Format reviewed: PlayStation
Submitted by: Damian Butt
Before Bizarre Creations Namco was the master of arcade racing. The adrenaline-injected Ridge Racer set the arcades on fire and sold a million PlayStations. Revolution was its pumped up mature brother boasting a link mode that nobody played because no-one really knew it was there. And Rage Racer was the 1997 update, which completely changed the graphics, added cash for race wins, car upgrading and trophies.
Just when it looked like the future of PlayStation racing games was forever Namco, those cheeky upstarts at Sony shook the world with Gran Turismo – a hyper fast but also incredibly realistic driving simulation which featured more and better cars, mechanical tuning and a split screen two-player mode. How could this have happen? Namco, bettered in every department by a developer whose only credit until then was Motor Toon GP2! Something had to be done…
And that something was R4: Ridge Racer Type 4.
R4 used the same realistic muted colours of Rage Racer and this helped to make it look radically different to the two previous games, while at the same time competing directly with Gran Turismo. For my money, R4 was the better looking game, mainly due to the shading and the fact that many of the tracks are based on normal roads with impressive scenery, whereas GT was track orientated and therefore you saw only pine trees and advertising banners.
But at least Namco had got the drifting right. Of course it took being shamed by Sony, but finally a Ridge Racer game allowed you to flick your car into a graceful and controlled slide without fear of slamming into the wall in front of you (Ridge Racer 1 & 2) or suddenly losing all your speed for no apparent reason and thus making the slide absolutely pointless (Rage Racer). In R4 you simply turned in keenly, lifted off the throttle to make the back end go light, then re-applied the gas and opposite locked your way out of the hairpin – simplicity in itself.
The import version of R4 played its ace card when you flipped open the box to reveal two shiny CDs. One was the normal game disc and the other was – could it be true – a high resolution version of classic Ridge Racer, which ran at 60fps and was identical to the original arcade version. A package more desirable than Neve Campbell wrapped in a lottery cheque!