Fans of arcade racing games rejoice, Namco has answered the call with its first Xbox 360 title Ridge Racer 6. Many of you may recall this glorious franchise which started its life back in 1995 in arcades and on Sony’s first platform. In the beginning people loved the fast-paced arcade action, but todays gamer is a bit more fickle. The fine line between arcade and simulation is rarely ever crossed and aside from the Burnout franchise most gamers toss a harsh glance at anything that isn’t Gran Turismo caliber. Thankfully there is still a market for a great arcade speed fest and now we have one and its next-gen no less.
For those that do not know RR6 is a straight arcade racing game with over the top physics and a drift system that would simply insult any traditional racing fan. In fact the game actually rewards you for drifting by giving you nitrous, a first for the console versions of RR. As you slide around large turns at breakneck speeds your boost meter will gradually fill up to three levels of nitrous power. You can then use this to blast past your rivals in one swift press of a button.
Another item that may deter some gamers from picking up this title is its lack of licensed cars; yup every ride in this game is purely imaginary. On top of that you also lack the ability to customize your ride in any fashion. This is pure arcade gameplay at its finest. The solid collection of cars suffers from simply not differentiating in any form except for top speed, so you spend most of the game simply unlocking cars that only differ in how fast they go. Yes it’s simplistic and methodical but long-time fans of the series knew exactly what to expect when going in.
The highlight of RR6 though is the tracks, and damn are there a lot of them to choose from. Over 200 different routes await you in this massive game, sure some of them are alternate paths through the same track, but the sheer amount of options is incredible. Now throw in a route editor ala PGR 3 and you will make my day. All of these tracks are also nicely rendered sporting some really cool landmarks and visual effects such as the crowd throwing confetti on you as you cross the finish line. The draw distance is amazing and the game flies by at a blistering 60 fps for a true sense of pure speed.
The biggest chunk of your time in RR6 will be spent playing through the World XPlorer mode. This is basically a series of races against AI opponents that unlock more cars and tracks. The coolest feature of this mode is that you get to choose your own path through the races, that’s right you can simply pick and choose which race to tread through, so if you aren’t comfortable with a specific track skip it and move on through a different route. This mode is incredibly long as well; the first tier alone is over 100 tracks and will keep you playing for weeks. The sad part is that there really isn’t a reason to play through except for the occasional car to obtain or simply beating your best time.
The races also feel more like a race against the clock instead of opponents, at least the first lap does. All the cars up until the top three pretty much play rubber-band AI and simply plod along at their own pace never getting aggressive and trying to catch up. In the later matches the front three cars are like Siamese twins blocking the pass, you will have to bring your best moves to get past these guys. Overall the difficulty feels unbalanced and can be a tad frustrating at the higher levels.
The multi-player also has some issues; while playing a split screen game is usually problem free the online is extremely laggy if you are using media connect with your PC, even with only two racers. This is the only 360 title so far that I have problems playing online with; the lag is so bad in some cases that the race is simply unplayable. Hopefully Namco will address these issues with a patch, but I still fail to see how a game like PGR 3 can run as smooth as ice and RR has issues with two players. When media connect is turned off it works perfectly and the game is very enjoyable.
While this game is on the Xbox 360 the visuals do leave something to be desired. This is not an ugly game by far, but when put side by side with PGR 3 it simply pales in comparison. There is no damage modeling, the lighting effects on the cars are practically non-existent, and some of tracks have a lot of repeating textures and scenery that simply gets bland after two laps. What the game does do well however are the reflections, perhaps even better than PGR 3, plus the game runs at a blistering 60 fps without even a hint of slowdown. While RR6 may not be the best looking girl on the block, you certainly wouldn’t be afraid to be seen with her.
The sounds and music are typical RR fare with lots of screeching tires and blaring techno music. There are even some clever remixes of old Namco titles such as Galaga that really get the blood pumping. What is annoying however is the announcer, this guy should simply be shot and buried in an un-marked grave. His repeating comments and obnoxious retorts are enough to make you slam your controller into the TV at times. Seriously did he just say “You got owned!” please somebody shut this guy up!
While serious gear heads will hate the lack of customization and the sim freaks will scoff at the outrageous handling there is a certain charm that comes packed with RR6. Whether it’s the fact that it never tries to take itself too seriously or the simple truth that the game is just damn enjoyable to play fans of the style will be hard pressed to find a better arcade racer for a while. Fans of the series will be in heaven as this is pretty much the PSP version on steroids, but all others may want to rent before taking the Namco arcade plunge. Only recommended for fans of arcade racing and long-time RR faithfuls.