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R: Racing Evolution
game: R: Racing Evolution
three star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: Namco
date posted: 12:00 AM Wed Jan 21st, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Wed Jan 21st, 2004

By Eric Qualls

After a year of hype and anticipation, R: Racing Evolution is finally out. Well, maybe it didn't get all that much hype, but I, at least, was really looking forward to it. After spending some time with it, however, all I can really say is that I hope Namco gets cracking on Ridge Racer 6 pretty soon because their attempt at simulation style racing with R: Racing Evolution is a pretty big disappointment. The handling of the cars is funky, there is no sense of speed at all, and it is just too darn easy to win. Some things that Namco tried to implement to spice up the genre are pretty cool, but the bottom line is that there are simply better racing games available and R: Racing Evolution isn't worth your time.

The gameplay in RRE is sluggish and rather boring. This is a sim style racer, but even the king of all sim-racing games, Gran Turismo, let you powerslide a bit. In RRE your car is stuck down to the road and the only way to get around corners is to drive like a robot. Having to slow down and drive perfectly through the apex of each corner slows the already slow game down to a crawl. There is absolutely no sense of speed in the game, and even though your speedometer may say 40 or 50 mph as you turn though a corner it really feels like you are just inching along. Your opponents in each race fail to offer any kind of challenge whatsoever, so even though it feels like you are crawling around the track like a slug you are always able to pass by the other cars and race into the lead. This game is way too easy, and that really is the biggest problem with RRE.

There are a few cool twists that Namco put into the game that make the races a little bit more interesting. The first of which is the pressure meter. As you follow rival cars around the track, a little bar appears onscreen and gradually fills. When it fills up, that racer is more likely to make a mistake and you'll be able to pass them as they scrape the wall or spin out on the next corner. Another interesting idea is that you can make adjustments to your car during a race. With the directional pad, you can adjust steering and braking sensitivity along with spoiler angle and power distribution. It doesn't really make much of a difference, but it is fun to be able to recognize a problem, make an adjustment, and get through the next corner a little bit more smoothly than you would have otherwise. Whether you take advantage of the pressure meter or real time setting or not doesn't have much of an impact, sadly, because like I said above the game is already too damn easy for its own good.

There are three different types of races in RRE, but none of them are very well done. There are circuit style races where you just make your way around a track. Rally races let you take to the dirt for some point-to-point races, but the stiff control and lack of a decent powerslide suck the fun out of the races. The game also has drag races, but they have been simplified far too much and literally all you have to do is hold down the accelerator and press the button for a nitrous boost when an onscreen indicator tells you and you win easily. There are other games that do all of these race types a lot better than RRE and it is in those games that you should invest your time and money because R: Racing Evolution can't deliver.

There are several modes and a ton of races to beat if you can stomach the so-so racing, though, so if you can get into the RRE style of driving there is a lot to do in this game. There are arcade, time attack, and versus modes, but they are nothing compared to the two main modes. In the Racing Life mode, you take on the role of a young Japanese woman named Rena as she climbs through the ranks of the racing circuit and becomes a star. The game is broken up into chapters and there are high quality cutscenes in between each chapter that tell about Rena's friends, rivals, and everything else. You are following a story so you don't get much choice as to what cars you'll be driving or what tracks you'll be racing on and pretty much the only way to advance the story is to win.

If storyline driven racing isn't your cup of tea, you can tackle the Event Challenge mode. In this mode, you can buy new cars and perform upgrades to them so you can compete in a number of different challenges. Despite what the ads for R: Racing Evolution would have you believe, the Event Challenge is the real meat of the game rather than the Racing Life mode. There is more to do and you have far more control over everything and it is simply more interesting than slogging through a story that isn't very well put together anyway.

Unlike Namco's Ridge Racer series, RRE features licensed cars and more than ten real world tracks. Races take place on the street circuits of Monaco and Yokohama as well as the Phillip Island and Suzuka racetracks among other exotic locales. There are over thirty cars to unlock from manufacturers such as Dodge, Honda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and many others. The car and track selection isn't as large as other recent racing games, but the tracks that are here are all well put together. Even though your favorite car might not be in here, it is easy to find something you'll like.

Graphically, R: Racing Evolution looks good but it could have been better. The cinema sequences are absolutely gorgeous, but the in-game graphics are a bit hit or miss. The tracks are detailed and look very good. The cars also have a lot of detail, but they don't really look like they are actually connected to the road and it looks more like they are floating. Also, there are a lot of places where you can see seams between polygons and it makes the game look really poor when you can see big ugly white lines all over the place. When the game is standing still, it looks awesome, but when it is moving a lot of little glitches pop up and that is never a good thing to look at. It still looks good overall, but it isn't anything spectacular.

The sound also fails to impress. There is a lot of spoken dialogue in the Racing Life mode, and most of it is pretty good. Comments from other drivers tend to repeat far too often, but the voice work sounds good overall. Something funny that I noticed is that your pit crew reacts the same way whether you are following a male or female driver. The reason why this is funny is that the focus of the storyline in the game is the rivalry between your female character and another female driver, so it would have made sense to have different phrases for men and women considering that the two main characters in the game are women. Oh well. The music in the game isn't quite up to par with what Namco has produced for past racing games, but it sounds good and really gets you in the mood for the races. The engine noises are absolutely horrible and sound so bad that it is actually distracting. Every car sounds like a gas powered weed whacker.

Overall, R: Racing Evolution is a disappointment. There are plenty of modes and races to compete in, but the racing itself is too stiff and boring. RRE tries to straddle the line between arcade and simulation and completely fails to offer either the speed of arcade racers or the depth of simulations. There are better racing games available that are more deserving of your time and money than RRE. Give R: Racing Evolution a rent if you must, but I can't recommend it for a purchase.