Transitions: The Launch Games/End Games Blog

Posted on Oct 8th 2010 at 02:51:11 PM by (dsheinem)
Posted under launch games, launch game, end game, Ridge Racer, racing, PS2

This is the second part of a five part series looking at those titles in the Ridge Racer series of games that have been launch titles.  Part 1 covered the first Ridge Racer game, for the PS1.  This entry covers Ridge Racer V for the PS2.

The first Ridge Racer was arguably the highlight of the PS1 launch, being the only game featured as a launch title in all three major regions.  It was also the only arcade-style racer released at that system's launch, and so for many it had helped to define Sony's first console from the very start as the place to go for arcade quality titles.  Certainly Sony had high hopes that Ridge Racer V would live up to this legacy.

When the PS2 launched ten years ago this month (October 2000 in the USA), the gaming landscape was markedly different from what it had been when Sony's PS1 hit stores five years prior.  The second golden age of the arcade (the mid 90s) had ended, arcade style racing games were losing market share to driving simulation games such as Gran Turismo, and gamers had become accustomed to graphically polished and in-depth experiences from the racing genre.  They had also become accustomed to choice, as there were probably a dozen racing franchises in active production at the turn of the millennium.  Fortunately for Namco, Ridge Racer Type 4 had been quite successful and so hopes were high for Ridge Racer V.  Nonetheless, V certainly had to contend with a different context than its PS1 launch game predecessor.  How did it fare?  As a launch title, it is significant for several reasons:

Ridge Racer V

It was the only traditional racing game at the PS2 launch.  The PS2 launch had no shortage of opportunities for gamers to drive fast .  On launch day, Smuggler's Run, Wild Wild Racing, Midnight Club: Street Racing, and Moto GP offered racing fans a wide selection of titles that could address their need for speed,  but only Ridge Racer V offered the option to drive a racing car around a traditional track in an arcade style racer. This seems like it was probably a deliberate choice by Sony, as they did this with the first Ridge Racer game at the PS1 launch and would repeat this model with the PS3 launch.

It was a return to the series' roots. In an often criticized move, Ridge Racer V stripped away many of the additions the series had seen over the years in terms of gameplay, car selection, customization, and other more simulation style racing enhancements.  The main track is similar to the one featured in Ridge Racer 1, and all the tracks are quite similar to one another.  The main gameplay mode is a Grand Prix mode for trophies, but there are only a few interesting rewards for doing well.  In other words, it is very much like the first Ridge Racer. 

Ridge Racer Type 4 shipped as a special edition with this Namco JogCon force feedback controller.  The controller could also be used in Ridge Racer V.

It was a showcase for PS2 graphics...but not in a good way.   Graphically, Ridge Racer V is a competent title and arguably looked better than the previous entries in the series with the possible exception of Type 4.  The tracks have more shading, lighting is better implemented, some nice spark effects are used, and the menus are slick.   But, the game features lots of flickering and aliasing problems (or "jaggies") which were a major concern at the PS2's launch.  One argument that some Dreamcast owners made was that their games featured a smoother look than those on the PS2, and Ridge Racer V was a common punching bag for these criticisms. 

An example of the "jaggies" found throughout the game.

It was really hard. Well, at least I thought so.  I can do pretty well in most of the Ridge Racer games without running into many problems until the latest levels.  Not so with V.  I've struggled with this game from some of the very earliest stages - in part because of the looser steering, in part because of some of the issues with graphics, but mostly because of the cheap AI and unresponsive controls.  It isn't that I can't drive the cars, but there often seems to be a disconnect between what I want the car to do and what it actually does.  This is certainly one of the more punishing games from the PS1 launch.

It failed to showcase many of the PS2's best features.  The audio CD-swapping trick, the unlocakables, and the mini-game features found in the original Ridge Racer all showcased the capabilities of the PS1.  There is nothing about Ridge Racer V which suggested the PS2 was a machine that could do new things or do old things better.  Part of the reason the PS2 sold well out of the gate was because it was a DVD player and because DVD-based games could hold much more information.  Ridge Racer V shipped on CD and didn't really feature very much content compared to some of the earlier CD-based titles in the series.  Furthermore, it didn't provide surround sound, use the new ports found on the system, or really push the hardware the way that some of the other launch titles did. 

It would be the only PS2 Ridge Racer game.  Perhaps all you need to know about Ridge Racer V's ability to hook people on the PS2 or get them interested in future racing games comes from this fact.  Whereas the PS1 had seen four Ridge Racer titles in five years, the PS2 turns ten this year with only one Ridge Racer game to its credit. 

In retrospect, even though Ridge Racer V offered a fully fledged arcade racing experience, it seemed like a rushed and incomplete project that failed to distinguish itself amongst the PS2 launch lineup the way that the first game in the series had on Sony's first console.  In future installments, we'll explore whether or not the series' other launch titles addressed these shortcomings.

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Glad it wasn't just me who found this game crazy hard.  I assumed it was because I missed the initial launch games of the first Playstation and therefore didn't play the first few Ridge Racers that much.

It was an interesting game with some fun aesthetics, but even at release I felt it quite subpar to the excellent Ridge Racer Type 4, a game that I still prefer to play over the first two Gran Tourismos. 

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