Ridge Racer V
All the truth about one of the most criticized launch titles.
Ridge Racer and Gran Turismo. Two games, two different ideas of what a racing game should be. Gran Turismo, published and developed by Polyphony, has always been focused upon a strong realism; the circuits are identical to those real while the cars are astounding copies of real existing vehicles: in the second instalment of the series on PsOne there were more than 580 different playable models. Ridge Racer, through the four games of the series, has always featured imaginary tracks and fantastic cars, drawn by Namco's artists. In brief, two types of games for two types of players.
After this necessary premise, waiting for the release of the bystander expected Gran Turismo 3, let's bathe in Ridge Racer V. A game treated too badly by reviewers.
The game opens with a beautiful introductory sequence rendered in real time using the graphic engine of the game. Besides the cars which speed among curves and straight stretches, Ai Fukami, the new cover girl of the game, appears. The Japanese players literally go crazy for these virtual girls, and seeing the number of web sites dedicated to them, we can really say that this is not only a Japanese mania. You'll immediately discover the great care used in the graphics looking at Ai's hair and at the reflections over the cars' bodies. Pressing start you will have access to the options menu from which you can select the difficulty level for your game and you can decide a gameplay mode.
The very first time you'll play Ridge Racer V, you'll be forced to choose the Grand Prix Mode. This game mode includes two other modes (oh my god this is difficult!): Standard Mode and Extra Mode. After you'll have beaten the game in the Standard Mode you can play the Extra Mode. Anyhow, once completed your first Grand Prix you are given access to Time Attack Mode and Free Run Mode; later in the game the Duel Mode will be available, too. In Time Attack you have to establish a new record on a circuit; in the Free Run mode you'll simply have to race alone in order to train your skills. In the Duel Mode, which is undoubtedly the best mode featured in Ridge Racer, you'll have to compete against a powerful super-car; if you'll win the race, this car will become yours. To tell the truth, Ridge Racer is full of secrets; there are many fanciful secret cars like the Pac-Man Vehicle (you know, Namco is the software house who created Pac-Man twenty years ago) or the Volkswagen New Beetle. The more you play the game the more cars are improved. In fact, at the beginning only 6 cars are available.
The cars are divided, like in the previous instalments of the series, in "drift" cars and "grip" cars. The drift cars are able to perform prodigious swerves and they guarantee a great control while the grip cars reach unbelievable speeds on the straight stretches but they require a skilled player to overcome difficult situations like hairpin bends.
I really must say that the learning curve for this game is a bit steep; at higher levels, if you don't succeed in overcoming your opponents from the very beginning, you will have to sweat in order to win the race. Controls are extremely sensitive and you have to steer with a great precision to face a curve. What's surprising here is the extraordinary sense of speed that is perceived darting on the beautiful tracks drawn by Namco's artists.
The game features a multiplayer mode for two players, for which the classical split screen is used. Strangely, in this mode you'll be forced to race in a subjective mode; it's not clear if this is due to a limit of the graphic engine. Anyhow, Ridge Racer V is a good game that introduces many amusing game modes and difficult yet well calibrated controls. If you love the series you'll love this one too; to all the others this game will seem initially a bit tricky, but you'll soon discover it's worth the trouble.