Ridge Racer 6

Ridge Racer 6 is looking to continue the ongoing legacy of Namco's arcade racing series with style, and, thus far, it's a very good contender for those lucky enough to score a system with next week's launch. The good folks at Namco managed to show us a new build of the game, complete with flowing graphic details, a steady frame rate, vivid track designs, and a few unlockable goodies that are so noteworthy, we can't even reveal the details as to waht you'll find. Let's just say that, being a Namco product, you can expect a familiar name to reappear.

But the focus of this article isn't straight-up hands-on, but rather a look at the online components of Ridge Racer 6, which will allow the series to expand for the first time through Internet connectivity. There's two different things you can mess around with online- either the Global Time Attack or the straight-up online play. With Global Time Attack, you're able to download some of the best "ghost" times on the 360 and pit yourself against this driver to see if you can possibly beat them. The second, being the full-on races against other competitors, allows you to race up to thirteen other racers in a constant battle for first place, where the timely use of drifting and the triple turbo system will definitely come into play.

We had some time with both of these modes, as well as a quick shop-through of the online features within the game, and it's looking like a very impressive build. You have the ability of joining a race that's already in progress (depending if the invite is available), or hosting an event of your own, which allows your friends to find you quickly and fill available slots in the race. From there, it just takes a little bit of time for the race to get prepared, and, seconds later, you're off in competition, and you best get ready with your boosting because you'll need to keep up.

The road test we took part in involved a couple of Namco's efficient testers, who knew their way around their drifts and built up turbos in a hurry. This unfortunately led to what some might call an "ass-whooping", but the thrill of competition was still hard to deny, and there's so many rides that you can choose from in which to compete against others. Some handle a bit differently than others (especially the swerve-crazy Men In Black-like convertible, complete with a neat rocket booster set), but they all manage to stay on the road if you keep the course. The frame rate was steady, only dropping around 20-30 frames at little times and remaining smooth the rest of the way. Namco anticipates that the servers will handle the action rather well.

Global Time Attack really has some pros online, at least from the server that we managed to access. In this mode, we found plenty of competition that had some near impossible lap times, and the ghost car appears on the track without colliding with your vehicle and your attempts to get a better time. This mode is ideal if none of your friends are online or if you're up for perfecting your drift style to the point that you have a triple boost set to go. Note to expert drivers: Go for the higher class vehicles and you'll find the meter filling faster.

We also managed to play around a little bit with split-screen multiplayer, and while some of the frame rate staggers slightly in this mode, it still retains all its fine details and offers a good dual versus setting for those who can't get online. It's a shame that the game doesn't offer a four-player set-up similar to Ridge Racer 64, but the online options more than make up for this.

Ridge Racer 6 arrives in stores next week, and although it faces some incredibly fierce competition from Microsoft's own Project Gotham Racing 3, it looks like it has options and cars aplenty, online or not. Look for a full review shortly, and get ready for the fun of Ridge Racer all over again.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.