R4 Ridge Racer Type 4

a game by Namco Ltd.
Genre: Racing
Platforms: Playstation, PSX
Editor Rating: 8/10, based on 5 reviews
User Rating: 8.0/10 - 1 vote
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R4 Ridge Racer Type 4
R4 Ridge Racer Type 4
R4 Ridge Racer Type 4
R4 Ridge Racer Type 4

After reigning supreme as "king of racers" on the PlayStation for nearly three years, the Ridge Racer series was finally toppled earlier this year by Gran Turismo. It was bound to happen someday--but Namco isn't happy to sit back and see SCEE sit at the top of the heap for long. This December will see the Japanese release of R4 and a redressing of the balance. Whereas GT leans very strongly toward the "simulation" end of things, the Ridge Racers have always been about high-speed action rather than technical accuracy. R4 will be no different, but will push the very limits of the PlayStation in terms of graphical presentation. Rumored to be Namco's last game for Sony's box (because the system can't be pushed any harder), you can see from the screenshots that they convey an almost disturbing level of realism.

R4 will see eight completely different courses and 300 different cars (none of which are licensed, although they look suspiciously realistic)--although much of this lies in configuration of certain models along with their paint jobs.

Aside from the presentation, the other big changes are the Multiplayer Modes (supporting both two-player split screen and four-player link-up/split-screen action) and the new Grand Prix Mode, described by Namco representatives as being "RPG- like" in its complexity. Take on the role of driver, team manager and coffee boy as you tackle the politics of running a team between races. We have yet to see this in action, but hopefully we'll be able to bring you more information when we get our hands on a copy of the game next month.

  • MANUFACTURER - Namco
  • THEME - Racing
  • NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1-4

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Game Reviews

The new features in the latest Ridge Racer last month, but with each week we are learning more and more details about what is sure to be one of the first "big" games of 1999. After seeing the game at the Tokyo Game Show, the reports of R4 being the PlayStation's finest hour seemed less like hyperbole and more like fact. It truly is a gorgeous-looking game, but besides the extremely obvious cosmetic changes, Namco would appear to have pulled out all the stops in an attempt to establish R4 as the finest racer ever. Graphically it's certainly one of the most beautiful games on the system with amazing-looking visuals greatly enhanced by some of the most realistic looking lighting on any PlayStation game. Rumors abound that this may well be the last "AAA" PlayStation game from Namco because the teams can no longer push the hardware any further are yet to be confirmed, but it is hard to imagine many other developers surpassing the quality of this in the future. As has been previously reported, R4 doesn't feature any official car licenses. While this initially seemed somewhat disappointing after the precedent set by SCEI with Gran Turismo, having played the game it doesn't really matter that much. There are, in fact, more than 300 different car "styles" on offer here, mostly made up by combinations of car manufacturer and race team management influence (which affects body style and weight implications). Full details are yet to be announced as to how this will specifically work, but we can report that the PocketStation will feature in the gathering of all the cars (see sidebar "More than a game"). This sounds like it should be quite unique, but we'll wait and see before we pass judgement on the viability of this system. The game will be released in )apan in early December, so we will report on how well the system works next month.

Aside from the massive leap in the number of cars on offer, there is also a jump in the available number of tracks. Again, none of them are based on "real" courses, but the increase to eight available raceways will ensure that things are more interesting than Rage Racer.

In terms of gameplay modes, the most significant addition is the new Grand Prix Mode. This will act as the main section of gameplay and will be significantly more than just a series of races. The mode places the player as a (to quote Namco's recent announcement) "freelance racing driver" who jumps into the fray by signing a contract with one of four different racing teams before moving on to sign yet another contract with a car manufacturer. Performance in races is directly affected by combination of team and builder and the management of each. Once the player has the contracts, the racing begins and victories are rewarded with further cars being opened up. The quality of the new cars is apparently directly affected by performance and the general condition of the team within the Grand Prix.

