[This is the second entry in a countdown of the best Ridge Racer games. I recommend you read the introduction before reading this; it includes a brief history of the series and links for each entry.]
Ridge Racer V feels like a victim of circumstance. Released on a new generation of hardware only 15 months after its predecessor, I suppose that there was only so much this game could do.
Now, don't get me wrong, it's a fine game. The act of driving feels a lot better than it did in Rage Racer (if a little weightier both in and out of drifts), and it looks and runs great for a PS2 launch title. 60 frames per second really goes a long way, and the aesthetic does an impressive job of bringing everything together. That being said, RRV just feels like it's missing something.
The whole game is set around Ridge City, where a series of racing tournaments are taking place. In-game radio station 76.5 Ridge City FM (call sign RIDGE, of course) serves as an in-game guide of sorts, with DJ Ken Ayugai narrating the action and giving the player a primer on the Grand Prix as the game starts. It's not exactly as cool as the DJ from the Warriors, but making the in-game announcer and soundtrack a part of the in-game world is an appreciated touch.
Speaking of the soundtrack, it's one of the more eclectic in the series, going outside of its comfort zone with its featured artists. The radio station framing gives way to some licensed tracks by Japanese band Boom Boom Satellites, German DJ Mijk Van Dijk, and an original song by Takeshi Ueda of the Mad Capsule Markets (of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 fame) that calls to mind the Gabber frenzy of Ridge Racer 1 and 2's nuttier tracks. Despite this focus on licensed music, however, my favorite music comes from Namco's own. Series cornerstone Nobuyoshi "sanodg" Sano gives the game some night driving perfection with Paris, and his "Rare Hero" series of songs makes a triumphant return (after having last been seen in 1995's Rave Racer) with Rare Hero 2000. I also have to mention Kōta Takahashi, whose tracks include a remix of Ridge Racer 2's Grip and the delightfully campy Daredevil, which exudes the kind of endearing rock-and-roll cheese you would sooner expect from one of SEGA's arcade racers. As a whole, RRV's soundtrack ranks on the lower end for me, but the highs are pretty high.
All of this has the makings of a solid Ridge Racer game, so what's missing? For starters, courses to race on. Ridge Racer V has a grand total of seven racetracks, which may be a higher amount than any of the arcade games have, but it comes with some major caveats. Of these seven tracks, four of them are based on tracks from the original Ridge Racer, and just a quick look at the course layouts can tell you why that'd be a problem. The remaining three tracks are fairly standard highway races and a high-speed oval around an airport. None of these tracks really excite, and the repetitive nature of the Grand Prix mode means that you find yourself in the doldrums pretty quickly.
Ridge Racer V isn't a bad game, but it just can't escape its lack of content. Earlier games would step around this issue by having a focus on perfect runs or copious amounts of unlocks, but Ridge Racer V lacks a significant hook beyond "here's Ridge Racer on a new console." It makes a convincing argument for how far technology had come since the original PlayStation, but ultimately has little to say about the growth of Ridge Racer itself.