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R: Racing Evolution

Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Racing


PS2 Review - 'R: Racing Evolution'

by Hank on Jan. 14, 2004 @ 2:45 a.m. PST

Genre : Racing
Publisher : Namco
Developer : Namco
Release date : December 9, 2003

Buy 'R: Racing Evolution': Xbox | GameCube | PlayStation 2

One of the most famous games available on the PS2 would probably be Gran Turismo 3, widely known as one of the best racing games available. While everyone is waiting for GT4, there are several upcoming titles that are trying to challenge GT3's fame. NFSU brings a new and advanced online system which allows both PS2 and PC gamers to play together online and bring their modified cars onto the 'net to challenge fellow racers. Another title that is in direct competition with GT3 is probably R: Racing Evolution, the latest addition to Namco's well-known Ridge Racer series.

Ridge Racer was a hit on the Playstation and involved circuit racing, where you must take the perfect line to beat your opponents. Braking at crucial points and quickly taking the corners was the way to victory. I also have fond memories of the mini-game Galaxian, where you had to score a perfect score to unlock most of the cars other than the black Diablo.

Well, R: Racing Evolution has taken a complete turn in design and methodology. Rather than creating another racing game with no storyline, Namco has decided to try and portray a racer's life. Instead of following a male driver, though, you play as Rena -- a newly recruited racer -- to climb the steps of the racing world. Why would the developers choose a female racer? I can think of two reasons: to appease the male audience, and female racers are slowly permeating the racing scene and are climbing the steps to becoming top-tier racers.

As Rena, you don't follow the life of a NASCAR, rally, or drag racer. Instead, you follow the life of a racer who is involved in all three. Personally, I don't see this as realistic, because I'm pretty certain at this time that there is no one who races in all three genres. Each race requires a different skill as well as a different pit crew and equipment. Becoming good in all three is probably every racer's dream, but getting the car to feel like an extension of your body for each racing genre is truly a difficult task. GT races are based on taking the most direct line and using the draft to overtake the opponents. If you are lucky, you may even pressure the other racer into a corner and eventually make them lose control. In rally racing, you have to understand how to drift like there's no tomorrow, taking 90-degree or even 270-degree turns with ease. Lastly, drag racing is where you must learn how to launch the car and shift at the correct time, giving you that extra boost to outspeed the other cars. As you can see, each race requires its own skill set, and you can't really say that the skills used to win the GT races can be used on the rally circuit.

As we all know, the main point of racing is to win, and there are three racing styles that you will need to comprehend in order to do so. The GT races are the simplest for me because taking lines, learning when to downshift, and taking turns has always been my forte. In this title, the GT races are conducted on closed circuits: Suzuka Circuit, Twin Ring Motegi, Phillip Island, Yokohama, Circuit De Monaco, and Green Field. I personally feel that these circuits may be very accurately portrayed. This is also the only race where you will get to race against the whole pack of drivers. Unlike NASCAR, where you can race against around 50 cars, R:RE has taken the same step as GT3 and has limited the competition to only six. To make this game feel slightly more realistic, Namco has also implemented the pit crew's voices, slip stream, and pressure to scare the opponent. Use these wisely, and you will achieve an easy victory.

The races aren't linear, meaning you don't do all the GT races and then move on to rally. The races are mixed, so after maybe a round of GT races, you will be forced to go over to a round of rally races. The rally races in R:RE are very well thought-out. If you have played GT3, you would know the flaw in their rally system. Rather than having the race all in one go, it is broken up into several different pieces. If you have played Colin McRae, the best rally game available for the PS2 at this time, you will probably understand what I mean. Well, R:RE can't match Colin McRae's system, it implements several major factors that helped make Colin McRae great: driving from point A to B, a co-driver navigating for you, and arrows to help understand the co-driver's directions. The car physics in rally mode are different than when driving the GT races. The car slides out a lot easier, and at times you can even fall off the course and lose valuable time. Rally really requires a skilled driver to take the team to victory, someone who will stay on track and keep a good pace.

Similarly, keeping a good pace is also crucial in drag racing mode. If you can't maintain a steady pace, let's just say that victory is out of reach. Drag racing is truly a battle of skill, shifting and using the nitros at the right time to lead the team to victory. Possibly the most important skill to give you the cutting edge is learning how to launch, and the launching in this game is the best that I have seen in any drag racing game thus far. It mimics the real-life method of holding down the brake and the gas, and then releasing the brake when the race begins. With a good launch, you will leave your opponents in the dust, but remember to shift.

As your story progresses, you will be assigned more complicated tasks that you must complete. Most of the time, the objective is simply to win. With each race won, there is a short cut scene that reveals information about your group and your rivalries. To the guys who think Rena is hot, you guys are in luck because there is a shower scene for your entertainment. The game is rated T, so don't expect to see much. The incredible cut scenes aside, the graphics of the courses are just magnificent. Looking at these courses and examining GT4 pictures I've seen, I would say they are on par. I'll have to wait until GT4 is actually in my grasp to confirm this. However, one thing that this game really needs to work on is the car graphics because the details are average. The cars have enough design in them to distinguish one from the other, but nothing more than that. I personally love the Beetle that you are required to use in a race. The car looks so out of place, but with a red line of 11, the car is insanely powerful.

Modifying the car in this game isn't as good as either GT3 or NFSU. But R:RE aims more towards the same ideals as GT3, having the ability to change the Front, Rear Shock (COMP.), Front, Rear Shock (Reb.), Front, Rear Spring Rate, Front, Rear Stabilizer, Front, Center, Rear LSD, Final Drive Ratio, ABS, TCS, Steering Response, F/R Brake Bias, Max HP/Torque, and lastly Weight. The mods are nothing like NFSU, where you can change the entire layout of the car and rice it up. This game puts more focus on professional racing rather than street racing, but understanding the best settings for the car is no easy task. The car physics in GT3 are a lot better than in R:RE. In this title, the cars just don't seem to have any different feel in handling or power.

You can usually listen and tell what type of engine the car is equipped with, but in this game, it just doesn't sound close to the engines I'm used to hearing. Personally, I've heard the Shelby engine as well as the s2000 engine, and when I played these two cars in the game, I was sorely disappointed. The engines sound more like a whining sound than what I've heard in real life. It may be that my ears are deceiving me, but I'm pretty certain the engines don't match. Before the race, you can choose the background music you wish to hear, and it is all very well composed. What impresses me the most about the sound are the voices. Surprisingly, the voices match their respective characters, unlike other PS2 games like Bloody Roar. It's quite impressive to have good voice actors because they are always speaking. As mentioned above, the pit crew will inform you of situations going on in the races -- telling you when to pass as well as informing you if you did something right or wrong. In rally mode, the co-driver will be telling you the directions. These features certainly increased my enjoyment of R:RE's story mode tenfold.

If you do get sick of playing story mode (which I personally find difficult), you can always race against your friends in multiplayer mode. Unfortunately, there is no online support for this game, but I hope that Namco will start implementing online play in their games, as it will give their titles added replay value. This game and Kill Switch truly needed it.

Overall, I feel this game is pretty solid, with a few minor kinks here and there. While it isn't the heir to the GT3 crown, R: Racing Evolution is quite enjoyable and improves upon the popular Ridge Racer series. If you were trying to decide on a racer before GT4, I would say that this is the title for you if you are looking for a solid single-player game. If you're in the market for a good multiplayer racer, I would suggest Need For Speed Underground.


Score: 8.9/10

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