Obviously the big question hanging over the success of R4 will be whether or not it is significantly better than Gran Turismo. It's obvious that Namco has taken a good hard took at the competition and has chosen to produce a very different kind of game, despite dealing with similar subject matter. While GT is very much a strict simulation set within a realistic play environment, R4 would appear to be going for a more "arcade" feel with a greater sense of progression provided directly by the game.

The first killer app for the PlayStation returns, and its still packing surprises. R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 serves up adequate arcade fun in a simulation shell--even if it does suffer from an identity crisis.

A Motorized Mutant

Boasting eight tracks and over 300 cars (counting all team-variations and paint jobs), R4's wheels range from Europe's fastest works of art to sleek modified roadsters and bizarre concept vehicles. What you drive depends on which racing team you join and how well you perform. Whether you choose the easier grip cars or powersliding drift-machines, you won't find the classic road-hugging Ridge Racer physics. The cars sway on their shocks as they corner, but bob back and forth cartoonishly when they make contact with another vehicle. Its neither sim nor arcade, but a strange hybrid.

For a twist, R4 introduces story elements: for instance, a flirtatious romance with the female owner of the French team or a need to earn the respect of the Japanese team's crew chief. Simply put, winning races will win you friends.

Chrome Sweet Chrome

Ridge 4 features beautiful graphics on every front--detailed scenery, nighttime lighting, killer replays--and yes. its at least as pretty as Gran Turismo. Alas, R4 was built for beauty rather than speed; while pop-up is kept to a minimum, the illusion of speed isn't very good. The pace picks up once you get into Grand Prix mode's final stages, but why should you have to wait? The game needs more camera views, too.

Similarly, the game blows a flat with irritating, mixed-genre music, lackluster engine sounds, and a goofy male announcer. The analog steering's a dream, but the two-player races lack excitement. Probably the single most annoying element, however, is the interface: a maze of endless menus. Lets just race already!

Gran Tungdemo ?

With both Need for Speed and Gran Turismo rewing for another lap, its tough to back R4 as a first-place finisher. The game seems firmly wedged between its arcade past and the genres simulation future, resulting in racing that's fun but ultimately flawed. Don't buy it without taking Need for Speed: High Stakes for a spin first.

ProTips:

  • There's no easy way around the 90-degree turn near the docks on Out of Blue. Brake and take it wide from the left for best results.
  • Plot a course straight through Wonder-hill's late S-curves, and you can easily dust the competition.
  • If you keep the accelerator down as you powerslide around a corner, you'll redline the engine. Let up to regain traction and power.
  • The best time to shift with a manual transmission is when the tachometer hits 8.5.
  • The last track. Shooting Hoops, is also the easiest Just floor it and pick your line; braking is a waste.
  • If you tap another driver from behind, you'll push them ahead and lose momentum. It's better to brake than bump.

Graphics

Its hard to argue with the high-res splendor of R4. Great textures on both cars and environments, subtle details like fireworks and passing aircraft, as well as a lack of pop-up make Ridge's world very believable.

Sound

The vacuum-cleaner engine whines may grate on your nerves, but they're better than the lopsided soundtrack, which can't decide if it's pop, jazz, rock, or lounge. It winds up being simply exasperating.

Control

While handling still depends on the quality of your car, analog-stick steering is smooth and there are plenty of presets from which to choose. The two-thumb mojo required to steer the special Jogcon controller, however, proves more tr ouble than its worth.

Fun Factor

There's enough here to thrill fans of the series, but the disappointing two-player mode hurts replay value, and unlocking the cars becomes tedious. Still, if you've got room in your gaming garage after testing Need for Speed: High Stakes, R4's a solid acquisition.

Overview

One of the longest running series on the PSX has reached its fourth incarnation. Looking to follow up on the success of Rage Racer, Namco has made some changes, tweaked a few things and come out with one of the best arcade style racers to hit the streets in a long time. Make no mistake about it, this game has nothing simulation about it. It is pure arcade action so if you are looking for realistic cars and real physics, I suggest you stick with Gran Turismo.

