Ridge Racer used to be a rather succesful arcade racer on the Playstation 1 but when Ridge Racer 5 became an utter failure on Playstation 2, Namco kinda dropped the series. They had a new idea: “If arcade-racing doesn’t sell anymore, we’ll make a realistic racing game!” and thus R: Racing was born.
However, with strong competition from titles like Project Gotham Racing and Gran Turismo, it’s not an easy market.
You can immediately deduct that this game’s origins lay in Japan. There they seem to have the following definition of a realistic racing game: “A race game where cars are driven by beautiful ladies (in other words: big boobs with a lovely women attached to them) in tight suits”. Male gamers won’t have any problems with this but a game does need some properties of a racing game as that’s finally what it should be. I’ll try to keep the ladies out of my mind and focus on the racing itself.
The storyline is as exciting as grandma rocking in her chair while smoking a cigarette. You play Rena Hayami, an ambulance driver who gets a call for an emergency. You say you’ll be there in 20 minutes but your future teamleader, Stephan Garnier, says the victim doesn’t have 20 minutes and that you’ll have to make it in 10.
Rena sees this as a challenge and through several different shortcuts she heads off. After arrival, Stephan asks where she learned to drive like that and tells her that later on a race will be driven. He asks Rena whether she’s interested in participating and that’s how her career starts.
I wonder whether the local mailman would ever have gotten the question whether he was interested in participating in the “Tour de France” ?
This story is of course from the story mode called “Racing Life”. You need to grow from zero to hero on the race circuit in a 14-chapter tale where the different parts are glued together by beautiful FMV’s (Full Motion Video).
Where did we see that before ? Oh right, in DTM Race Driver (aka TOCA). And that isn’t all Namco took from other games. You also get points for driving style like in Project Gotham Racing.
Isn’t there anything original in this game ? Of course there is and it comes in the form of the pressure meter. When you’re following another car, this will become nervous and the meter will start to fill up. Once full, the nervous car will make a flaw at the next curve or suddenly go into a spin.
Quite ridiculous of course that in fact all you need to do is follow cars to get rid of them and win the race.
During the whole time Stephan will keep in contact with you and yell things like “What do you think you’re doing!” and “You should slow down in the turn”. Sometimes he’s right but most of the time he’s dead wrong or his reactions are slower than that of a goldfish (and a goldfish forgets everything after 2 seconds). Oh yea, he keeps repeating himself aswell.
The graphics seem to be built uit of grain of a square millimeter which gives an extremely ugly effect. You’ll never get to see a straight line, instead it will be filled with pixels coming out of it. The car models on the other hand do look like in competing games, but we do have to say that it looks like the real version must have gotten quite an ironing job. All cars are from known and existing brands like Peugeot, Volkswagen, etc etc.
All 14 circuits can also be viewed in real life but I find it a pitty that there are only 14 of them in the game. That number isn’t a lot and some of them are just “reverse” versions of the original track so that in fact the amount of really different tracks is even less.
There’s rally tracks, a drag-racing circuit (completely straight ahead but the “reverse” version is strangely enough also put in the list), oval driving, etc… everyone should be able to find something they like. You can also start driving a rally circuit with a prototype car, but that’s not really a good idea.
I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the speed but didn’t really notice much of that myself. The first, weaker cars are indeed extremely slow, making the game boring as hell but later on the newer cars will go a lot faster.
You won’t reach the speeds you’re used from some other games, you’ll probably see it happen that you’re completely standing still while your meter states 80, but on the other hand you’ll also fly out of a curve.
You really need your brake in this game. In the beginning I used to crash all the time which immediately showed me that there isn’t a damage model in this game, not really adding to the fun and realism, and even a slight bump at another car will have you flying 30 meters off.
After a while I started to get the hang of it and could make nice turns which reflected in my point counter that suddenly started to go sky-high every time I nicely completed a curve. Don’t trust your point meter though as when you just drive straight through the grass while having an S-curve, points will still be added.
Your opponent’s AI has followed lessons at a decent driving school by the way. They never go over the speed limit. That much easier for you to win the race of course, but whether it’s much fun…
Once having finished ‘Racing Life’ (which won’t take too long) you can occupy yourself with the ‘Event Challenges’ which are seperate races where you need to pay to be able to participate but can win the money back with a ton of profit. There are so many different challenges that no normal human being will ever want to finish them all.
You’ve also got the “VS”-mode where you can compete with maximum 2 human players against each other but this is rather dull as 2 isn’t enough.
Does this game beat the previously mentioned topgames ? Hell no ! Is this game hiddiously bad ? No, but you won’t have a long time playing it and the graphics aren’t what you’d expect in this time and age either. Gamecube owners also get the game Pacman Vs. for free along with this which proves this connectivity of Nintendo might become interesting after all. Still, I didn’t count that into the score as PS2 and XBox owners don’t have that.