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In an attempt to add some depth, NAMCO have muddles the Ridge Racer experience into a mess...
R: Racer is considered as the spiritual successor to NAMCOs arcade racing series Ridge Racer; however fans expecting a traditional update will certainly be in for a shock.
Recognising the current popularity of simulators over arcade based racers, NAMCO have decided to try and walk the fine line between the depth offered through a simulator and the fast and fun controls of an arcade racer â?“ however unfortunately it doesnâ??t entirely come off.
Thatâ??s not to say R: Racer is a bad game, in fact it offers a variety of innovative ideas, some of which work better then others, whilst providing a mildly enjoyable racing experience. The main innovation lies in the Pressure Meter, depicting a meter that increases whenever you get behind an opponents car and hide in the slipstream to represent the pressure that youâ??re applying to the other driver. If you can hold this position until the gauge entirely fills up, then the driver will likely begin to make mistakes and will probably spin off at the next corner. Itâ??s a great idea, but sadly not as effectively implemented as we could have hoped for; the main problem stems from the fact that youâ??ll only find yourself racing against five other cars, which means that all of the skill of racing is thrown out of the window because you can easily just make them all spin from the track.
Following on from the success of TOCA Pro Race Driver and its imminent sequel, R: Racer features a running narrative that sees the player take on the role of a young Japanese woman named Rena, as she rises up the ranks from an Ambulance driver to the top of the racing circuit â?“ ok so slightly unbelievable, however itâ??s an aspect that we like to see in racing titles. The story does a good job of sustaining the players interest when the actual racing experience is found lacking; throughout the story mode youâ??ll build up friendships and rivalries, although itâ??s a shame that the actual progress is so linear with players having to win races to progress â?“ why canâ??t we have a little bit of scope to this aspect, see what happens when we loose and build up dynamic friendships or rivalries depending on the players actions, instead of relying on scripted events.
As weâ??ve said before the game exhibits some neat ideas, but unfortunately itâ??s on the track where everything begins to fall apart. Trying to maintain a balance between arcade and sim, the end result is a racing experience that feels completely shallow. The physics engine is particularly poor, giving no indication of bumps in the road or different surface types like the magnificent Project Gotham Racing 2 whilst having nowhere near to the thrills and excitement of arcade racers such as the Ridge Racer series â?“ it truly is a uninspiring mess!
Trying to hint that the game incorporates a substantial level of depth to the racing dynamic, the game automatically grants you Brake Assist, however unless youâ??re the most incompetent of race drivers youâ??ll want to turn this off from the start. Weâ??re not too sure whether itâ??s because you assume the role of a female driver, however the Brake Assist completely removes any degree of skill needed and makes it possible to just hold onto the accelerate button throughout the entire race and just turning slightly for corners. Whilst such functions as Brake Assist are crucial to getting into heavy sims such as Ferrari 355 Challenge from SEGA, thereâ??s absolutely no reason whatsoever for it to feature in R: Racing. The game includes a variety of other racing types such as Drag Races and Rally Racing in an attempt to break up the monotony of the circuit races, but unfortunately neither have been implemented very well nor provide much enjoyment compared to other racers that incorporate similar aspects.
As you progress through the career mode youâ??ll open up new types of cars to try your hand at, including licensed cars from Honda, Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Toyota, Dodge, Chevy, Nissan, Audi, Hummer, Renault and Alfa Romeo. Whilst the game does a good job of portraying the differences between these, Xbox owners would do better to wait for the sheer variety featured in the forthcoming TOCA Pro Racer Driver 2 from Codemasters.
The overall look of R: Racer is impressive, however because of its PS2 origins youâ??ll find that the Xbox and GameCube versions arenâ??t as impressive as they should be, particularly on the Xbox where there is already a number of quality racing titles. We were a little disappointed by the fact that only six cars are ever present in any race, whilst the game doesnâ??t do a good job of conveying the sense of speed, resulting in a sluggish feel even if youâ??re driving the most powerful of cars.
GameCube owners are certainly the luckiest out there, as R: Racer includes the GC-GBA title Pac-Man as a freebie; whilst it’s nothing revolutionary, this fun little title makes a purchase almost worthy.