R: Racing Evolution
Game Info
Platform(s)
GC, PS2, Xbox
Publisher
Namco
Developer
Namco
Genre
Racing
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Mild Language, Suggestive Themes
 
Grade
The Good

• Great looking presentation, cars and courses
• Racing Life mode is a nice idea
• Quality audio
• GC version comes with free Pacman Vs.

The Bad

• A little light on customization
• No car damage and AI is predictable
• Racing Life could be less linear

 
Grade
B

I've always found that Namco's Ridge Racer series was a blast in it's arcade-style controls. Nothing was more fun than taking a turn at a ridiculous speed, turning sideways and tapping the brake enough to powerslide through the turn, only to gun it and come racing out the other end. When Namco decided to take a more simulation bent to their racing series, I wondered how well it would work out.

If you've ever played a racing game before you have a good idea of what R: Racing Evolution will give you. Using the R Button for gas and the L Button to brake, players race their car of choice against other racers in a variety of races including oval track racing, street racing, rally and drag races. The cars available come from real life licensed car companies, including Ford, Fiat, Subaru, Honda, Mazda, Puegot and Renault. During a race, you'll go against other competitors, and try to get into first before the race is over. As you try to pass other racers, a Pressure Gauge will appear over their head. As it gets red and starts to flash, the other racer is more likely to do something rash and even crash. At the end of a race, you'll earn Reward Points based on the quality of your racing, including your ability to corner, passing and many other minor aspects you may not have thought about.

R: Racing Evolution features a number of modes, including Arcade, Time Attack, 2-Player versus, Event Challenge (where you compete in certain events) and probably the most important single player part - Racing Life. In Racing Life, players are treated to a story mode where Rena Hayami begins her racing career with G.V.I. Rena takes on a variety of races through multiple chapters as she faces her nemesis, Gina Cavalli. While this mode is pretty linear and doesn't offer much in the way of racing choices, I really do like the story-based aspect, which gives a certain added life to the single player mode.

New cars are unlocked during the Racing Life and Event Challenge modes and players can spend their Reward Points in the Race, Performance Shop and Car Dealership portions of the Event Challenge. Here is where you'll get to do some fine tuning of your cars, which comes in quite nicely during some of the more intense Events. The Event Challenge section has a ton of races to offer, but you have to spend Reward Points to unlock them.

One of the more interesting additions to the game is the inclusion of Brake Assistance, an option that can be turned off or on during a race. When on, the game automatically brakes for you when big or sharp turns come up. For seasoned racing pros, this may come as an annoyance, especially since the game tends to brake a little too often. For amateurs, this makes getting into the game a little easier. Once you've gotten a handle on how best to lay off the gas and brake into turns so that you get the best speed coming out of the turn, you'll want to switch the option off so you can brake at your own will. Ridge Racer vets may find it a little hard to get used to that powersliding through turns will most likely end up with you spinning out rather than stylistically on your way. Only in rally races can you really get away with powersliding.

As with previous installments, R: Racing Evolution features some excellent presentation and in-game visuals. Everything from the in-game menus to the 9 race tracks just look great to behold. While some of the tracks don't look as exciting as others, they all serve thier purpose in the scheme of providing for the various race types the game has to offer. The licensed cars are all well detailed and look pretty good in motion. Probably the nicest part of the game's graphics are the CG-rendered cutscenes that unfold during the Racing Life mode.

The audio aspect of R: Racing Evolution is a great accent to the graphics and feels right in line with what the series has always given gamers. The voice acting for the cutscenes and racer and pit commentary during the races is well done and an added bonus to the game. Sound effects are good, but there seems to be a lack of good range between the different makes and models. The upbeat dance/ techno soundtrack, while not licensed, is a fine accent to the racing action.

To be honest, my complaints with R: Racing Evolution are indicative of most racing games. While this is technically a simulation, I still wish there was some car damage and the effects of said damage to reinforce not using other cars and rails to bounce your way through certain corners. Also, I wish the AI was a little more competitive against other racers as well as yourself. Most of the time, you'll only be facing one opponent at time and none of the other racers seem to car about taking first place but rather just holding their own position. Last but not least, the game doesn't feature as much customization as other high-end simulation racers.

In the end, R: Racing Evolution tries hard to be a hybrid, and is only moderately successful at it. For those looking for a sim-lite racer, than this is where you'll want to start. Ridge Racer fans will also want to give this one a go. More hardened racers who want to be head-deep into racing sim will want to stick with Gran Turismo 3 and just give this one a rent to see "what's under the hood" (sorry, couldn't help myself).

- - Kinderfeld

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