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The Classic Game Appreciation Section: Ridge Racer Type 4

 

Play it again, Nam

But this was the 1990s. Everything needed a replay mode. Namco trumped the competition by adding a blur effect that could be toggled on and off with the triangle button, which I took great delight in turning on and off in a manner akin to an OCD sufferer in a light switch factory. As if the game didn't look good enough already, this blurring of PSone's rather crisp edges made the game look unreal. And the ethereal glow that the cars and their tail lights took on gave it a unique visual style that nothing compares to today.


Above: The blurring effect on the replays leaves transparent 'ghost' images of previous frames. Looks ace

With 2011 eyes (not like an insect), that's not the only thing the game has going for its visuals. Unprecedented draw distance means you can see roads you'll later be driving on across the other side of valleys. Small valleys, yes, but valleys all the same.


Above: It's bread and butter track design these days, but this sort of 3D space was revolutionary back then

Car liveries are beautiful too, from the red and yellow of Pac Racing Club to the metallic greys of Racing Team Solvalou. You can even create your own basic decal – a first for any console racer. It's nowhere near the standard of Forza 3 or the like, but having a small square of graphics that you created adourning the front of your car was an incredibly special feeling in 1999.

The game even features support for Sony's PlayStation Pocket – a sort of VM-like device that let you unlock cars while you're away from your PlayStation. Sadly, these were never released in the UK so I never got to try one, but I don't think I missed too much.

 

Reiko-tinted specs time

I think Ridge Racer Type 4 represents the golden age of PlayStation gaming for me. I can still picture my gaming set up, how I would get back from college and sit down with my back against the foot of my bed and play the game on a 15-inch portable TV through a SCART cable – before the days of HDMI, that was a pretty big deal.

Thankfully, the thrill of once-cutting edge technology has matured into an enduring magic that's more than plain old nostalgia. Everything here exudes quality, despite the primitive screen resolution and polygon count. Having an over-enthusiastic announcer telling you how well you're doing doesn't grate in this game. And having little pixelly planes fly by with coloured smoke trails overhead is a joy that's never going to get old.


Above: A little stunt plane turns tricks in the morning sun above the city and everything's alright with the world

All of the above is a lot of 'parts' for a game to be 'more than the sum of', but Ridge 4 so clearly is. This is a racing game that defies its antiquated technology to deliver a product that works as a whole. It's cohesive and rock solid, from the stories of the career mode through to the millennium celebration fireworks in the last race – something that was actually a glimpse of the future at the time of its release.

Sure, the presentation outside of the races is a little lacking...

 

...but if it meant the racing itself could be this good, then I'll forgive it. Ridge 5 was a classic, but not as good, then Ridges 6 and 7 moved away from what made this truly great. Sure, Ridge Racer 2 on PSP contains tracks from this game, but it's still not the same. This is where you should start if you want to sample Ridge Racer.

 

Real Racing Roots

Sega Rally may pip it in terms of driving finesse and Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec smashed the visual benchmark effortlessly (and spectacularly) just two years later on PS2, but for the drama and the romance (and the girl), Ridge Racer Type 4 is still among the best arcade racers you can buy. In fact, it's available on PSN right now for a mere £3.99. Stick it on PSP and tackle it in small bursts. 


Above: Yes, it's full of win on PSP Go. Probably not applicable to you, but there it is 

The smaller screen of PSP makes up for the low-res graphics, making this feel like a modern-day racer. For a game that's well over a decade old, that's pretty damn astonishing.

04 Aug, 2011

Appreciation Section: Sega Rally
Officially awesome since 1995

 

 

Appreciation Section: TimeSplitters 2
So far ahead of its time

 

 

Appreciation Section: Panzer Dragoon Zwei
One of about two good dragon games ever made

19 comments

  • 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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