Review: How does the long-lasting Namco franchise hold up against the likes of PGR3 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted?
Ridge Racer 6 comes from developer Namco and has the task of flanking PGR3 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted as the spearhead of the Xbox 360's racing section. Namco has delivered many entries (of varying quality) in the Ridge Racer series previously, but the games were never usually put up against very strong competition ? in this case, PGR3 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted.
With Ridge Racer 6, Namco has crafted a game that plays quite a bit like its predecessors, meaning that the racing action heavily involves powerslides and well-timed nitrous boosts. This style has certainly worn a bit over time, but Ridge Racer 6 still manages to have some value, regardless of the lack of any major innovation. However, this game is hard pressed to compete when compared against the likes of PGR3, especially with Gotham's innovative online features and dazzling good looks.
RR6 features a main game mode called ?World Xplorer? that takes you through a bevy of races, with various tracks, rules, and car classes being used to scale the experience. There isn't a whole lot of variation with how this mode plays out, and you'll start to see the same tracks being used quite a bit later on. That being said, the action can get quite frantic in the higher car classes, as the sense of speed increases quite a great deal and you'll really have to focus in order to beat some of the later races. A motivating factor for getting through the races is the constantly changing cars, each of which has various drifting abilities and speed ratings. Certain cars don't drift as easily and require a bit more effort and attention to get around corners, but the handling will likely be quite consistent. Conversely, a high-drift car can fly around the corners and goes into drifts easily, but it can get harder to control around wide turns.
Regardless of class, though, the racing of RR6 is quite different than the likes of PGR3 or NFS: MW. Whereas PGR3 had a high level of precision and handling, and NFS: MW had a gritty, tight-turning street race feel, RR6 goes for more of a speed-driven experience. Some users might have a hard time getting into the feel, but the sense of speed and ice rink-esque turning is pretty much true to the series and still feels distinct ? for better or worse. This sense of speed is amplified when you activate nitrous oxide boosts, and you'll be able to up the meter by executing drifts effectively. Activating the boost will give you quick blast of speed, but the amount of it will vary depending on how much you've ?stored up.? The boost and drift dynamic adds enough of a layer of fun to the racing that it keeps your attention, and you'll be getting the timing for boosting and drifting down fairly quick.
The cars control quite simply, and you'll be able to actually steer yourself while in a drift almost too well. The cars all move across the road in a quick and nimble fashion, and this serves to further the games somewhat floaty sense of movement and speed. Using other supplementary controls (like rear-view camera, view change, etc.) proves quite easy, and you'll always have a decent view of what's going on around you. Braking isn't something that should be executed very often in RR6 (as you'll just want to keep boosting and drifting), but it works pretty much the same as in most other modern racers.
Taking Ridge Racer 6 online can actually deliver a decent amount of fun, specifically because of the 14-player races and leaderboard support. Races actually default to eight players, but the host can up the player count ? if the connection can support it. Online performance is reasonably good, and lag is mostly a non-issue (like in most other modern-day racing experiences). The leaderboards work on a point system, and each racer rewards a player with points that are added to a global ranking. A cool twist with this point system is that a race's starting order is based on points earned, meaning novice players will get to lead from the starting block and veterans will have to work their way up. Additionally, going online with Xbox Live can facilitate the uploading and downloading of ghost cars; these can be used in the offline time trial mode so that you can test your times against the world's best.
RR6 presents itself reasonably well, but the sound is not particularly good nor does the game really offer anything that taxes the 360's abilities. Cars all look sharp enough, but certain edges and textures ruin the illusion, especially when compared against the tremendous-looking PGR3 car models. The environments contain respectable amounts of detail, with certain road surfaces and nearby landmarks adding some visual punch. Then again, the crowd detail isn't what PGR3 brought to the table, nor is their any visual distinctiveness such as the saturation and lighting effects seen in NFS: MW. The sound doesn't fare quite as well as the graphics, particularly because of some muted car noises (boosting, exhaust noise, engine) and one very annoying announcer. The cars honestly should've sounded a lot more powerful (as in street racers like Midnight Club 3 or NFS: MW), plus there should've been more audio variance from one car to another. As for the announcer, he just repeats annoying ?Nitrous!? phrases and generally gabs about nothing helpful, and he really just belongs in the announcer graveyard alongside the guy from Crazy Taxi.
The achievements present in Ridge Racer are pretty decent and you'll be able to unlock 36 in total. The achievements range from performing certain moves to winning without nitrous to completing a set amount of online matches. Like many 360 titles, it will be easy to get a few of the achievements quickly, but getting them all would take some substantial time.
With all this said, Ridge Racer 6 still brings something to the table. It's honestly quite hard to recommend the game over the likes of PGR3 or NFS: MW, but RR6 still does some things right and provides a reasonably good online experience for a good amount of racers at once. Still, the weak audio, moderate graphics, and love it or lump it gameplay will not sit well with all users. If you've liked what Namco has done before, check this one out (maybe for a reduced price), but most users will be happier with the 360's other racing offerings.