|As far as game franchises go in Playstations library,
Namcos Ridge Racer series is one of the oldest as well as one of the most
consistently enjoyable. The latest installment (arriving just in time to make you stop
thinking about Gran Turismo 2, which is what you think about when you cant bring
yourself to go through another torturous day of thinking about FFVIII), is certainly no
In terms of series evolution, RR4 boasts eight total tracks in the majority of modes, as well as reverse tracks in the Time Attack mode. The physics are somewhat less arcade-like than the previous games, but certainly not approaching the hardcore GT approach--read: it is virtually impossible to spinout, which, while it might possibly gall the serious simulation player, gives arcade racer fans the high speed frenzy they have come to expect, as well as the depth that GT brought to the genre.
The primary game mode is the now standard Gran Prix mode, which allows a player to pick between four racing teams (Italian, Japanese, French, and American) and four auto manufacturers (ditto on the countries) to play through a racing season. A season consists of two heats with a third place minimum qualifying position, two heats with a second place minimum, and a four part final heat which must be finished in first. Each heat has four continue possibilities, but you earn new cars based on your total performance, so it is usually smarter to just start over if it takes more than once.
Speaking of cars, there are 321 unlockable cars in the game, none of which are actual licenses, but all of which are maybe more interesting for it. Although a number of them are simply modified models of lesser cars, some of the later vehicles are just plain bizarre, especially the 321st car -- the Pac-mobile -- which is only available after all the other cars have been gained.
The tracks contain enough variety to be interesting, although the final four tracks are simply modifications of the first four for the most part. At any rate, the absolutely consistent 30fps video, texture filtering, and lighting effects more than make up for any lack in the scenery. The soundtrack is exactly what you would expect-- chiba pop techno-- which is only rarely obnoxious or distracting.
If the game has any flaws, they are in the game design rather than the presentation. It should not be necessary to complete the game (i.e. the Gran Prix and the Extra Trial Mode) hundreds of times to unlock all of the cars. The two camera options in the VS mode could be improved upon because they are only different in theory. And really, give us some bonus tracks for crying out loud. Id trade oh...145 or so cars for one. The game also includes a bonus disk with a few Namco demos, a port of the original Ridge Racer, and a 60fps turbo mode.
For any fan of racers, whether simulation or arcade, RR4 is a purchase that comes without regrets. It is by far the most satisfying genre entry since GT, and will keep anyone who thinks they cant make it until GT2 alive.