Admittedly, I’m not quite so pleased with the sound. The music is pretty good, albeit in a slightly cheesy, nineties sort of way, but that loony commentator is back, and just as Chris Tucker’s exclamations are guaranteed to spoil your experience of Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2, so this guy’s are guaranteed to annoy you, race after race after race. After two thousand repetitions of “that’s some crazy nitrous” or “that’s the greatest start I’ve ever seen” you’ll be delighted to hit the sound options screen and turn his ghastly waffle down.
Wait – I haven’t even got to the really good bit. After three to five hours or so (depending on how many races in the route you take) you hit the end of the basic route, the credits roll, and practically a whole new game opens up. Suddenly you hit special routes, new styles of race, a multitude of tense and unforgiving one-on-one duels, and the sort of gameplay that really sorts the Ridge Racer men from the Ridge Racer boys. Beating and gathering the new custom cars and setting new records becomes awfully important, and the game gets about as compelling as good racers get. If you’re a long-term Ridge Racer fan, you might think you’ve found the Promised Land.
You’ll know you have when you reach for the online options, and realise that the game not only offers ranked global time trials but smooth, 14-player racing. It might not be newbie friendly – the overall standard seems fairly high – but competition is intense and, for once, you’re not worrying about your choice of car or whether you should race in cockpit or bumper-cam view – you’re just wondering whether you have the skill and the guts to move faster, break later, and hit the next corner harder than the next guy. Ridge Racer 6 is like Quake 4 deathmatch, while Project Gotham 3 is akin to Battlefield 2: it’s harsher, less intricate and more brutal, but every bit as compelling.
Needless to say, existing Ridge Racer fans should enlist straight away. Otherwise, you need to think hard about what Xbox 360 racing game is right for you. If you’re looking for detailed reproductions of real-world cars and courses, Project Gotham 3 is still the best bet, while Need for Speed: Most Wanted has that mainstream-friendly mix of fast-paced racing and reckless destruction. This leaves Ridge Racer 6 as one for the purists, but if so it’s the most exciting and enthralling purist’s racer around.
Kicks off like a Ridge Racer V style disappointment before transforming into the best Ridge Racer since Type 4. An essential buy for fans of classic arcade racing.