The Classic Game Appreciation Section: Ridge Racer Type 4

What a year 1999 was for PlayStation. Developers had new tools to help them squeeze the last drops of horsepower from the machine, brand recognition was global and gameplay was a priority again after the Great Polygon Rush of '96. Ridge Racer Type 4 rode the crest of that wave, offering some of the best graphics the machine ever produced, along with sublime handling, atmosphere and soundtrack. And, unlike Gran Turismo, it hasn't aged badly in the slightest. In fact, it's still sensational. Let me show you why:

It was the biggest leap in quality the series ever saw, utterly smashing Ridge, Revolution and Rage Racer with its distinct visual, audio and track design style. I mean, just look at it:

Above: Beautiful, eh? This is a PS3-smoothed shot, but it looks great whichever way you play it


Bring me sunshine, bring me love

No other game on PlayStation captures the essence of a sunny day quite like Ridge 4. Loading it up and seeing the pre-race fly-by on tracks like Phantomile, you can feel the heat rising from the sun-baked tarmac. You can imagine the fat rubber tyres being hot to the touch if one of these cars were to pull over and let you feel its seductive curves. All of this is achieved with impeccable art design and lighting that makes low-memory textures somehow look... well, good. Having blocky 3D grid girls at the start just adds to the atmosphere - that this is a race event that people have come from miles around to witness.

Above: You know what? That ain't half bad for an incidental character on a PSone. Come on, she's cute!

It's not just a collection of car graphics moving around track graphics in a low-powered games console. This feels like a real place with real people. And it's got a real icon in the shape of its covergirl, Reiko Nagase. How many times did we watch that intro at the start of the game? I think she deserves a screenshot right about now…

Above: Possibly the best-rendered lips the West had ever seen in 1999. Japan had them in '98, of course

But it wasn't only Reiko that made us watch the intro movie over and over. It was also about the pre-rendered, halcyon day that the CG intro movie conjures up. By this time, PlayStation 2 was on the gaming horizon and gamers couldn't help but think that some day soon we could be playing games that looked as good as this. In reality, we're only now at that stage with the current generation, but at least we got there in the end.


Like at Virgin

The first time I got to play the game was in a competition held at my local Virgin Megastore. It was one lap around the Edge of the Earth night-time race in probably the second tier of car power. I didn't win the competition, as I was completely unused to the drift mechanic, but the impression it left on my mind was indelible.

Above: Forget Gran Turismo's Special Stage Route 7 - this is the pinnacle of night racing on PSone

The feeling of hurtling through these wondrous environments was so far ahead of anything else I'd ever seen running on a home console made me glad that I'd switched my allegiance from Saturn to PlayStation. Momentarily, mind - I sold my PSone and bought a Dreamcast later that same year. Fickle, fickle me.


Right turn, slide

Ah, that drift mechanic. It was enough to make my gaming buddy at the time (my dad) almost give up on the game, until he realised there were non-drift variants of the cars available too. Arguably, the drifting here makes way more sense than the 'turn any way you like – you'll get around as long as you're drifting' mechanics from Ridges 6 and 7, but I can see what reviews meant when they said the steering feels like 'it's either on or it's not'.

The trick in Ridge Racer Type 4 is to get the back to step out, either by letting go of the accelerator and re-applying it as you turn, or simply turning and braking if you're at top speed. Then you just need to turn hard and line the car up to be facing forward when the corner ends. Keep it under control and suddenly your lap times will plummet.

It's not the most graceful or intuitive system in the world, but once you develop the acquired taste for its nuances, it suddenly makes more sense than driving normally. Chucking the car into a slide as you go over an eponymous ridge, landing sideways and just catching enough grip to powerslide around the next turn is videogame heaven.

Above: Bucking tradition, the pre-rendered intro shows you something you can actually do in the game

Playing Ridge 4 again today, it still impresses me how smooth the driving is. Like Sega Rally, it's enough for the game to simply let you drive, enjoying the sensation of travelling. No tricks, no gimmicks, just a rock solid sensation of movement. For racing devs, when you've got that nailed, the rest comes automatically.

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  • CanadianBeaverHunter - August 6, 2011 6:01 a.m.

    This was the game that got me into the Ridge Racer series. Well worth the cheap price it's going for on PSN these days.
  • rxb - August 5, 2011 7 p.m.

    I love this game too. Bought it for £50 Japanese import. I wasnt to happy at first, it felt strange. After a while though of watching the intro and the amazing soundtrack I was smitten. As said above it oozed class, polish and love. Good appreciation Towelly.
  • Pruman - August 5, 2011 5:02 p.m.

    @FoxDen and RareHero: What about Burnout? Or Split/Second? Sure, they're completely unrealistic, but they're fun as hell.
  • philipshaw - August 5, 2011 10:56 a.m.

    Great feature Justin, I played a lot of this game back in the day
  • ZeroHourE - August 5, 2011 4:45 a.m.

