As you get into the special class cars, you'll start to encounter all kinds of weird-looking designs.
While competing against ghosts and racing for the fastest time are cool, a more exciting aspect is the game's full-fledged multiplayer support, which can handle up to 14 racers, total, though the game always defaults to eight players. Like most other Xbox Live games on the Xbox 360, Ridge Racer 6 lets you select player match for basic racing or ranked matches if you want it to count. You earn points as you win races, and a global scoreboard keeps track of the point leaders. Since the player with the highest rank starts at the very back of the pack, the online racing tends to maintain some level of challenge as your skills improve. Performance-wise, the game seems to handle higher player counts pretty well, though that also seems to be a factor of the host's Internet connection. It may let you go all the way up to 14, if you want, but it probably defaults to eight for a reason. If Xbox Live isn't your thing, you can also play two-player games on a split-screen. This seems to work just fine, but it's not especially exciting.
If you look long and hard, you'll see a few flaws with the graphics. The textures on the car models are occasionally blurry. The road textures often don't look so great, and you'll see some aliasing here and there, but the game probably has the smoothest frame rate of any of the Xbox 360 launch games and a great sense of speed to back it up. When you get into the class four and special vehicles, you really start to feel like you're flying down the track. Also, the environments are pretty detailed. One track is set on an airport runway, and you'll see lots of jetliners around the course, including one that's cleverly decorated with the drum characters from Taiko Drum Master. One track has a large dinosaur statue, and another features a series of great-looking satellite dishes. There are even a few night courses in there that take you through a brightly lit city area, complete with tunnels filled with colored lighting. While the somewhat simple technical nature results in a game that might not always look better than other Xbox 360 games, the smooth frame rate really goes a long way, resulting in a game that looks great regardless of the resolution you're running in.
If you're already tired of the Ridge Racer formula, this game isn't going to change your mind.
The sound in Ridge Racer games has always been focused on the music and the announcer. Both are back, and both adhere to that unmistakable Ridge Racer aesthetic. The music is a good collection of fast-paced electronic music, including the requisite Rotterdam-style gabber track, though there are also plenty of smoother tunes, including one that samples music and effects from Galaxian and Galaga, two of Namco's classic arcade hits.
The announcer is a real knucklehead. Well, Ridge Racer announcers are almost always real knuckleheads. But this one's really something. With the addition of nitrous to the game, the first lap of each race tends to consist of the 14 cars on the track jockeying for position and, usually, busting off with a whole lot of nitrous. And any time any racer near you does this, the announcer mentions it. "Here comes some crazy nitrous" seems like it's uttered at least three times per race, but there are plenty of other N2O-fueled lines of announcer dialogue, too. There will be spots where the announcer spits off three or four nitrous lines in a row, all in the course or 20 or 30 seconds. It's just weird, and even though there's variety to what the announcer's saying, it starts to sound repetitive quickly. You can eventually unlock an alternate announcer voice. The rest of the sound is functional, but not especially dramatic. The game's exhaust sounds are very subdued, for one, and the sound effect of tires squealing on the pavement as you drift is roughly the same sound every time. Considering some races have you drifting almost constantly, hearing the same squeals for hours and hours gets old quickly.
Ridge Racer 6 might not be the most impressive technical achievement on the Xbox 360 this year, but the racing is fast and rewarding enough to hook you in. And once you're addicted, you might not stop until you've unlocked every last race and car. Considering there are well over 200 races and over 100 cars, that's going to take some time. So if you're a fan of racing games in search of high-speed thrills both online and off, Ridge Racer 6 has a lot going for it.