Review by darthjulian

Reviewed: 11/27/06

Namco delivers a good albeit slightly uninspired racing game

After having witnessed the recent launch days of PlayStation 3 and PSP, one can say that it has become some sort of a custom for Sony to release their new consoles together with a new Ridge Racer title by Namco. The first PlayStation came out on the same day as the arcade port of "Ridge Racer", the PSP got its own best-of version "Ridge Racers", and the PlayStation 3 was being provided with "Ridge Racer 7", and at least the former two were already indications of what the consoles were able to accomplish in terms of visuals and audio. Of course, the PlayStation 2 also got its own Ridge Racer launch title in order to boost sales and to showcase the console´s technical capabilities: "Ridge Racer V".

And in terms of gameplay, Namco relied on the tried and true, basic Ridge Racer formula, which is a good thing considering the quality of earlier titles. The controls provide you with the same great feeling as "Ridge Racer Type 4"; it´s the same drift and grip feel of the cars that made the series so successful, and it works here as well, and of course you also have the typical techniques such as the powerslide, and as always, it´s a lot of fun using them. But as good as the controls and the gameplay feeling may be, the scope of "Ridge Racer V" is not as magnificent and enormous as in Type 4. Some of the tracks, for example, are merely being reused from earlier games with the obvious graphical enhancements, so Ridge Racer fans will feel familiar with quite a lot of them, and their sheer number also isn´t too overwhelming, either. The same goes for the different cups and modes: there isn´t that much to do in this game, with the different championship modes or the time attack mode being the most notable ones. On a smaller note, the game´s physics are once again completely unrealistic, but that´s actually part of the fun aspect. As for the game´s difficulty, Ridge Racer experts certainly won´t have any problems at all to get into the game and to breeze through it, due to the similarity with earlier games in the series. However, newbies will have to train quite some time, since the A.I. is pretty good. Overall, it plays just as good as earlier installments in the series, but what part 5 lacks is enough variety and scope.

For a first generation PlayStation 2 title, or actually the system´s very first title, "Ridge Racer V" does a pretty good job in the graphics department and is able to deliver a nice first showcase of the console´s capabilities, even though the visuals are not without their flaws. As for the positive aspects, it can be said that Namco once again did a fantastic job with the car designs. They´re simply beautiful and a joy to watch during the races, offering some nice textures and details as well as nifty reflections on the car. The special effects, including the lighting effects of the cars´ backlights and the sparks coming from the bottom of the car after a daring jump, are also very pleasing for the eyes of the gamer, and so are the backgrounds. Namco wisely used the capabilities of the PlayStation 2 in order to breathe some life into them, and all the stunning details like the impressively done skyscrapers in the backgrounds of a city track or trees astound with their beauty, making the jump from "Ridge Racer Type 4" to this game in terms of visuals very clear. However, the graphics still do suffer from some typical early PlayStation 2 flaws. The most notable one obviously is the infamous stair-stepping with the edges of 3D polygons due to the lack of anti-aliasing, but this seems to have been a common problem with most of the system´s launch titles, and even though you can´t help but noticing this effect, it won´t bother you that much. There´s also some flickering in the backgrounds, and Namco also could not avoid the appearance of some unpleasant pop-ups, but this as well as the aliasing problems can be overlooked, so for an early PlayStation 2 title, "Ridge Racer V" does a respectable job.

In the audio department, on the other hand, Namco did practically everything right. The sound effects are once again excellent, especially during some massive crashes (obviously...), and there´s also some realism that went into this aspect, like the fact that depending on how close you are to one of your opponents´ cars, you hear its engine getting louder or more quiet. As far as the music goes, the gamer´s enjoyment of this part will depend greatly on his or her own personal taste, but in general, Namco included some catchy tunes that fit the fast arcade style gameplay perfectly.

"Ridger Racer V" is far from being the perfect launch game, and it was far from being a revolutionary or never before seen title like "Super Mario 64" as the first Nintendo 64 game of a new generation. It´s not even as good as its predecessor "Ridge Racer Type 4", let alone the PSP launch title "Ridge Racers" that would follow years later on Sony´s PSP. But even if the somewhat uninspired gameplay and the lack of enough different modes compared to Type 4 are quite bothersome, "Ridge Racer V" still remains a more than enjoyable racing game experience especially fans of arcade-style gameplay will love. For Ridge Racer fans, it´s definitely a good buy, not just because of its historical value as the first PlayStation 2 game.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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