Review by DaytonaUSA

"The Last Great Ridge Racer"

I loved Ridge Racer 4. It's one of my top five favorite games of all time. The depth, the atmosphere, the soundtrack, the story, and the sheer challenge that game provided was incredibly addicting. I have a ton of nostalgia for what this series used to be. Ridge Racer 6 was easily the worst in the series and 7 was not much better. It is unfortunate that with the current generation of consoles we have yet to see a great Ridge Racer game. If things keep going this way, we may never see one again.

So consider Ridge Racer V the last great game in the franchise. Is it better than R4? Overall, no (but then really nothing is). In certain areas however, RRV does improve where its predecessors failed. The handling model in particular is perfect in this entry. R4 was a dream to play during the later stages, but the starter cars were slow, sluggish, and a chore to drive. You get none of that in RRV. While there are only six main cars, they are all so unique that any player is bound to find the one that fits his or her driving style. In addition, you can now customize the paint and wheels on each vehicle. Collision detection has been a crippling problem in practically every Ridge Racer title – not so in RRV. Unlike before, tapping a wall will not spell the end of your race. If you fail, it isn't the game's fault – it's yours. This is something that cannot be said about any other entry in the series.

RRV features seven courses (excluding reverse versions). R4 featured eight. The difference here is that R4's courses were located in a variety of environments, ranging from a seaside metropolis to a sunset-bathed mountainside. All of RRV's tracks are in Ridge City. I could see how this would be an issue with most casual players out there; the circuits are all very similar visually. However, I like that the racing is focused in one place. Long time fans of the series should be quite pleased that Namco expanded on the original course from the very first Ridge Racer. Memorizing each corner of the seven tracks (where to drift, where to pass, which line to take, etc.) is essential because this is no easy game.

The career mode is where RRV easily pales in comparison to R4. In R4, you played the part of an up and coming racing driver joining a new team, complete with a very well done and tasteful story, characters, and consequences. Depending on where you finished, you would receive a different car for the forthcoming set of events. It was almost an RPG; clearly ahead of its time in 1999, and to this day no game has come close. RRV on the other hand is classic Ridge Racer. You simply complete a championship and move on to the next. No story and nothing to really engage you aside from the actual racing. R4 had 321 cars, so you could be at it for months going through the career mode with different manufacturer and team combinations trying to unlock them all. RRV has six - all of which can be upgraded to a new class – and nine extra cars to bring the total to fifteen. The replay value just isn't there (unless you want to play it again on a higher difficulty, which does not really benefit you in any way). You don't even purchase the cars as in Rage Racer - you are simply awarded them. It is all a bit more scripted than I would like and fans are sure to notice.

For the first time, Ridge Racer is running on a system which can do it justice, and it certainly shows. The polygonal distortion and tearing of the previous console generation is gone and you are left with very clear, detailed environments and vehicles that ooze quality. This is the way Ridge Racer is supposed to look – sparks flying as cars bottom out, light reflecting off sheet metal, even pedestrian vehicles driving by alongside the track and helicopters hovering above. Watch a replay if you aren't sold – you soon will be.

R4's soundtrack was a masterpiece in every sense of the word. It mixed rock, jazz, and electronic influences to create something greater than the sum of its parts. RRV has a great soundtrack, although it is all techno. It cannot be compared to the music from the first two games (not as upbeat) or Rage Racer (not as dark). Instead, it sits somewhere in the middle. It is very good, and it suits the developer's vision, but it doesn't quite live up to its predecessors. That said, it is much better than anything that has come after it. The song featured in the opening ("Fogbound") as well as the menu and car select screen songs are particularly noteworthy.

As a launch title, Ridge Racer V is the best you could ask for. If Namco combined R4's depth, atmosphere, and soundtrack with RRV's graphics and gameplay, the result would've been the best racing game on any console. Regardless, if you are a racing fan you owe it to yourself to pick this one up. Nine years hasn't taken away anything except for the price, and it is easy to find in any store that sells used games.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 12/07/09

Game Release: Ridge Racer V (US, 10/25/00)


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