Haven't I raced this race before?
Ridge Racer was one of the Playstation's earliest games. Now that the PS2 is out, we're getting Ridge Racer V, one of the first games for the new system. And while it certainly improves upon the past, it doesn't offer much of a glimpse into the future.
Just looking at the DVD case, you can witness the obvious attempt to give the Ridge Racer license a new edge. That Ridge Racer V logo is now a glossy metallic sheen. Watch out, or you'll cut yourself on that sharp metal color printing! Heck, they even updated to a racier Ridge Racer girl. Hmm, how should I put this...she doesn't look particularly, uh, virtuous.
Underneath the new sheen there's the same solid Ridge Racer gameplay mechanics found in the Grand Prix racing mode. You select a car and start out last against thirteen other racers. Move up the ladder and rank in by the end of the third lap in order to go on to the next race.
The "Drift style" racing controls are still spot-on. As you wind into the turns, you lift off the gas. The car starts to "drift" due to its momentum. Almost immediately, you slam the gas and slide into that sharp turn, while you correct your direction with the steering wheel. Pull it off, and you'll get through with minimal loss of speed and a chance to catch up to the guy ahead of you. There's also "Grip Control," if that's how you prefer your racing - less loose, with a tighter grip on the road. Either way, these are some refined controls.
As you progress deeper into the game, you earn faster engines and cars. Of course, all the other racers are increasing in statistics relative to yours. Ultimately, the key to Ridge Racer has always been maintaining a maximum speed event through a sharp turn. With each upgrade, you'll have to hone your skills to match with the increased car performance.
In addition to the Grand Prix mode, there are other, more minor modes to wet your racing appetite. There's the basic Time Attack, where you can just race against the clock, sans competitors. Duel mode only opens up after you beat the record times in Grand Prix. Herein, you can go race computer opponents. If you win, you get their car. And if you feel like just testing out your newly earned car upgrade, you can take it to the Free Run mode. There's also a competent Vs. mode where you can play against human opponents, though the split screen is a little weak.
Yet despite all these steps towards giving an old series a new edge, they've still managed to forget the most important edges of them all: Polygon edges!
Just look at the screen and you'll see the bane of every Playstation 2 programmer and gamer. Here you are, racing down a track at a blistering 160 mph, but the fences, road, and buildings flicker due to the lack of anti-aliasing. Check out them zig-zaggity edges of doom! Watch out, or you'll cut yourself on those razor saws!
Appropriately named "jaggies," this problem is blaringly noticeable and full on annoying. Ridge Racer V was a launch title in Japan, and in all that time they haven't made any attempts to anti-alias this little puppy. If Namco could do it to Tekken Tag, why not here? Did the new Ridge Racer girl scare the programmers away?
Artistically, the graphics are shooting for a photo-realistic recreation of the previous Ridge Racing worlds. In fact, you aren't just racing in any old burb... you are racing in the one and only Ridge City. The city is a reference to the original track from the first Ridge Racer, but now there are 7 racetracks built around Ridge City. The back of the case promises you 14 tracks. Hmm... sounds nice, but really, you'll just find those 7 tracks forwards and backwards.
It all looks decent enough, but there's no spark of imagination or creativity here, no backdrops that truly inspire. All you'll find are different times of day, buildings here and there, and some mountains. An airplane or helicopter every now and then, too. Big whoopdee doo.
Speaking of tracks, the music just doesn't work very well. Some of it sounds like limp Japanese pop music. Another track reminds me of Rob Zombie, only very tranquilized and subdued. Oh, and you'll just love that one song where a woman just grunts throughout - Ungh, Ungh, Ungh. More like argh, argh, argh!
Ridge Racer V also shows some attitude with a radio DJ/sports announcer that offers his commentary during the game. This guy pipes in meaningless information about Ridge City and remarks on your race performance. He isn't very intelligent. You pull ahead of another driver. He says, "Wicked." Watch out, or you'll cut yourself on the announcer's sharp-as-a-spoon wit! Next time, leave this schmuck out of the game.
Ridge Racer V doesn't try to break from the ideas set forth by its predecessors. It's still the same game of "catch up" that it ever was, only now with a slight graphics boost - a boost that tries to wind its way around a turn, but instead falls regretfully off the edge. Even despite the jaggies, the game's graphics aren't all that ambitious or new. The game engine underneath is still strong, but somehow it lacks the same charm and fun as before. A decent start, but Ridge Racer V is simply not the cutting edge.