|Platforms||PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo Game Cube|
|Modes|| Single player|
|Ratings||ESRB: T for Teen - Mild Language, Suggestive Themes.|
|Media||DVD-ROM, MiniDVD Optical Disc|
"The race is just the beginning" - back cover tag line.
R: Racing Evolution, known as R: Racing in Europe, is a 2003 racing video game developed and published by Namco for the Nintendo Game Cube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox home systems. Considered as a spin-off of the Ridge Racer series, this is the first game to take a serious driving simulator approach, marking a departure from the stylish arcade-driving action, featuring real life licensed cars of automakers like Honda, Acura, Lotus, Dodge and some more. In addition, R: Racing Evolution includes a story-based mode starring Rena Hayami.
Conceived by a development team comprising members of the Ridge Racer series and Namco's MotoGP, the driving mechanics of R: Racing Evolution try to focus more on the real-life physics of motorsport cars. Mechanics such as acceleration and braking in tight curves are now mandatory, leaving behind the arcade-friendly style that defines Ridge Racer. To help newcomers to the series and casual gamers, the game offers a default brake assist feature.
Advancement in controller technology from the sixth console generation meant that the intensity of acceleration and braking could be controlled with the trigger buttons of the Xbox and Gamecube controllers, while the DualShock 2 made use of the face buttons with its proprietary Pressure Sensitive technology.
A prominent feature in this game, when competing with the AI, is the "Pressure Meter". This measures the psychological pressure inflicted upon a car in front of the player's. The closer the distance, the quicker the Pressure Meter would start filling up. The affected competitor initiates a dialogue. When it's completely full, it starts to flash, indicating that the car ahead will make a critical mistake, paving the way for passing the out-of-control opponent.
Multifunction Display is a system that updates the player about the race condition in real time. Allows players to do car settings adjustments while racing. The displayed information depends of the car and the course of the race. Using the directional pad, the player can adjust settings of brake, steering, stabilizers and center LSD only in certain cars. The automobiles also can be adjusted in the Setting option through the menus, feature additional settings as final drive ratio, ABS, car weight, maximum HP/Torque, etc. These changes will be reflected in the races, affecting acceleration, speed and/or handling.
By winning and clear races or drive skillfully, the player can get RP (Reward Points) in the Racing Life, Event Challenge and VS modes. RP are necessary to buy new and better cars, tune-up owned cars to improve their performance, and to get into the racing events of Event Challenge.
Racing life is a fixed story-driven mode that lets you play as Rena, a young Japanese woman who goes from driving ambulances to the top of the professional racing circuit. Racing Life is broken up into 14 chapters, and each one is separated by a cutscene that advances the story.
Rena Hayami is introduced as a Japanese ambulance driver living in a nondescript Western country. On one afternoon, she responds to an accident at a racetrack. Pressed for time, Rena pushes her driving skills to the limit in order to deliver the injured racer to the hospital. Along for the ride with his injured team member, the former racing engineer and now team manager Stephan Garnier is impressed enough to offer Rena a chance to become a racecar driver herself. She accepts and joins Stephan's team, oblivious to the fact that the team is sponsored by a shadowy corporation called G.V.I., which determines the placing of the racers in the race, as shown in one of the chapters, when Rena (the player) is forced to place second, not first. At first, Rena benefits from the company's influence and is given equipment and opportunities to race in major events. However, she quickly develops a bitter rivalry with independent veteran racer Gina Cavalli. It is later revealed that Gina despises G.V.I., and her contempt for the company spills over to Rena, whom Gina considers to be their pawn. Later, when the first rally race chapter was introduced, Stephan's team mechanic Eddie is introduced, and it is revealed that Stephan was once a very good team manager, until an accident occurred involving one of his racers, he was forced to go into the dark. Towards the end of Rena's rookie season, Eddie comes up with a plan to leave G.V.I. with Stephan and Rena. They form a new team without G.V.I.'s influence and Gina finds new respect for Rena and the two become friends while continuing their rivalry on the racetrack.
Races and courses
Through the different game modes, R: Racing Evolution presents three sorts of races, inspired by actual motorsport series as SuperGT, 24 Hours of Le Mans or WRC:
- Standard circuits: the most common kind of race. Features both the classic dedicated race and urban courses.
- Rally: as usual, this type of race takes place on off-road tracks, and provides a standard rally racing copilot that shouts out turns and warns of hazards while you drive.
- Drag: this kind of racing is especially simple, as all you really need to do is let off the brake when the race starts and hit the nitro boost button when an onscreen indicator lights up.
First time in the Ridge Racer series, R:RE features real-life famous tracks, besides fictional courses. Some circuits houses great championships, while others are focused in Rally races with beautiful natural environments. Certain courses reappears as inverted.
This is the second main mode of this game, when players can attend various race events, buy and tune cars.