    Oh hell yes Ridge Racer Type 4 gets a mention. I still have an original copy for the Playstaion and every now and then I pull it out and have a blast. Right from when I was 8 until now its still what defined an awesome game for me. Thank you Gamesradar :D
  • suicidali - August 4, 2011 10:48 p.m.

    Definitely one of my all-time favourites. I got that PSP download day 1, gone through the grand prix mode about 3 times... I've played a hell of a lot of racing games, but none have come close to the rush of the final race, with that music, counting down the new millennium... Awesomeness.
  • UsernameLoser - August 4, 2011 10:15 p.m.

    Ridge Racer 3D was a pretty boring game, Is that game worse? Or is each basically the same? I want to give it another chance but I just can't.
  • JoeGBallad - August 4, 2011 8:52 p.m.

    Beautiful game. One if the very best, and this is coming from someone who only got round to playing it after the PSN release! But, to the above poster, and anyone else interested, time attack arcade racing is alive and kicking in Japan. I recommend importing Initial D, psp or ps3 versions. They have simple but deep handling models that reward you the more you play. Setting good times and ghosting is quick and easy, so you'll be addicted in no time! If anybody gets the ps3 one, add me and I'll race you. My PSN is JoeGBallad
  • GR_JustinTowell - August 4, 2011 6:11 p.m.

    @RareHero - Very well said :) And, to your first comment, not crazy at all.
  • RareHero - August 4, 2011 5:56 p.m.

    @Foxden Absolutely right, and there's something to be said for simple racing games with fun but not necessarily realistic physics that create a universe of their own. Daytona and Ridge Racer are perfect examples. Even Sega Rally and Out Run, though they may have licensed cars, fit the bill. I miss that simplicity. But times are different now. RR6 & 7 were really disappointing for me, because they lacked the creativity and the challenge of earlier games. Namco got so caught up in making the experience accessible and customizable that they missed out on what made the early games so much fun. Sega Rally Revo was a decent attempt, though nobody makes an arcade racer like AM2 can.
  • FoxdenRacing - August 4, 2011 5:31 p.m.

    Ridge Racer (as a series) was the last of the great Time Attack Arcade Racers...I may have to fire up #5 again soon now that I have a reliable PS2 again. Fictional cars, fictional places, some tweakability, and driving mechanics that reward practice and skill rather than simply exploiting rubberband AIs. I'd love to see the sub-genre make a resurgence; I can only drive real cars in real-looking places with real-ish physics in so many games before I get bored. The sims [Forza3, GT5, F1 2010] are better than ever, but the non-sims have hit a muddy middle ground between sim and arcade, unable to decide whether they want to be fast-paced and reward finesse or hyper-realistic, often mixing the two to dire results. The rare stand-out comes along [Grid series] that mixes them successfully, but very many more count on their 'officially licensed' to drag them home when the license money could have been better spent on unique art assets and polishing the bejezus out of the physics engine. Young gamers that have never experienced anything but 'real cars' racing have no idea what they're missing...
  • Tomsta666 - September 15, 2011 7:34 a.m.

    Hi FoxdenRacing, have you met Burnout Paradise? I think you two would get on like a house on fire! :)
  • D0CCON - August 4, 2011 5:24 p.m.

    Riiiiiiiiiidge Raaaaaaaaacer?
  • DirkSteele1 - August 4, 2011 5:10 p.m.

    Outstanding game.
  • rockbottom - August 4, 2011 4:32 p.m.

    So many great games on the old PS1, Tomb Raider, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, Vandal Hearts etc. But this is the one that ate up most of my time. Spent all summer on this thing. Great Days!
  • ParanoidAndroid - August 4, 2011 3:46 p.m.

    Hmmm, I wouldn't mind giving this a go after such gushing appraisal. It'd probably look awful on my big HD TV though. Also, I do enjoy the written appreciation sections; more please.
  • Pruman - August 4, 2011 3:04 p.m.

    I never played this, but cool article anyway. Can you please do Homeworld for the next one?
  • RareHero - August 4, 2011 3:04 p.m.

    Agreed on all counts, Justin. Would I be crazy if I said this was one of my favorite games of all time, and easily my favorite for PlayStation. R4 just oozes class and polish in a way I've never seen any game do before or since. The presentation, the cinematic visuals, the beautiful fictional car designs...and who could forget that soundtrack? How amazing was Pearl Blue Soul? I had played every Ridge Racer before it and Rage came close but wasn't quite smooth enough, especially in the physics department. R4 had a driving model that was simple to learn and hard to master. It wasn't choppy and slow like the first three games, or mindnumbingly easy like Ridge Racer PSP, 6 and 7. This game was perfect in every respect, and that's a rare thing indeed.
  • KdotLo - August 4, 2011 2:33 p.m.

    Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh YES. I wish I could find my copy now... Absolutely loved this game!

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