Ridge Racer 6 Review / Preview for Xbox 360 (X360)

Ridge Racer 6 Review / Preview for Xbox 360 (X360)

Ridge Racer is always welcome in my house. The familiar scenery, control and music is like a visit from an old friend. by Vaughn Smith

November 27, 2005 – I was formally introduced to Ridge Racer ten years ago when it was included with the $499 brand new PSone that I brought home from Wal-Mart. Hey, at least the damn system came with a game! My Xbox 360 sure as heck didn’t and it was the same price! Okay, so the 360 has some added bells and whistles and it also has Ridge Racer 6 which is fine by me. Back in the day, Ridge Racer was where it was at. No one slagged it for being too “arcadey”. I’m not even sure the phrase “arcade physics” was in use back then as there wasn’t any other kind. Today it’s an entirely different story. You either get Namco’s flagship racing title or you don’t; rarely is there any inbetween. Fans will argue to the death defending it while detractors seemingly have no end to their opinions on why the game just doesn’t compare to more ‘serious’ simulation racing games available. Ridge Racer has always been about ridges and races and it makes no excuses for any other gameplay absences.

Over the last decade we’ve seen numerous racing franchises zoom onto the scene, each promising more realistic physics, control and modifications. I’m not a particularly big fan of games like Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport as I dislike the amount of time I have to spend simply learning how to go around a curve in the road. The farthest I go to the ‘sim’ side of things is Project Gotham Racing which I love deeply. In terms of learning curve, Ridge Racer 6 is as pick up and play as you get although it will still take awhile to get your RR legs, as I call them.

Ridge Racer has always been about drifting. Drifting is the art of taking corners at high speeds without losing control or momentum. Without completely mastering this technique even the easiest courses in RR6 will eat you up and spit you out. To drift you must steer into the direction of the curve you are taking. As your vehicle begins the turn, release the acceleration which will cause the car to slide. At the apex of the curve, reapply the gas and steer in the opposite direction of the curve to gain control. If you manage to come back onto the straightaway facing the right direction, you will have successfully completed a turn. There are 3 varieties of drift available in RR6 – Standard, Mild and Dynamic. Beginners should start with Standard until they get their drfiting legs.

I’ll be totally honest, until I found a vehicle that worked for me (more on cars in a moment) and got back into the swing of RR drifting after having played hours and hours of PGR3, I was coming in 5th and 4th on the easiest race. I was humiliated and I thought the game was too hard. Being the pro that I am I persevered and about a half an hour later I was kicking ass and taking names – Sorry. I hate that phrase and I promise I’ll never use it again. From there I was conquering the Ridge Racer universe and showing these CPU posers what racing was all about. The poor AI never knew what him ’em. I was like Neo awakening his powers within the Matrix, I tell ya. I was often pulling into first place before the first lap was done. So am I that kick ass? Nah, I don’t think so. Ridge Racer is pretty easy during the first couple of zones and the track design simply oozes playability (forwards and backwards). Since there are only a little more than a dozen tracks to race in the entire game, you’ll get to know them like the back of your hand.

New to the series is the use of Nitrous which is filled by drifting. The longer and faster you drift, the faster your Nitrous reserve fills. There are three reserves to fill and you can only use them once the first reserve has been filled to completion. Namco sweetens the deal by allowing you to abuse the power of the Nitrous as well. If you have two or three reserves filled completely, you have your choice of using the power of one or pressing the RT & LT buttons to set off a boost of 2X or 3X the Nitrous power (depending on how many reserves you’ve filled), which will literally have you flying down the highway.

Once you understand the ‘rules’ nothing will stop you from kicking ass and taking names just like me. Oops. I did it again. Sorry. The rules of RR6 as I came to understand them are as follows.

  • Pick the car with the fastest MPH even if you like the look of a slower one.
  • Pick a drift style that you are comfortable with – Standard to start.
  • Start your drift a little earlier than your instincts suggest and you will execute a perfect drift which sets you in the right direction once you are around the curve. If you are constantly fishtailing out of a curve you’re either using a drift technique you can’t handle right now or you’re steering in the opposite direction of the turn to straighten yourself..
  • Nail the start boost technique which rewards a kick in the pants send off at the starting line if you time it correctly. If you don’t get it, restart and try again. You won’t have to endure any load times unlike a certain other X360 racing title I know…(cough PGR3 cough)
  • Not all rocket starts are created equal – experiment and you’ll learn how to nail the fastest rocket start possible!
  • Ignore the urge to set off your Nitrous once the first reserve has been filled. Save it until you’ve got at least 2, but 3 is far better.
  • Don’t set off Nitrous when you’re going to be heading around dangerous curves, although it’s okay to do it around the ones you know you can easily manipulate at high speeds
  • Use your rearview mirror to get into position and allow cars from behind to bump you which slows them down and gives you a little boost ahead.
  • Give your hand a rest every once in awhile. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome here I come!

