Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ridge Racer 6 review

Here I am again on day 3 of my Xbox 360 week. This time I will be looking at Ridge Racer 6. Sure, it's another racer, but it's quite different to PGR3.

Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Namco
Developer: Namco
Genre: Arcade Racer
Region: PAL (Europe, Australia)
Price: £30 - £50

Where to buy:,,

As you may be aware if you've seen my Ridge Racer Retrospective feature, or my head to head review of Ridge Racer DS & Ridge Racers for the PSP, I am a long term fan of the series. This dates back to the very first time I played the game in an arcade whilst on holiday, and I was amazed by the game. This was back when true 3D in racing games was almost unheard of, and the only other similar title at the time was Sega's Virtua Racing. These two games revolutionised the racing genre and made it a whole lot better in the process. The days of flat Mode 7 style tracks and sprites for cars were numbered, and thank god.

The series has had its ups (Rage Racer and Type 4 are particular favourites of mine) and downs (Ridge Racer DS, and to a lesser extent Ridge Racer 5) but I for one am very glad it's still managed to keep going after all these years. It may not be a particularly deep experience, but it's a lot of fun and great to pick up and play in short doses.

Graphics: 7 out of 10
Compared to the super-detailed cars and backgrounds in PGR3, Ridge Racer 6 is quite a sparse affair. Nevertheless it looks clean and everything thunders along nice and smoothly at 60 frames per second. Road textures are quite nice, catching the setting sun or glimmering in the heat, and the tracks themselves are well designed with all sorts of scenic details like lakes, valleys, cows and planes that fly overhead. The cars are nice and shiny and well designed (all of them are fictional) but there's only two camera views - a chase cam and a bumper cam - no fully rendered interiors can be found here. Overall, the graphics suit the needs of the game perfectly well and don't slow down at all (which is the most important thing), even when playing the game online. It doesn't push the 360 to it's limits by any means but it's a noticeable step up from the original Xbox or PS2.

"That's some craaaaaaazy nitrous!"
Shut up, announcer guy.

Music and Sound: 8 out of 10
You will probably either love the music and sound in RR6 or absolutely loathe it. The soundtrack consists of various, dance, trance and techno tunes, which are quite similar in style to the tunes found in all the previous RR games. Personally I love most of the music, especially for the odd tune that really gets on my nerves and have to change straight away. "Sueno del Mar" is a favourite of mine. More tunes can be bought on the Xbox Live Marketplace (more than 30 of them) but personally I think they're a bit of a con at 80 points each (plus they each take up around 50mb of valuable space on your hard drive).

Most reviews I've read hate the announcer, who is seemingly obsessed with the word Nitrous, but he never really annoyed me all that much. Slightly cheesy announcers have long been a characteristic of the series and RR6 is no different. Later on you can even unlock Heihachi from the Tekken series as an optional announcer! So, how you feel about the music and sound largely depends on your own personal taste in music, and how tolerant you are of the constant nitrous-related sayings as you tear round the track.

Game Mechanics: 7 out of 10
The basic structure of Ridge Racer 6 remains the same as the other games in the series. Race three laps against a field of 13 other racers, and try and take the number 1 spot by the end. Nitrous was added in Ridge Racers for the PSP and it's back again here, except now you can store them up and fire off two or three at a time for longer, more powerful bursts of speed. You earn this nitrous by drifting wildly around the corners, which is very easy to do. Certain races in the World Xplorer mode have special conditions - for example No Nitrous or Reverse Charge Nitrous (where you can only charge the nitrous gauge while firing of a banked nitrous shot).
Speaking of the World Xlplorer mode, this is the main single player mode in the game, and it's absolutely huge. There are well over 200 race events that will need to be cleared before you complete the game, in various different routes including Basic, Advanced, Expert, Special and more. You can choose as many as 7 events at a time from the hex grid and take them on, or just take on each race one at a time. There's no doubt that there's a ton of things to do in RR6, but whether you wilperseverere to the end is another matter. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, there are only 15 tracks, spread out over 200+ events, which means things get rather samey after a while. Secondly, the difficulty is practically noexistentnt for the first 110 or so races - you can literally sleepwalk your way through them all. Thirdly, when you finally do get to the more challenging races, the AI drivers cheat so badly that you will probably end up throwing your controller down in frustration. It seems while you have to earn your nitrous, the AI drivers can fire it off whenever they want (usually when you've just taken the lead).

For Ridge Racer die-hards like myself who have been playing the games for years, these things can be overlooked, but those who are looking for a fun racer may grow tired of it after a while. In my opinion the game is best played in short bursts - you could find yourself becoming jaded after an extended session.

A special mention has to go the Achievements in RR6. Some of these are actually quite inventive, others will take an absolute age to complete. For example, one challenge sees you having to earn 15,000 points in the Pac Man mini game that comes with the game (which isn't too hard to do), which unlocks a special Pac Man event on the world map (which is an absolute bugger to beat). The true marathon achievements are the No Nitrous and No Collision challenges in Single Race mode. Like the names suggest, you have to win on every single track (forward and reverse) in every single class (1-4 and special) without using a single nitrous, or hitting any cars and walls respectively. If you're very good you might manage to do both at the same time, but believe me when you're surrounded by up to 7 other cars avoiding a collision is very tough indeed. I must point out that these are optional tasks though, if you don't feel like doing them then don't worry about it. There's also a Global Time Attack mode so you can see just how crap you really are compared to the world's best drivers, and the usual split screen multiplayer modes.
Finally we come to the online mode, which can be fun, but only if you're playing against people of similar ability to yourself. There's very little enjoyment to be had getting beaten time and time again by someone who doesn't have to go to work and can just play and play and play for up to 10 hours a day. Luckily the game does have a ranked option but I found that even that was a bit erratic, often putting me up against people way better or worse than myself. If you're someone who wants to get all the achievements in the game, you might have quite a task ahead of you, as they include getting 50, 100 and 200 online wins, as well as simply taking part in 230 races to win all of the cars (you get awarded a new one for every 10 races). The wins in particular can be quite slow in coming (I've done 25 races and won 1 so far). Maybe the only solution is to find a friend with the game and let each other win until you've filled your quota (but that feels a bit dishonest).

Series starlet Reiko Nagase makes a return in the cut-scenes.

Innovation & Cleverness: 6 out of 10
I'm giving RR6 6 out of 10 in this category mainly because of the clever achievements which add a whole ton of extra play time to the game (assume you can be bothered to do them). Other than that, Ridge Racer 6 is basically more of what you've come to expect from the series. At least the tracks are all brand new (and well designed), rather than the "best of" compilation from Ridge Racers on the PSP
Value & Replayability: 7 out of 10
Again, this really depends on how quickly you get tired of racing the same tracks over and over and whether you're willing to invest the time in trying to earn all of the achievements. Even I as a long-term Ridge fan have struggled to keep playing past the halfway mark once the races start to get really annoying, and I have to take a break and play other games. I always come back and try again though, and usually that one race that was blocking my way drops on the first try when I return.

Overall: 7 out of 10
While Ridge Racer 6 is definitely some way away from being the worst game in the series (Ridge Racer 64/DS takes that honour), it's not as good the very best of the series either (Rage Racer or Ridge Racer Type 4 come to mind). The World Xplorer would actually havbenefiteded from being cut in half in my opinion, or at least a more gradual difficulty curve and balanced races. I'm still glad I bought it, but if you're not a Ridge Racer veteran you may wonder what all the fuss is about.

The design of later cars can get rather wild.

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