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Review By: Joe Rolfe
Developer: Namco
Publisher: Namco
# of Players: 1-2
Genre: Racing
ESRB: Everyone
Date Posted: 11-25-00

Like Namco’s own Tekken franchise, the Ridge Racer series have always been a staple in it’s respective genre – this being racing. Every single title under the Ridge Racer name has been based around simple, arcadey driving gameplay. Though these reduced measures usually spell doom in many other racing games in terms that they don’t offer a whole lot in comparison to more heavy sim-based games, Ridge Racer excels in one particular – and usually revered as the most important – area: fun. Namco’s effort to perfect the "art" of powersliding while coasting at 120 mph. shined through from beginning to end during every RR game, and that reason alone is why I’ve been a fan of these games since the initial copy.

As a result, I was overjoyed about the announcement in regards to Ridge Racer V launching with the PlayStation 2. My favorite racing series ever (well, next to Mario Kart, of all games…) would make a return on next-generation hardware, and that could only mean good things, right? Well, partially. Early reports of the Japanese release founded that the game was plagued with ugly anti-aliasing problems, not to mention that the title felt more like a quick rush job of a cash in for Namco instead of a full-fledged experience like RR4. Despite this, I still picked up RRV shortly after the North American PS2 launch. After plugging in quite some time with the game, I came to the conclusion that, even though a few of the annoyances from the Japanese product are still present, RRV is still a solid, fun game that should please past fans and those looking for a great experience.

Okay, the ugly stuff out of the way first. We all have heard about (and in some cases, heard too much about) the anti-aliasing quandary found in RRV. While not totally noticeable, the presence of jaggies and the stair-stepping effect is still quite apparent. The cars and tracks themselves have a sharp, pointy look to them that bring down RRV’s visual grade a tad. Namco decided to fix Tekken Tag Tournament’s jaggies, so why no love for Ridge Racer? The AA problem isn’t something that should turn off any gamer, but one could think why the big N chose not to change this for the U.S. debut.

Also on tap, RRV has some slight flickering problems, too. The screen will flash and sparkle at the most confusing of times. However, RRV’s two-player mode shows the game’s biggest technical issue – fog and pop up. No matter what track you’re on, or how much density is in the background, a thin blanket of pea soup will mask the sky. More so, a case of building/banner pop up attacks RRV as well. Ironically, the default – and only selectable – view is the in-the-car/dashboard perspective, yet we are still faced with these inconstancies. Now, neither grudges keep the game from being totally unplayable with a friend, but most players will be so disgusted with these dilemmas, ones that the Dreamcast or even Nintendo 64 could probably attend to, that they’ll just give up on the multiplayer on whole.

Other than those few occurrences, Ridge Racer V’s graphics are still quite good. Cars are full of polygons, tracks are detailed with great light sourcing, and some impressive particle and smoke effects are a near compromise for the predicaments I spoke of before. Unlike the two-player mode, driving solo gives a great representation of what the PS2 hardware can do. A consistent 60-FPS rate with no slowdown whatsoever keeps RRV looking smooth at all times, with hardly any draw in or pop up to be found. Gran Turismo 3 may still have a great visual punch, but Ridge Racer V is nevertheless a beauty in it’s own right.

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