TGS 2003R: Racing Evolution Impressions

Namco's new racing game is headed for the finish line, and we've just taken all three versions for a spin.


R: Racing Evolution was originally thought to be the next game in the Ridge Racer series. While it may share some traits with Namco's popular arcade-like racing series--such as a CG woman that appears in the game's opening, as well as its story mode--the driving in Racing Evolution really doesn't compare to the fast-paced action found in your average Ridge Racer game.

R is coming to all three consoles, but the PlayStation 2 version is clearly the lead platform. Little graphical touches, like nicer-looking reflections, are present in the PS2 version, but the Xbox has a very sterile look at this point and the GameCube version's trackside textures are pretty muddy. It's expected that all three versions will look a little more similar as development wraps up. One thing that none of the versions really do at this point is deliver a solid sense of speed. Even when you're cruising at well over 120 miles per hour, the scenery drags by at what feels more like 55. You can bet that somewhere, at this very moment, Sammy Hagar is losing sleep over this. Hopefully the final product will deliver a more accurate-feeling sense of speed. Like most modern racing games, Racing Evolution does a good job with its replays. The car models look really nice and the camera shakes around a bit, just like a real TV camera would.

On the gameplay side of things, R's cars handle slightly sluggishly, as if the traction control system was a bit overzealous, and really prevented you from turning the car as much as you'd like. The game takes a unique approach to racing by giving names and what seem to be different personalities to the AI-controlled drivers. This comes into play when you attempt to pass. When you roll up behind another car, a meter appears. If you can tail the car successfully and ride in its wake long enough, the meter fills up. When it's full, the bar turns red, and the driver makes a mistake, usually sending his car into the barricade and letting you cruise on by.

Though the main focus of the game's display at Tokyo Game Show was to get right to the driving in a single race setting, R: Racing Evolution will have a handful of single-player modes. It will also feature a splitscreen versus mode for at least two drivers. The game is scheduled for domestic release on the Xbox, GameCube, and PlayStation 2 in December.

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