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A.P.I Review: Ridge Racer 4
Developer: Namco OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Sony 1-2 Player
Game Type: Arcade Racing Memory Card PocketStation
Review Date: April 1999 Dual Shock Jogcon Compatible

Setting the Scene

The original Ridge Racer was one of Sony's pilot games that aided the launch of the Playstation back in '95. Namco's arcade-perfect coin-op conversion sold in abundance and was many peoples first experience of console gaming.

During the second quarter of '96 the sequel duly arrived and although it was more of the same in gameplay terms (one track divided into three) Ridge Racer Revolution was heralded a success because of those all important little extras. Improved AI, tighter graphics and... WOW..! a chance to link-up two Playstations and go head-to-head with a mate, just like in the arcades.

Unfortunately this feature was left out of the third in the series, Rage Racer. Although the style and appearance was immediately familiar, the format had changed dramatically. Now instead of developing your racing skills to win races and reveal hidden vehicles, the emphasis was on racing for hard cash. The more currency you earned, the better upgrade you could afford.

Although this idea had been tried and tested before, for the very first time you could actually 'feel' the difference when you invested money into an improved car. There was also the option to hold onto your original car and simply tune up the engine for a small fortune. This was an ideal situation had you taken the time to custom design the body work on your vehicle in the 'all new' paintshop.

So as we approach the millenium we have a new Ridge Racer. But what does R4 offer that the others don't?


Namco's R4 is pure, unadulterated, adrenaline pumping, arcade racing at it's best. Pack out your garage with over 300 cars. Powerslide your way around 8 brand new tracks, which may be also raced in reverse mode. Revel in the return of the link-up or simply take on a mate in the best ever split-screen mode on PSX.


Chicks and fast cars. I have always found it hard to understand how some guys get a boner from watching animations of sexy female characters. I am now beginning to understand. Superbly presented in a style that we have become accustomed to from Namco, the creators of Soul Blade and Tekken. Well that's the intro taken care of.

Allowing the game to roll into demo mode I immediately thought of.. (I knew I wouldn't get far without making a comparison) ..Gran Turismo. The cars, the circuits, the lighting... R4 certainly hits the mark when it comes down to replays. That is where the resemblance starts... and ends. R4 doesn't try to be a Gran Turismo... thankfully it remains a Ridge Racer.

As you line up at the start of a race the slender Japanese girls once again hold up their marker boards and clear the track ahead. 3... 2... 1.. GO!

R4 has two viewing angles. Slightly above/behind the car and the customary in-car view (the latter being the only way a Ridge Racer game should ever be played). On screen nothing much has changed. Top left: rank and position. Top right: lap times. Bottom left: small map. Bottom right: speedo and rev counter (hit the mark and you get a turbo start).

The in-game graphics are stunning and only fully appreciated while watching when someone else is holding the steering wheel. The opening straight is familiar territory as packed grandstands are hemmed in by lines of advertising hoardings. Soon you are out into the open countryside, or cutting through mountainous hills, crossing over cast iron bridges, tearing along the dock side and even racing past a busy airport at night. The most colorful circuit must be Brightest Nite that takes you on a journey through a neon lit city before cutting through a selection of twisting tunnels that have always been the hallmark of this series.

The vehicles are all Namco creations ranging from F2 racers and sports cars, to the futuristic Utopia rocket machine and the outrageous Ecureuil three wheeler that does 0- 300 km/h in under three seconds. Lighting effects have been well handled as street lights reflect over the body of the cars in real time. The only disappointment with the vehicles is that they retain a slight grainy appearance, which has almost become a Ridge Racer trademark over the years. The RR helicopter makes a welcome return as it continuously swoops down over the road and to offer further distraction we have acrobatic jets performing loop-the-loop with a trail of smoke streaming from their tails.

Sounds and Effects

The music in R4 once again hit's right on the spot and is the perfect accompaniment when tear-arsing around at breakneck speed. The 14 tracks include funk, soul and techno tunes. Choose your favorite for every single race, play a random selection or simply sit back and enjoy the entire CD as a rolling demo takes care of the action.

A screaming crowd welcomes each race as the countdown begins. Anyone familiar with the Ridge Racer games will recall the echoing tones of the over excited commentator who screams praise on fast lap times and pours scorn over errors and misjudgments. "Take care of this loser!" is as sweet as it gets when moving up on an opponent.

