Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy
Jan 2nd 2004
Introduction:Racing games have mainly been about the cars, the tracks and the race. Namco wants to change that by adding an ongoing story following the footsteps of a newcomers beginnings into the world of high performance.
The Game:In the past Namco has acclaimed its own place with racing games with their Ridge Racer series of games. Unfortunately R: Racing Evolution won't live up to their past efforts, but they sure do try. R-Racing Evolution main feature called Racing Life, which follows a young Japanese girl Rena unexpected journey into the drivers seat of some high speed machinery.
In Racing Life as you progress through the game you will see many cut scenes that weave the story together and hopefully keep you interest by its impressive visuals. It will have you experience all the tracks and cars classes that are featured in the game. R has an impressive variety in car classes jumping from experimental prototypes, to drag racing to classics and rally cars. Add in all the normal racers Viper and Mini Cooper included and you have a good assortment to test out.
The actual races are a little limiting because in a race you can only go against 5 other drivers, and then there is the actual racing. This is where R could have become a great game, but falls into an unrealistic driver. It's fine if they wanted to have an arcade approach similar to Apex, but the driving feels more like floating. R fails to capture the sense of speed which is vitally important to a racing game. Most of the time the game felt like the race was a bunch of lawnmowers roaming around the front lawn. Unfortunately the games' racing doesn't stand up to its other features that are implemented within it.
Graphics & Sound:R-Racing Evolution has a polished look which comes through in the menu system and with the car models. Everything in the game is very shiny. The high tech polish might bother some because it lacks a realistic vibe, but R-Racing Evolution wasn't hitting on realism. The cut scenes are some of the most beautiful picture scenes I have seen, full of colour and vibrancy. The other graphic elements such as the environments and cars are good, but can't compare to some of the newer racing titles. The problem could have been the development for the ps2 console first.
The background music in R-Racing Evolution is a gathering of ambient techno songs that fits the general theme of the game. The most noticeable sound comes in the form of the communication to you from other cars, the pit and your trainer. It's a very cool concept and it sounds great, even know it's badly scripted. I was in a race and the guy ahead of me was complaining about me drafting his car when I wasn't even close to him. let alone drafting. Keep in mind this pressure meter is not perfect, but it does add to the game.
Innovation:R-Racing Evolution adds some new ideas to the racing genre. The first would be the braking assistance, which gives you the option to let the game control your car in the corners to make perfect turns. This is great for games that aren't familiar to racing games, but everyone else will be appalled that they even bothered with this option. I had it off once I noticed what it was doing. Note to all R drivers: The brakes are controlled by the xbox controllers triggers buttons and are pressure sensitive so don't be slamming on the button like a maniac. I learned this the hard way.
The second notable innovation would be the pressure meter which I mentioned above this option adds to the game, but isn't executed perfectly. Besides the other drivers giving you lip you have the chance to making the other driver nervous and drive less attentive, causing them to screw up when you're closing in. The meter is cool, but I rarely played attention to it and just drove like I normally would in a racing game.
Mojo:First off the ladies in this game are modeled exceptionally well. Think of the first Charlie's Angels movie and Drew Barrymore.. Ok, now focus. good. I love the ideas R tried to pull off and the pressure meter and Racing Life is full of mojo. R has a great variety in the cars and they all look sweet. I wanted to embrace R, but without the real feeling of speed this game will be pushed aside after its finished. At least it will get one good run through.
Lowdown:R: Racing Evolution has some great elements such as the communication between pit crew and the competition. R has some great innovative aspects such as the pressure meter and braking assistant. The story of a young girl embracing the masculine world of processional is a great base for a game. It sounds like a sure winner, but as I said earlier it's a shame about the actual racing and the lack of feeling in the speed department. Beginners to racing games won't be as judgmental as the Downtowner, and it warrants a rental at the least. Experienced gamers should be cautious about R: Racing Evolution and hope for an improved sequel.
Gameplay: 6, Graphics/Sound: 8, Innovation: 7, Mojo: 7. Final: 7
Hot Chicks, Cool Cars, Great Concept, No Speed