Before we can talk about what Ridge Racer 6 is, you need to understand what it’s not. It’s not Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport – games that are as much about the business of turbo-charging engines and tweaking the suspension as they are about performing on the track. Nor is it a Need for Speed or Burnout – there are no cop cars chasing, no neon strips to fit beneath the chassis, no handy shortcuts, and no rivals to takedown or crashes to engineer. No, Ridge Racer is steeped in the oldest racing tradition – when racing just meant racing, accurate physics modelling was non-existent, and you didn’t care whether the Ford GT felt like the Ford GT or New York looked like New York, for the simple reason that the cars and the tracks were all made up. If you don’t get this, then you won’t get the game, full stop.
And this attitude can be a shock, even to those of us who have been following the series since day one. In fact, it’s the stripped back style that helps make RR6 so initially underwhelming. I first saw the game back at X05 in October, where – to be perfectly honest – I thought it was a waste of time. The handling was awful, and there seemed little point in bringing something that looked and played so similarly to PSP Ridge Racer to a next-generation, high-definition console. After all, what looks jaw-dropping on a handheld doesn’t smack quite the same gob on your TV.
My first impressions of the finished product were better, but only in the sense that mediocre is better than wretched. The handling was improved, the car graphics looked great and the courses had developed some background detail, but the pace was too slow and the competition was too easy. On a machine that can already boast Project Gotham 3 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted, you really don’t need this bland arcade racer – or so I thought.
How wrong I was: a few hours later, I was hooked. To explain why, you need to understand the structure. The PSP world tour has transformed into a Ridge Racer universe to conquer and explore, but it’s a universe that isn’t particularly fascinating until you’ve left the early stages well behind. You get a grid of races that can be linked together into a series of events, the speed growing faster as you move right, the competition getting more intense as you move up. Certain races bag you new cars, while others act as nexus points, opening more links and races up. However, it’s only once you move into the second and third speed classes that the action heats up past lukewarm.