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R: Racing Evolution Review

Developer: Namco Publisher: Namco
Release Date: December 9, 2003 Available On: GCN, PS2, and Xbox

R: Racing Evolution is the first racing game that I have played from the fine people at Namco. No surprise, considering their expertise in all other genres, R: Racing is not just playable, but enjoyable. Considering the level of depth in recent racing games, Namco decided to take their “Ridge Racer� series along a more simulated route. I have not played any Ridge Racer title; however, I can compare it to the arcade and sim-like games in the racing genre.

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First off, Evolution has authentic licensed vehicles, which can be upgraded and modified from their original form. A total of 14 real and fantasy tracks will be found in Evolution, though that number isn’t a real representation, since it will sometimes include the same track, but only backwards. Evolution has 5 game modes, including Racing Life (Story Mode), Event Challenges (must be bought with points), Arcade, Time Attack, and Versus. Racing Life features a compelling storyline, especially for a racing title, along with “rivalries� of sorts. Evolution features a reward system that allows for vehicle upgrades and unlocking new vehicles.

Evolution lacks a true rumble feature, which makes turns, bumps, and gravel feel less realistic and enjoyable; the overall racing feels accurate and is pressure sensitive. R: Racing requires an accurate use of the brake and acceleration; you must slow down around corners, but you don’t want to lose too much speed around the turns either, since gaining speed on straight-aways is crucial. Mastering balance is essential from the beginning, since the AI is some of the best around.

Evolution also has a “brake-assist� system that was implemented to help less skilled players; turning this on before a race will have your vehicle automatically apply brake pressure on each turn. The hardest part is keeping your car aligned with the track, especially with the rally cars, since you can easily lose the car’s grip. Namco put in place a “pressure system�. If you get close enough to an opponent’s vehicle, a meter will appear above their vehicle. Once the meter fills up, they will become anxious and run off the track. Evolution has a steady frame-rate throughout the game. Car models are beautifully done; reflections on vehicles look excellent. In each location, there really aren’t many living organisms, but the locations themselves look well and vary in weather conditions, buildings, etc.

While Racing Life is cool, it is over in a hasty manner; it took me around 5 hours to beat. The Event Challenge is a nice diversion from the story, but it lacks variety; your goal is to beat each race in first, the only things that change are the number of racers, course, and vehicles that you drive. In the GCN version (which I am reviewing), Pac-Man Vs. is included, but unfortunately, I can’t give that any credit towards this game, since it is simply a bonus disc that I will have to cover separately (plus, it requires a GBA and link cable, which many people probably don’t own).

For hardcore racing fans that don’t own a PS2 or Xbox, R: Racing Evolution is the only real racing-sim that you will enjoy. Since F-Zero GX isn’t really a racing simulator, R: Racing Evolution would win the GCN’s top honors for racing titles, even though that isn’t an official award. I suggest that you rent R: Racing Evolution first; if you are buying this for the Pac-Man Vs. disc and for the Pac-Man Vs. disc only, I suggest that you pick up I-Ninja over this, however, I still had a good time with Evolution, despite its few shortcomings.

Graphics: 7
Sound: 4.5
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 3
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 5.6
Written by Kyle Review Guide