Review by AliGamer

"Too little, too late..."

Get ready to race and compete in the latest installment to the Ridge Racer series, except it's now called R: Racing Evolution, the ''R'' prolly short for Ridge. You're Rena Hayami, a once ambulance driver now wannabe racing-pro, your aim is to get to the top no matter what, you've gotta win to prove yourself for the big time.

Graphically this is very 1st generation PS2 graphics, even RR5 to some extent looks better than this, sure you've seen screen shots and video clips of it running but once you actually play the game in its proper form you realise its not what it seems. Although Namco have stepped up the visuals for realism, there's lots of jaggies no use of Anti-aliasing whatsoever, bland use of textures, background details and scenery graphics substandard - a real bummer in this department, although on the plus side it does run at a rock solid 60fps, smooth and fast with no slow down or any framerate issues whatsoever.

Excellent audio effects, esp the cars, very loud engine noises and very realistic, the best so far in a racer, yes even better than Gran Turismo this department and also makes excellent use of Dolby 5.1 - The music tracks however aren't that particularly strung well together, certainly not as catchy or funky as previous RR games but you can switch them off luckily - also there aren't many tracks to choose from and not enough variety either.

There is now in-game chatter, opponents and pit-crews talk to you as race, pit-crews advising you of your positions and maneuvers as well as opponents that taunt you when you cut them up or gain up on them, a nice touch.

There are the standard modes to choose from, Arcade, Time Trials, Events (to win more cars) and the main game known as Racing Life. Racing Life is what the game is all about, you must get to the top of the leagues within the 14 chapters.

Control-wise, surprising RRE still has very arcadey controls, not to the extent of Ridge Racer 1 but more like Rage Racer/RRV but with a slight step-up and you have the use of handbraking now.

The physics in this game is just like the old days of RR, when you bump/crash into a car, they hop a few metres in front and vice-versa.

There is now an option to set the game for brake-assisting, meaning it will automatically brake for you when you go around corners at high speeds, I strongly recommend you don't use this option as it makes the game less interactive, less fun and you don't get any sensation of real racing, brake-assisting is for amateurs racers in my opinion!

The game has now the use of a pressure-indicator on opponents, when you get close-up and personal, an indicator-bar will appear above them, they'll react by getting stressed out and start to panic, when the bar turns from light blue to red they'll either slip up at a corner or slow down for you to pass. This can be quite advantageous for you but also a downfall as it can make the game easier as you are able to see how they react to the situation, not entirely realistic but a nice touch that could of been worked upon more. Also another addition is the use of slip-streaming, get behind a car and catch it's speed stream, get enough and over-take it. When it comes to tuning, you have a certain degree of car settings you can adjust, but not to the extent of Gran Turismo tuning, this is your basic arcade affair settings, you don't even have to tune-up you can still win the game on default settings.

After a race you are automatically shown a replay of it, there are some nice angles, you can select to view from the standard first-person view, external view or TV broadcast view but you cannot however view the other cars, the camera is fixed to you and you only. You can also save a replay, a nice touch which all racing games should include as standard now days.

One feature that seems to baffle me in some games and in this case RRE, is the save feature, you have the standard save/load options yet there is no auto-save?! This is most frustrating as you would expect this feature to be a standard, to save the game whenever you make any changes and after races etc, yet RRE still remains primitive in this area, so you must remember to save the game before you switch off.

Whilst it has the standard modes of play, the main game is far too short, there are not enough events within Real Life mode so it can be easily finished within a few hours, even with event mode (winning events for prizes, cars) it has little incentive for replay.

Despite its approach to realism in terms of graphics and bits of tuning here and there - deep down, it's a game of two halves, it doesn't really know what it wants to be, it still has its arcade roots yet it wants to be taken more seriously to compete with ''other'' racers on the market. If you're an avid fan of the Ridge Racer series you'd be half satisfied with this game, you'd come away with mixed feelings, for general racing fans you'd feel it's not enough to stand out from the crowds, such is the phrase too little too late, this game just doesn't cut it now days, definitely not an Evolution but a De-volution.

Definitely a try before you buy.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 12/18/03

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