Ridge Racer 4 is currently the best home arcade racer on the PS. I say arcade racer because the gameplay remains unchanged from the previous RR games (it's all about the drift, baby!), while Gran Turismo is still the king of racing sims. During the beautiful CG intro, you get an idea of the direction Namco has chosen for this entry in the series. Lots of blurred type fading into readable text, quick cuts and smooth camera work, influenced, no doubt by GT, but taken to the next level. The game runs at a slick 30 fps, and the level of detail is superb, from the seagulls that dip and dart around one courses' turns, to the dynamic lighting effects on display both during the races and the amazing replays!
There are 3 modes initially selectable: Grand Prix, Time Attack and VS Battle for 2 players. GP has you join a pro racing team in a story mode of sorts- you communicate with your team owner and manager, who give you advice and hints on your performance. It's here that you're able to earn the 321 extra cars in the game to play around with, none of which are based on actual cars, but the imaginations of Namco's great art department. Time Attack lets you take any of the standard cars (or the ones you win in GP Mode) for a spin on the track of your choice, a necessity for getting the hang of the controls if you're a newcomer to the series. Finally, VS Mode lets you and a friend race against each other, split screen, at a respectable frame rate. The game also has a massive amount of options, including the ability to design your own decal or edit an existing one, and tailor the controls, sounds, and music.
R4 seems a bit easy at first, but this is probably due to the large amount of cars you can unlock during the game. But the difficulty ramps up a bit, and soon, so that you have to do some real work to acquire some of the cooler models. There is also Pocketstation support, letting two players trade cars won in the Grand Prix Mode, even though Sony's little wonder isn't officially available here until the fall!
And if that's not enough, R4 includes a bonus disc that includes Ridge Racer in both Original and 60fps (Turbo) Modes, notes from the developers on creating R4, as well as an interactive slideshow and trailers for other Namco titles, including an incredible looking Ace Combat 3! All in all, R4 is not to be missed if you're looking for countless hours of powersliding, beautiful graphics and great arcade racing action.
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