R: Racing Evolution

Review

posted 2/5/2004 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
Some problems are bound to arise when a developer makes some massive changes to its well-established franchise. Longtime fans are bound to be alienated (just ask the guys in Metallica) at the expense of acquiring new ones. It’s a sacrifice that every single juggernaut is forced to make in the entertainment industry but in hopes of reinventing itself, Namco has effectively bastardized one of its most beloved properties at the expense of its hardcore fans.

From the start you’ll have a small assortment of race types to participate in. You’ll have access to Race Life, single race, multiplayer race and time trial variants. If you’ve been following the coverage for this game you’ll know that Race Life is the game’s story-propelled career mode. In it you’ll assume the role of an attractive young girl who makes the natural leap from ambulance driver to freelance racer. As you win more races you’ll learn more about your racing team via some beautifully rendered cutscenes oozing with the quality that we’ve come to expect from the guys at Namco. Overall the story isn’t really all that intriguing although the designers through a few plot twists into the mix and give you a rival in a female by the name of Gina. I have to wonder if the names were changed for the American version of the game though, somehow the name Gina stands out in a field that includes Matsushita and a bunch of traditional Japanese names. There’s just something out of place about it but I really can’t put my finger on it.

If you’re too lazy to deal with the cutscenes and the structured races you can always jump into the requisite single race modes. Multiplayer races can be had via the in-game split screen mode although online support has been omitted completely. This leaves you to race with one other opponent in a very simplistic and boring head-to-head race. Let’s just say the multiplayer isn’t really one of the game’s strong points. If you’re planning to pick up the game stick to the racing life mode. You’ll get a large number of races that span over 14 separate chapters. Best of all you’ll be able to participate in a wide variety of races such as rally races, drag races and the requisite circuit races.

As you could have guessed, winning more races furthers your progress in the game. At certain points of the game you’ll unlock new vehicles and new circuits to tear up. Most, if not all, of the circuits are modeled after real life locales. This lends them a very realistic feel that makes them fit in with the game’s realistic motif. In addition to the revamped gameplay the franchise also includes licensed vehicles instead of the shoddy generic ones that adorned previous iterations. The lineup of cars here is pretty consistent with what you would expect out of a Japanese racer. I’ll admit that it’s nicer to tear up these circuits in the helm of an Acura RSX instead of some cheesy generic vehicle.

R:Racing adds an interesting gameplay element via a health bar that resides above the opposition. As you put more pressure on them the bar fills, when it’s full the driver has a higher tendency of slipping up and putting their car into a wall which would allow you to pass. In theory it’s a very good idea but most of the time you’ll already have accumulated enough speed from their draft to pass them before the bar completely fills. In the end, this interesting feature is rendered useless on account of other existing gameplay mechanisms. That’s just beginning of the game’s problems.
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