- Race: to enter an event, first it must to be purchased with RP. Event Challenge has up to three levels of clearing ranks for each race: gold, silver and bronze. The player can win more RP, cars and/or medals according to the clearing rank obtained. To win a car is necessary to finish first with a car belonging to a class that allows you to win the Gold. There is a total of 166 events distributed as follows:
- Single Race (67 events) - run one race only. With its many accessible events, this mode is a good introduction to the races. Some races limit your choices on such things as type of drive system and nationality of the car.
- Time Trial (40 events) - race alone from start to finish, attempting to set record times. Choose from numerous courses, such as tracks that allow you to race certain segments of courses or drive through specially-laid-out circuits with obstacles.
- One-Make Race (10 events) - races limited to single car models. In this event, differences in car quality are less significant and the results depend purely upon driving technique.
- Tour Race (10 events) - races of multiple courses, competing for the highest total score. Driving at a steady speed in each race is the key to victory.
- VS Rival (10 events) - an one-on-one duel with a rival racer. Opponents are veteran masters, so it is recommended challenge them only after tuning up a car and have a polished technique.
- Tournament (15 events) - this tournament-style event ends when you lose a race. With each win, car speeds increase.
- Extra (14 events) - stop in the designed area within the time limit to clear this challenge.
- Performance Shop: here you can spend RP to improve the performance of your cars by purchasing "Steps", which make increase the maximum power and torque of the engine and decrease the weight of the car. There are up to two steps: you need to buy Step 1 first, and then you can buy Step 2.
- Car Dealer: here you can buy new cars, or different versions of cars that already you have using RP.
Other game modes
- Arcade: run a single race on the course of your choice against computer players. This mode is best when you want to become familair with the playing style of R: Racing Evolution. You can make settings like transmission type, class of the rivals, brake assist ON/OFF, number of laps, etc.
- Time Attack: drive on a course without any competition. The goal is timing the performance from start to finish. Since all courses are available to choice from, this is an ideal practice mode.
- VS: the 2 player VS mode of the game. It provides for two types of Battle: Normal (first place wins) or Points (who scores the most RP wins).
In this option the players can view cars purchased or achieved through Racing Life and Event Challenge modes. Also, you can see replays saved in the memory card or the cutscenes of Racing Life.
After a hiatus in Ridge Racer V, the classic Namco Sound Team returns to compose the music in this game. The soundtrack was composed by Yuu Miyake, Hiroshi Okubo, Akitaka Tohyama, Koji Nakagawa, and Satoru Kosaki. The rhythms of the songs ranging from techno, electro house and trance. R: Racing Evolution Direct Audio was released in a 2-CD pack. This is the track list:
- Show the world (short version)
- Select Screen 1
- Select Screen 2
- Deep Resonance
- Liquid Soul
- Mars Landing
- T Minus Ten
- Monte Carlo
- Time Compression
- Scene 15 BGM
- Show the World
GameRankings holds 67.78% (PS2), 69.69% (XB) and 70.66% (GC), while Metacritic has 66 of 100 for the PlayStation 2 and 67 for the Game Cube and Xbox versions. Nintendo Power mentioned in his review: "Taking a more realistic approach to driving than some adrenaline-pumping racers, Evolution may seem slow at first, but the challenge increases as the game continues". (Feb 2004, p.148). IGN gave a mixed review: "It doesn't feature nearly as many cars or tracks. Control is stiff and the sensation of speed comparatively slow. And it's certainly not as fast and arcade-cool as Ridge Racer."
Main critics were regarding the simulator/arcade split that failed to convince fans of both game styles, and the null sense of speed. The plot of Racing Life mode was rated as interesting during the first chapters, waiting for know what follows in the career of Rena and her rivalry with Gina. Event Challenges were praised for take the most of the game with a good variety of competitions. Graphically the game was within the average of that generation, with a decent vehicle and circuit designs. Automobiles tune-ups and engine modifications were well received because actually changes control of the cars. The brake-assistant system was targeted as too amicable, decreasing the overall difficulty of the game, so experienced gamers should turn it off. Music and sound obtained a light acceptance, where the in-race voices and car sounds could be better.
- Pac-Man VS was included as bonus in the Game Cube version. This idea came from Shigeru Miyamoto.
- All cover arts are different in each region to appeal to each sector and penchant for cars. American cover displays a yellow Dodge Viper Competition Coupe. In Europe the cover shows BMW McLaren F1 GTR. Finally, Japanese cover art have a De Tomaso Pantera GT5 S.
- This is the first game in the Ridge Racer series to be rated T for Teen. This is because the use of middle language in the story mode. Also, because of the attire of the girls. Both Rena and Gina wear their racing uniforms with a low-cut.
- Xbox versions includes a exclusive special H1 Hummer.