If you’re looking to race Porsches and Ferraris, fuggedaboutit. The Ridge Racer Auto Mall doesn’t stock those kinds of vehicles. You’ll start off with Class one cars with such Namco-esque names as Age Toy Pop Prophetie and Kamata Sky Kid Fiera and eventually work up to Class 4 vehicles and even some extra Special class vehicles. There are several car models to choose from in any given class and each will support either one of three Drifting models as mentioned previously. While this will undoubtedly turn off simulation racing purists, let me just say that those kinds of gamers are about as welcome in a Ridge Racer game as a born again Christian in a porno shop. If you don’t like this kind of thing, don’t come in! We don’t need to hear about how RR isn’t “real” and that PGR3, Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport are for hardcore racing fans. We know that and we know that the physics found within RR is completely insane. None of us believe that any vehicle could take a corner at a 45 degree angle (facing the opposite direction even!) but we enjoy the challenge that every RR game brings to the table. Ridge Racer is a completely unique racing experience and there is no arguing that. As I said, you either get it or you do not. There is no inbetween.

The World Xplorer mode is where you’ll race hundreds of different races based on the same 15 tracks (30 if you count the same tracks reversed) and log thousands on your virtual speedometer. You’ll start off with some basic races to cut your teeth on (even though #7 can be a real pain unless you run an almost flawless race…make sure you get that Rocket Start!) You can race one at a time or select subsequent races as long as they are in the same zone to save having to go back to the Xplorer mode screen after each race. As you work your way up the honeycomb shaped race screen, you will be able to unlock certain prizes if you happen to successfully complete (by coming in first place) all of the races that comprise a section. Some of the prizes include new cars, the ability to change car color and more. As well, Namco is up to their old tricks with the loading screen arcade games. I’ll let you go over to the codes page to figure that out. Most races are against 13 CPU other opponents, however throughout the World Xplorer mode you’ll encounter a few variations including Duel races (one on one) and races where the use of Nitrous isn’t allowed (or altered in some way).

Those who have played the PSP version of Ridge Racer will recognize some of the same tracks and have a leg up on those who haven’t. Although some of the tracks have been featured in the PSP version, RR fans are sure to recognize homages paid to past tracks. These courses aren’t quite exactly classic tracks but just close enough to be semi-familiar yet remain challenging. Racing the same tracks in reverse is a great way to milk excellent course design and I have to say that these tracks in RR6 were developed with that in mind. There wasn’t any track I found particularly suited for one direction (which I have in the past) and I found playing both forward and reverse of the same track equally as challenging and entertaining.

Single Race mode allows you jump in and tackle any race you want to for extra practice while Global Time Attack pits you against the ghosts of better Ridge Racers than you. It requires the use of online, but if you’re serious about this little arcade racer you can use it as an educational tool. Simply locate the track you want to race, select the class and vehicle. Check out the top ranked racers for each track and class, download the ghost of the one you want to beat and try to do just that. Heck you might even be downloading my hottest runs as I’m currently holding a few first place spots, but sorry, I can’t tell you my username or I’ll get flooded with Friend requests and invites. If you’re having trouble beating the ghost, watch the replay of it for tips as to when you should use drift, when to use Nitrous etc. You’d be surprised at how much you can actually learn.

The head to head online mode features a variety of different ways to plug in. Set up your own match or join one ready to go, (up to 14 players online) just be sure to see if the options selected are ones you’re okay with. Also since all classes are unlocked online, you might find yourself stuck racing against Class 4 machines even though you haven’t had any experience driving them. That’s just the luck of the draw. If you can’t find a race that suits you, as the saying goes “Built it and they will come.” I created one and within 30 seconds, I had a flock of 8 trying to get in on some racing action. There have been many complaints regarding lag and choppiness online and I didn’t have any. It was literally flawless. If you do have find the lag insufferable, it seems the problem stems from having your Xbox 360 connected to your PC (for playing tunes, media etc.) Visit the Xbox 360 dashboard and disconnect any connections between your PC/Media Center and your system. That should clear up that nasty problem.

Running at a glossy 60FPS online and offline certainly gets your attention. While it might not have the same visual oomph in terms of details and polygon count as PGR3 (which only runs at 30 FPS), you can’t deny that RR6 is a looker. Races take place at various times of day and therefore you’ll have to contend with either bright sun, dusk or night, The night levels take place in the city which are lit up with street lighting and therefore are very easy to navigate. I often find night levels the hardest to play in racing games thanks to my aging eyesight, but RR6 makes it a pleasure. Not once did I have to guess at which direction the upcoming curve was.

Equally as impressive are the excellent original songs recorded specifically for RR6, which from what I can tell are all new, even though they sound very similar to previous soundtracks. I didn’t hear what I thought were remixes of previous songs, but I haven’t played an RR game for awhile. Since the music is hard to define, much like the series itself you’re either going to love it or hate it with a passion. You already know how I feel about it. Thje same is also true for the RR6 announcer who might possibly grate on your nerves. Personally I enjoy having someone tell me when I’m doing great – gives me a little boost, you know? – but his stock sayings do tend to get a little on the old side.

For many years I’ve considered R Type 4 the pinnacle of the Ridge Racer series, and it still might be – I haven’t played it for a very long time now. However due to great track design, 60 FPS, high res support and ability to go online the added benefits of RR6 cannot be ignored. It’s not getting as much attention or hype due to PGR3 and Need For Speed: Most Wanted but it’s definitely making an impact with fans of the series who already own X360’s. Namco delivered a great racing title that is easy to play and yet hard to master and all I have to say is now that this review is done, I’m heading back online!

By Vaughn Smith
CCC Site Director

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