Throughout the life of the series, the developers have tried a number of different tactics. From the all out arcade action of the original Ridge Racer to the introduction of a money system in Rage Racer. Apparently a decision was made to throw out the simulation aspects and go back to the roots of the arcade gameplay. Also addressed was the complaint from the critics in regards to the lack of tracks. Now gamers have eight unique tracks to learn inside and out. This game is definitely on the must by list for this years racers.

Gameplay

I have always been a fan of this series. I enjoyed the arcade action of the original Ridge Racer as well as the simulation aspects of Rage Racer. Well, the developers have had a change to sit back and watch the competition grow in this crowded genre and strike when the time was right. With the like of Need for Speed, Test Drive and Gran Turismo constantly jockeying for position, Ridge Racer 4 (RR4) decided to forgo licensed cars, realistic physics or money systems and have gone back to its roots of being a pure arcade racer.

Many things have changed through the years. The bar has been raised so high that the PSX may be running out of power top keep up with the developers active minds. I think that RR4 does a great job of squeezing as much as possible out of the PSX but I can't help but feel that they are reaching a point where they will not be able to get much more out of it. With that being said, this has got to be one of the nicest looking and playing racing games to come around in a long time. There are so many things that the game does right that it will be difficult for me to touch on all of them so I will do my best at hitting the high points. There are a few minor complaints that I will also touch upon but keep in mind, these are very nitpicky.

The best improvement in this game hands down has got to be the number of tracks. Like I said, I have always enjoyed this series but have also been disappointed by the lack of tracks. In the previous games, there have been only three tracks which were actually just extensions of each other. That meant that the second track was just an extension of the first track and the third track was just an extension of the first and second. This whole concept has been thrown out the window in favor of unique tracks. Well, this is not entirely true because some of the tracks share small portions between them, for the most part there are eight unique tracks to learn. The small amount of shared track is hardly noticed.

The fact that there are more unique tracks is one thing that added to the driving experience of the game but what may be even more impressive was the design of the tracks. There were tracks that require great cornering. There were tracks that required all out speed. There were tracks requiring a mixture of both cornering and speed. After playing the game for awhile, it finally dawned on me what was unique about the tracks. It was the use of depth that other racing games just lacked. What I mean by this is that I would really feel like I was driving around a city because the roads are not just curvy but they are hilly and curvy. It was not uncommon to go down a dip and then drive up a large hill that I could not see over. When I got to the top of the hill, there was a corner that I had to react to instantly. I think the best comparison I can make would be racing on a roller coaster track. I don't know why more games don't use this type of track design because to me, it made all the difference in the world.

So enough about the tracks you will be racing on, let's talk about the cars you will be racing. Since this game is not striving for realism, there are no licensed vehicles. Does it hurt the game? I don't know, you will have to decide how important driving real vehicles are to you. To me, I couldn't care less. Sure it is nice driving a Ferrari around but as far as I am concerned, it may as well be a fictitious car because I will never drive the real one in my lifetime. So if you can get over the fact that the cars are not real, you will find that the selection of cars can be huge. Of course, they all need to be won in some form or another but in the end, there are over 300 variations of cars that you can win. I will get into how you win the cars a little later but let me just say that while the challenge of opening up all of the cars adds to the replay value, I don't know of many people who will stick it out long enough to get them all.

There are two very distinct types of cars in the game: the drift and the grip. The cars are exactly as the names suggest. The drift cars use a sliding technique for cornering whereas the grip cars stick to the road more and corner without breaking traction. Let me be the first to tell you that these cars handle so differently that you will begin to wonder if you are playing a different game. I started out with a drift car and it was almost like the corners were covered with ice. After I learned to control the cornering, I got quite comfortable with the way they handled. I then tried racing a grip car and I could not corner to save my life. There was no sliding at all. As much as I tried to get the thing to break traction, it just would not. After a few races, I did finally get used to the different style of racing but I still preferred the drift cars. Just be prepared for two totally different types of racing.

