Blast From The Past
Blast From The Past: R4: Ridge Racer Type 4

Ridge Racer has been a stalwart series for Namco. Having started out in arcades and then moving onto the Playstation and home consoles across the ages, it was the epitome of an arcade racer. Eventually the series began to wane, it’s appeal dulled as more action based racers cruised onto the scene – that however has changed thanks to the much needed reboot given to the franchise by FlatOut developer Bugbear Studios on Ridge Racer: Unbounded; a game that literally trumps any arcade racer for the last few years. This week we take a look back on the series’ heyday, and arguably it’s last great entry before Unbounded arrived on the scene.

Ridge Racer Type 4 – or R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 to give it its full name – launched back on the original Playstation, and was the last entry into the Ridge Racer series to do so as Ridge Racer V hit the PS2 exclusively. Just like Ridge Racer V, R4 didn’t make it’s way to arcades either, providing an entirely home console racing experience. For a game series that primarily launches in arcades, the lack of such a release might raise warning bells for fans of arcade racers, however R4 still stands tall as one of the best entries into the franchise so far. By being removed from arcades, it managed to fill the disc with content ideal for home play, and still provided that time based, drift happy, arcade fun.

Whilst Namco only provided you with four teams – Dig Racing, Pac Racing, Racing Team Solvalou, and R.C. Micro Mouse Mappy – and four car manufactures to play with – Age Solo, Lizard, Assoluto, and Terrazi – it still featured over 320 cars to unlock across its various modes, and gave you a super secret bonus Pac-Man car when you completed your car collection. It may have also only had eight tracks to play across, but the eager racers could unlock reverse modes of these tracks, which then provided you with sixteen tracks to choose from.

Drifting has always been a heavy feature for the franchise, and whilst it isn’t as drift happy as Ridge Racer 6  or Ridge Racer 7 were, it’s still possible to slide for an audible thirty seconds or so before you lose control over the vehicle. Drifting however is the key to winning those races, and pulling your way through the games lengthy main “Grand Prix” mode. Here you’ll race through four stages: two qualifying races, two quarter-final races, three semi-finals, and a final race on New Year’s Eve 1999 (yes, it is that old). Completing a race gives you a car depending on your performance – which pulls you ever closer to obtaining the highly desired Pac-Man car.

The games replayability and longevity comes about in a rather crafty way though. To unlock every car, you have to finish Grand Prix with every team, drive every manufacturer, and qualify in every acceptable qualification position. It’s a testament to Namco’s desire to provide a challenge for fans no mater what game they are playing, and a sure sign that when someone owns that pill-munching yellow car you know they’ve earned it. R4 was surprisingly also the first game in the series to feature split screen multiplayer, meaning you could have high-octaine races against mates and revel in your victories.

The most notable thing about R4 were its stunning visuals. No Playstation racing game had looked as beautiful as R4, arguably no Playstation game had ever looked quite this good. This was thanks to a brand new rendering technique that Namco had rolled out onto the console. Utilising gouraud shading, Namco could create smooth shading lines across the cars bodywork, accurately reflecting light and creating a sense of depth that many racing games had completely lacked. R4 also came packaged with Ridge Racer Hi-Spec Demo (or Ridge Racer Turbo depending on where you come from), which utilised the same gouraud shading in the original title to make it look nearly as beautiful.

Whilst for many this game will have been overlooked, maybe even forgotten, it’s a title totally deserving of attention even today. If Sony CEO Kaz Hirai can get excited about playing Ridge Racer on the PSP, then the fact that you can now play R4 on PSP and PS3, would have absolutely blown his mind. R4 was the last entry to grace the original Playstation, and it may also be the last ‘pure’ entry into the series, but every single moment of this game was engineered beauty. It may not hold up against your modern arcade racers in terms of handling, but if you want a blast from the past, look no further than R4: Ridge Racer Type 4.

One Comment to “ Blast From The Past: R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 ”

  • brianApril 9, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    just picked it up again from Play n Traded and my goodness, such a quality racer. the lounge-y music, dark visuals, and amazing intro leave little to be desired.