the races surrounding a blank area, there are also key races which will unlock cars, but there are few of these compared to the other cars. Most races are single events, but some are comprised of more than one event. Fortunately if you fail to win a second race you don’t have to go back and start at the first again.

The multiplayer game comes in two modes, on and offline. The offline game only supports two players, which is a shame, as there is no system link support. These are straight one on races with no computer controlled cars getting in the way, which is a little limited, but perfect for some head to head action. The online game is where you’ll be spending most of your time on the multiplayer though, which is essentially the same as the offline game but supports up to 14 players. Gameplay options in the multiplayer are pretty standard, you can select car class (or leave them unrestricted) or even restrict players to just one car. Track select allows you to choose the number of laps as well as which track you race on.

Also a bonus mini game is available to unlock, and Namco have given you their all time classic Pac Man to play after you’ve completed certain races, and you get a free taste of the game on Ridge Racer’s first loading screen which you can either skip or play through one level.

Sound

The audio side of Ridge Racer 6 is, for want of a better term, a little unbalanced. The sound effects are great, with the engines sounding very meaty and the screech of tyres as you drift round those corners sounding just like the real thing. The effects have been really well implemented too, even without surround sound I swear it still sounds like the cars coming up my rear end are coming from behind me. Ambient sound is good too, you can hear plenty of seagulls as you’re driving through the docks, the airport has all the planes taking off and landing. The music on the other hand isn’t so great, not that the quality is bad or anything, it’s just the tunes themselves won’t be to everyone’s tastes. The problem being that a great deal of them are based on jingles from some of Namco’s original arcade games, and have been given a dance/tecno remix. Some of them aren’t too bad, some are just about bearable but the odd one or two will have you reaching for your custom soundtracks.

The in game DJ is another less than sparkling aspect of the game’s sound too. His comments are reasonably entertaining to start with and help you get into the spirit of the game, but his range of stock phrases don’t have much variety and soon start to grate. Other DJs are unlockable in the game though, and apparently some of them have some comedy value, but I’d imagine their vocabulary to be as limited as the standard DJ. Everything is of course available in Dolby 5.1 and if the music is to your tastes you will find it most enjoyable, if not, well that’s one of the reasons they gave you a hard drive and you can always stick the tune of your choice in there.

Lifespan

The single player game has a lot to offer in terms of lifespan, with well over 100 races to complete if you want to complete the game 100%, and the learning curve is steep enough that the later races will take you a good while to finish, without being so steep as to put you off trying. You’ll want to complete it too, or as much as you can anyway, as you’ll need the cars you unlock for the multiplayer game. So, if you can complete the single player without getting too frustrated or bored then you’ll be well set to take on the online game which should keep you going for a good while, especially when you have the top of the range cars.

Overall

Ridge Racer 6 isn’t a game for everybody, especially not these days when realism in games is the status quo, but if you like your racing arcade style and you own an Xbox 360 then this is the game you’ve been waiting for. It’s still early in the console’s life, so it will be surpassed sooner or later, but for now Ridge Racer 6 fits the bill very nicely indeed.

8.7 out of 10

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