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April 17, 2004
R: Racing - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
25/3/2004EA GamesNamco1-2GMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
22KBDolby Pro Logic IIYesNoNoneYes

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One of the rally tracks.
Namco. At one time they were the king of the arcades, now they are the king of the arcade styled game at home. Titles such as Time Crisis, Tekken, Soul Calibur and MotoGP have all become hits not only due to their faithfulness to the original arcade games, but also Namco's insistence on pushing the game further with bonuses (including new game modes, better graphics and/or new characters) for the home user. This all started with Namco's stunning port of Ridge Racer as a launch title for the PSOne. It was a stunning re-creation of a massively expensive arcade system which probably shifted more Playstation's upon launch then any other game. R: Racing is the latest game from Namco and while Namco denies it's part of the Ridge Racer series it's easy to see its heritage.

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Rather bland textures.
R: Racing (released as R: Racing Evolution in America) includes licensed real-world vehicles (such as Alfa Romeo, BMW and Honda's among others) which can be upgraded and modified to suit your tastes - although not to the extent of the Gran Turismo series. The game includes 14 tracks to race on - some of which are based on real locations, other are pure fantasy. Five game modes have been included such as Racing Life (Story Mode), Event Challenge, Time Attack, Arcade, and Versus. All are fairly self explanatory with the Racing Life mode most likely to take up most of your time as you play the role of Rena, a rather nice looking young girl who, after impressing with driving an ambulance, becomes a rookie driver and has to work through the different racing classes.

Actual gameplay in this game has been deliberately shifted from the arcade based drifting model of past game to a more realistic simulation of the sport - or so Namco would have you believe. To be honest the handling still has too much of a drifty feel, and doesn't even come close to the finesse needed in Sony's Gran Turismo titles. The Dual Shock 2 doesn't feel quite right when racing, it's a bit too touchy, but the inclusion of Steering Wheel support is most welcome - and recommended.

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OK, the car detail is good.
One of the most interesting additions to this game is a pressure meter which appears under the car ahead of you showing how much pressure you are forcing on that driver to make a mistake. Better drivers have larger meters, while rookie drivers have a short meter and can easily be pressured into making a mistake. Another thing to note is that not all races take place on sealed racetracks as R: Racing also includes some rally based sections. Perhaps Namco should have focused on fine tuning one style of racing before branching out, but it does break up the gameplay.

R: Racing is an interesting game graphically. Everything is rather simplistic with plain texturing and buildings, but the frame rate remains rock solid which is crucial. The cars are detailed enough - not quite Gran Turismo quality, but close. The visual effects are fairly lacking. The real quality comes through the cut-scenes in racing life mode which have that typical Namco spit and polish throughout. If only the game looked that good.

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Cars, nice. Tracks, average.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of R: Racing is the in-car radio communications from the pit. While far from perfect, it adds so much to the atmosphere of the race as you team manager tells you who's on your tail, or how you are performing in the car. To add a little more atmosphere to the game you will also hear some comments from rival drivers. Sound effects, including engine noises are adequate enough for the game, but still lack some realism. Music is a forgettable mess with little distinction between the tracks, and nothing you'll be remembering as soon as you turn the system off anyway. The sound is topped off with Dolby Pro Logic II sound which adds some immersion to the proceedings.

R: Racing isn't a part of Namco's Ridge Racer series, but hell, it may as well be. It's more like a simulation based version of the game. Everything here is neat and functional, the pressure meter is a good addition and the in-game commentary is fairly good as well. Is it worth buying? I think so, casual gamers will enjoy it but simulation purists should probably look elsewhere.

Review By: David Warner

GRAPHICSFairly clean graphics that never push the PS2 to the limits.
SOUNDNice commentary in races with forgettable music and sound effects.
GAMEPLAYPart arcade, part simulation. This game is fun to play either way.
VALUESeveral game modes, but limited tracks and cars reduce longevity.
OVERALLR: Racing is an good game that will keep casual racers playing for some time. Everything is good, but never pushes the system.

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