R: Racing (GameCube) Review

By Adam Riley 03.03.2004

Ridge Racer, have you heard of it? Famous as a hi-octane arcade racing title and infamous for spearheading the enormous success of the Sony PlayStation. Ah, you remember it now. Well, that was about ten years ago, when home racing had been restricted by the hardware available, the 16 bit SNES and Megadrive, so this 'next generation' exhilarating ride blew everyone away with its amazing control system, despite the fact that there were a very limited amount of tracks and sub-standard graphics. But continued success has not exactly been entirely forthcoming, with sales being hit and miss over the following five home iterations - three on the PSone, one of the PS2 and what many deem the best in the series, Ridge Racer 64, worked on by Nintendo's own NST. After Ridge Racer V failed to spark interest at the PS2's launch the Ridge Racer team seem to have decided to give the franchise a break and create something new...another racing game. Read on to find out how R: Racing Evolution shapes up to its sister series.

If you look at the title of this game, then the parent company and the actual development team then you could probably be forgiven for assuming that this is Ridge Racer VI, just under a pseudonym. You would be wrong, though, as drifting is a thing of the past, the arcade experience has been practically wiped out entirely and what you end up with is something more akin to the PlayStation phenomenon, Gran Turismo. So make sure that you leave your Ridge hats at the door and prepare yourself for licensed cars and serious, unforgiving gameplay. This is not racing for the feint of heart - brace yourself, it is definitely going to be a bumpy ride.

Put Ridge Racer V from the PS2 and this version of R: Racing together for comparison and you will be quite hard pushed to find many difference, which is quite appalling considering the fact that RRV came out way back when the PS2 was released! It would seem that since the Ridge team has never made a game for the GameCube (or XBOX either, in fact), it has not been able to produce the same standard of results Namco achieved with Soul Calibur 2, for instance. Or perhaps it was simply a case of the majority of the team working on the PS2 version and then merely porting/tweaking for the other platforms.

Screenshot for R: Racing on GameCube

The tracks are extremely plain looking and very bland in nature, with no special system effects put into process such as lighting techniques or detailed texturing - something that becomes all too apparent when viewing the now obligatory replays that follow each race; menus are rather basic, but still manage to retain that 'trendy' styling that Namco applies to all its Ridge racers; and despite the development length, everything looks slightly rushed.

In the game's defence, however, the car physics are mightily impressive, there is a nice smattering of reflective surfaces on each vehicle and each racer has a wide-range of licensed real-life logos adorning the car body. Finally, slowdown is not to be found, with the GameCube version sticking to a steady 60 frames per second...which is nice.

Music from the Ridge series has got a reputation for being very Japanese and quite an acquired taste. This time around matters have changed marginally, with some pleasingly cathcy tunes, although many are far too slow-paced or high tempo for the tracks they are allotted to in the default setting. Thankfully the option to choose which song is played during which menu screen of race track you are on has made the transition to this 'new' franchise.

What is a far better aspect, though, is the voice acting during the cut scenes and the in-game speech from your pit crew and even from rival racers who taunt you or become highly frustrated with you if driving too close to their behind or blocking them off. Everything is impressively programmed into R: Racing. That is why it is such a shame that the actual vehicle noises are such a shambles - resembling a bunch of bees that have just had their hive poked by a large stick repeatedly...

Screenshot for R: Racing on GameCube

If, like myself, you felt a warm feeling inside when R: Racing Evolution was originally announced, then that would probably be because you automatically assumed that from the title it was in effect Ridge Racer VI – rectifying many of the qualms that people had with the fifth iteration. But for this review it was necessary to wipe all thoughts of the Ridge series from the mind and compare to the likes of Project Gotham Racing or Gran Turismo. Although in this case it would most likely have been better to not be compared to such superlative titles.

To quickly summarise, you are faced with four play modes from that start – Racing Life, Time Attack, Arcade and two-player Versus. In the first mode, the story driven side of R: Racing, sees you in control of Rena, an ambulance driver who has more than a penchant for extreme velocities. The all-too-short narrative progresses over fourteen different chapters (each one a different race course) and is illustrated via some technically attractive video scenes that, in fact, overshadow the mediocre racing elements on far too regular a basis. From this point you clearly begin to understand that things do not bode well for the remainder of the game, even if you look at the modes available – such as 'Drag' and 'GT'.

There are some innovative aspects to uncover in the game, however, meaning that not all is lost. The main example is a little meter that appears above opponents' vehicles whilst racing, that will change colour, eventually turning red. Once this occurs, the driver will begin to lose control of his/her temper, thus increasing their risk of making mistakes or crashing. This is definitely something that should be included in more games in the future as it adds an extra element of skill to the racing. This ties in with the 'Reward Point System', with the player being awarded for things like staying close behind other drivers, where you have power-ups bestowed upon you as well as being able to unlock new cars.

Screenshot for R: Racing on GameCube

With the real-world vehicles, car upgrades, 'Interactive Driver AI System' and constant flow of communication between your team and rivals, it is just such a shame that the actual game controls feel so awkward and clumsy. Also, for some reason, there is a strong lack of speed whilst racing, something that is truly unforgivable in such a title...

Let me get straight to the point – you probably will not get enough life out of R: Racing Evolution. At first glance of the statistics, fourteen tracks across both real world and newly created locations might seem like quite a sufficient amount to play around with, especially considering that there are eight different racing styles and four main game modes. But you will soon realise that the tracks will actually wear pretty thin after a short time, the main mode of 'Racing Life' can be completed very rapidly and with little real effort, and that even though there are a nice variety of extra vehicles to unlock, some are not suitable for use on certain race course or are not even available to choose.

Some may argue the point that the main pull of the game is the multiplayer racing aspect, but after sampling the highly impressive NST Nintendo 64 version of Ridge Racer with a swanky four-player split-screen mode, it is quite difficult to understand why at least the same option was not included on the GameCube, a system with power far in excess of the N64! That just smacks of pure lazy programming…

Screenshot for R: Racing on GameCube

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Do a decent amount of tracks, realistic physics and unlockable real cars make a substantially enjoyable experience in a racing game? On paper, yes, but in reality it is a completely different matter. Look at the racing market and, as mentioned before, you will find that Gran Turismo and Project Gotham Racing 2 excel where R: Racing fails. For GameCube fans intent on buying a realistic racer instead would be wise to look in Need for Speed: Underground's direction instead. Ridge Racer this is not; a poor imitator of Gran Turismo is it...My advice? Rent, not buy, unless you are itching to get your hands on the free copy of Nintendo's immensely addictive, multi-player only, Pac Man Vs.

Developer

Namco

Publisher

EA

Genre

Driving

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (6 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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