When it comes to the types of racing, this game should have just about everyone covered. You can race a time trial to beat the fastest lap scores, race a buddy head to head, race another computer controlled car head to head or race in the Grand Prix. The Grand Prix is where most people will spend their time and it is also where you will unlock most of your cars. The Grand Prix is made up of eight different races broken up into three sections. The first two races you must finish in the top three to qualify. The second two races you must finish in the top two to qualify and in the last four races, you must finish number one to advance. You will win new cars depending on your qualifying position early on in the Grand Prix. For example, if you finish the first two races in first place, your team will get behind you and spend money buying you the fastest available car. If you finish in second on both, they may buy you a new car but they will tune it down so it does not go as fast. The bottom line is to just finish in first and you will get the best cars available.

One thing that I did not particularly like about the game was the whole team philosophy. While I did not mind the teams so much, I really did not like the way that they had the head mechanic or whoever it was talking to you between races. They really tried to add a story to the game, which I thought just got in the way. I thought the decision was made to go for an arcade racer so why try to turn it into a Role Playing game as well? Like I said, nitpicky but still annoying. I just wanted to race and this got in my way.

Also included with the game is a special version of the original game that is enhanced to run at 60 FPS in high resolution. I have not played the original Ridge Racer in quite awhile and it did bring back some memories. Since they did not change the controls to be analog compatible, it also brought back memories about how difficult it was to race with the digital control pad. Man, if you are still using a digital pad, you really need to try analog. It may have been one of the best technologies to come along in a long time. Don't believe me? Try playing RR4 with the analog controller and then playing Ridge Racer with the digital pad and then tell me I am wrong.

Graphics

The graphics in this game are spectacular. The scenery is second to none and you really feel like you are flying up and down the hills and around the corners. I really feel like the PSX is starting to show its limits. While the developers would probably never admit to it, I can bet that there was more that they wanted to do with the game but just could not. When is that damn PSX2 supposed to be released anyway?

Bottom Line

If you are a fan of arcade racing, you won't be disappointed. The number of tracks mixed in with the brilliance in design should keep you playing for quite awhile. You may not have the patience to try and unlock all 300 cars, you should find more than enough replay value just trying to learn the different driving techniques for the different cars. While this is still not my favorite racing game of all time, it ranks up there near the top.

Ridge Racer returns to the PlayStation racing drcuit with R4-but the game has a new sim-like feel.

Rage Racer Revolution?

One of the PlayStation s premier racing series. Ridge Racer is back for a third lap of intense racing with R4: Ridge Racer Type 4. R4, however, is somewhat of a departure from previous Ridge titles (Ridge Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution). In fact, it's more in the vein of Namco's Rage Racer--especially R4's racing style, which features tighter controls and greater reliance on powersliding and drifting.

The varying characteristics of the car classes also bring R4 closer to Rage. Some classes have better grip, some are better for drifting, and so on. Also, certain types of cars perform better on certain tracks, making R4 somewhat more of a sim than a pick-up-and-play arcade-style racing game.

Gassed with Extras

R4 is loaded with features. You can race on eight tracks in over 300 cars, though some vehicles can be accessed only when you advance. You'll test your racing skills in one of three modes, plus Grand Prix and Time Attack while up to four players can race against each other with the PlayStation Link Cable via a split-screen view. Another option lets you design your car's look by creating your own insignia and other coollooking decals.

R U Ready 4 R4?

An extra disc with an enhanced version of the original Ridge Racer is bundled with R4. The updated version features hi-res graphics and runs at 60 frames per second. Other minor improvements have been made to the original Ridge as well--like new billboards alongside the track and Dual Shock compatibility.

The last Ridge Racer game for the PlayStation came out two years ago. Since then, several other tides have come to rule the racing circuit, most notably Need For Speed III and Gran Turismo. Can Ridge Racer regain the racing crown with R4? Stay tuned to GamePro for more info.

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