Ridge Racer 6 reminds me of a really old car with a fresh coat of paint and a squirt or two of some new car smell air freshener for the interior. Strip away that new glossy shine and RR6 is a game that could have been made in the mid-1990s. It comes complete with wacky physics, confined courses (with no shortcuts or alternate routes), and unfaltering AI opponents. At its heart, its virtually the same Ridge Racer weve many times before on other systems. This is both the downfall and charm of RR6. The simplistic gameplay makes it quick and easy to pick up and play. Its sure to please those that love the previous games in the series, but others will soon find themselves wishing there was a little more under the hood.
With a slew of unlicensed cars, unrealistic physics, fictional race locations, and no damage modeling for the vehicles, Ridge Racer 6 definitely falls into the category of arcade racer. Its very reminiscent of Burnout 3, except the spectacular crashes and blazing sense of speed have been removed and replaced with a focus on drifting and the use of turbo. There is no corner too severe that you cant take at 200+ mph by simply letting off the gas and drifting your vehicle around it. In the event you do strike the wall, youll simply bounce off it unrealistically and repeatedly, much like a basketball being dribbled against the hardwood floor.
While much of the game feels a little dated, there are some fresh additions. Most notably Namco has included Xbox Live support for head to head play and a few downloadable items. There is also an amazing number of unlockable extras to be earned through both the single player and online areas. There are over 100 vehicles to be discovered as well as a video, the classic Pac-Man game, a few secret messages, and several additional races. The extras are spread out in frequent intervals throughout the single player experience, which help to keep you coming back for more.
RR6 is all about the use of drifting and turbo. By taking drifts at high speeds, you can fill your turbo meter, which is separated into 3 tanks. The faster youre going when you drift, the quicker the tanks will fill up. You can use each turbo as they come, or you can fill up all 3 tanks which will enable you to use 2 or 3 turbo boosts at once for some serious speed. Time your use of turbo just right, and you can recharge the meter at an alarmingly fast rate by using the extra speed burst to take some really fast drifts. It takes a bit to get used to the system, but utilizing the turbo and drifting to attempt to pull off a perfect race can become quite addictive.
Ridge Racers single player campaign is done through a system called the World Explorer. Its a unique race tree with branching pathways that allow you to unlock extras along the way. The basic route is comprised of 111 races, most of which are straight forward and fairly easy. As you complete those, other routes appear such as the advanced route and special routes. These extra routes can be extremely challenging and highly frustrating. During the basic route, I was very pleased to see the absence of "rubber band AI" that can be found in some racers. Unfortunately, the rubber band AI rears its ugly head in the special and advanced routes, making them even more maddening. Since the cooler cars and the ending movie are earned through these harder routes, it can be quite a painful experience to nab those achievements.
While there are a ton of cars available, many of them look way too similar. Each time you unlock a vehicle you get to see a cut-scene as your car is revealed with much fanfare. However, its slightly disappointing when most of the cars look almost the same, or are just simple paint swaps of models you've already unlocked. There are a few truly unique cars to unlock near the end, such as a Pac-Man mini car driven by Pac-Man himself, but they come way too late in the game.
The courses also run into a problem with lack of diversity. While there are 15 different courses, many look too similar and youll often confuse tracks with each other. You can race each track forward and reverse, but there simply arent enough courses or diversity to keep the game fresh through 15+ hours and 150+ races in the single player campaign.
RR6 is a decent straight forward Xbox Live experience. The races are quick and easy to pick up and play. However, I experienced terrible lag initially until I learned that you have to shut off your media sharing with your PC for it to run smoothly. If you take that extra step to disable that feature, the game runs smoothly and is a solid XBL experience.
In the visual department, RR6 looks very crisp and clean and runs smoothly while whizzing by the various locales. However, the game lacks any extra pizzazz. The textures are flat and boring, there are only two camera angles to choose from while racing (a bumper cam and the standard behind the vehicle look), and reflective surfaces lack that something extra that you find in most of the Xbox 360 games. It looks like one of those games that youll put in your Xbox 360 in a few years down the road just to see how far the system has evolved from the ugliest games (RR6) to the newest and best thing (Halo 3, perhaps).
As for the audio, you wont be doing cartwheels over anything here. The engine noises all sound way too similar from car to car. The race announcer is extremely annoying and way too hyper your first order of business will likely be turning this voice off. The backing music is your standard techno fare.
The bottom line is that while Ridge Racer 6 is not a bad game, it is difficult to recommend it when the Xbox 360 lineup already has two top notch racers Project Gotham 3 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted - both of which are a cut above this Namco offering.