The engine sounds begin on a sensible level gradually growing as your vehicle is upgraded. Switching off the music allows you to hear when a car is approaching often before seeing it in your rear view mirror. The background noise also changes in the sense that it reflects your surroundings. You get a nice echoing sound as you enter a tunnel, while each collision is accompanied by a dull thud.


R4 offers four modes of play: Grand Prix, Time Attack, VS Battle and Extra Trial. There are eight tracks which can be reversed for a Mirror Mode and an almighty 320 cars to be unveiled. Best begin with Grand Prix mode as the others have little meaning until a few races have been won. Now pay attention because this may seem a little confusing.

There are four racing teams which represent the difficulty mode from easy to expert. R.C. Micro MouseMappy (Fra) is the easiest so we will begin with them. After a short introduction to your team driver it is time to select which maker of vehicle should be used in your first series of races. There are two drift vehicles, Assoluto (ITA) & Lizard (USA), and two grip vehicles, Terrazi (JPN) and Age Solo (FRA). Drift cars have a smaller turning angle than grip cars and tend to powerslide more when cornering. Each vehicle handles differently from another with variations on holding, acceleration and speed.

The eight races are divided into four heats. The first round involves two races in which you must finish in the top three positions: Helter Skelter (Japan, Yokohama) and Wonderhill (Japan, Fukuoka). The second round involves two further races in which you must finish in the top two positions: Edge of the Earth (USA, N.Y.) and Out of the Blue (Japan, Yokohama). Third round races, Phantomile (Japan, Yokohama) and Brightest Nite (USA, N.Y.), must be won to unlock the Grand Final which is held on the high speed circuit Heaven and Hell (Japan, Fukuoka).

Completion of each round will be rewarded with a new car in your garage dependant on your finishing position. In effect what we have here is four difficulty modes, in which all four vehicles much be raced in a series of eight events. By my reckoning that's a minimum of 128 individual races (not including failures). Permutations of finishing positions offer different vehicles and to get them all would require at least 896 individual races. Now there's a task.

Once you have completed a full Grand Prix one of the four extra trials becomes available. These races are similar to the old Time Trial mode where super powered yellow, white and black cars could be collected when you beat them in a one-on-one race. This time the cars you are facing have outrageous designs and are turbo charged requiring the 'old blocking' routine to defeat them. You may visit the Garage to select one of your prize cars to aid this challenge.

Vs Mode allows two players to insert their memory cards into each port of the Playstation and race their finest cars against each other in a series of head to head battles. Up to two CPU controlled cars may be added to juice up the opposition. The split screen mode is the best I have ever witnessed on the Playstation.. as long as in-car view is selected. After a few rounds you forget that you are only looking at half of a screen and the difference in frame rate is hardly noticeable.

Finally Time Attack mode allows you to practice each circuit in both normal and mirror mode using any car from your Garage. In the garage, you're also able to customize the stickers on your cars. There are 16 colors and 16 stickers to choose from. You can also draw your own sticker in the Sticker edit section should you prefer.

The game uses Namco's new Jogcon control: the peripheral with a small steering wheel fitted below the start and select buttons. It also works with the NeGcon pad and is Dual Shock compatible.

There are a few disappointments with Namco's latest title.
You are no longer allowed to upgrade your vehicle and there is no facility to tune and tamper with the settings. I suppose with 320 possible variations of car there should be no need for this option.
I would have liked to see Mirror Mode implemented into the Grand Prix at some stage and also allowed to select a car from the garage for each race.
Still... it does get the adrenaline pumping when you hit the front just before that final crucial corner.

Value for Money

This game follows quite closely to Ridge Racer and Rage Racer and doesn't attempt to be a Gran Turismo clone. Namco has added shadows, reflections and light sourcing, providing the best graphic effects we have ever seen in the series. The greatest addition to this game must be the number of cars. This has to be the best Ridge Racer yet.

GRAPHICS: 18/20 R4 may not be a Gran Turismo beater, but then it never even tried. Namco have thankfully remained faithful to the qualities that the Ridge Racer series is renowned for: blinding speed, powerslides and hours of adrenaline pumping fun.

The greatest disappointment is being offered the capability to obtain over 300 high powered beasts of the road but then being unable to pitch them against a full racing field. Sadly they are only selectable when playing in two player split screen, and single player time trial.
SOUND: 8/10
VALUE: 17/20


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