The Ridge Racer series has always set the tone for other PlayStation racing games. The original Ridge Racer, which launched with the machine, attracted tons of people to the system. Ridge Racer Revolution came along in the fall of 1996 and left many people disappointed with the lack of changes. Even so, it was a solid racing game. Now Rage Racer is out. So how is it? The gameplay remains the same, though the objectives of the actual race have changed completely.
The first thing people will notice about Rage Racer is the credit system. The player starts out with a very basic (read: slow) car that has trouble climbing hills. But after winning a few races and earning some credits, either the car can be upgraded or another car can be purchased. Each car can be upgraded five times, leading to some incredibly fast-moving vehicles. The game now uses a class system to break up the races: Each class has three or four races, and each class has a certain number of cars that are available for purchase. After completing the races, the player moves onto the next class, where the rewards (and hence, the difficulty) are much higher. Each car can also be customized, from body color to the logo on the hood, using preset graphics (such as skulls, wavy lines, and the RR logo) or a custom graphic that the player designs using the built-in editor.
The music in the Ridge Racer games has always been fantastic. And while the Rage Racer music is good, it doesn't measure up to some of the tracks on the original game. Graphically, Rage Racer is the best of the bunch. The hills and waterfalls in the background look simply amazing. Billboards adorn the raceway, replete with ads for the upcoming Namco title, Time Crisis. The cars are look quite impressive, although they don't seem as colorful as the previous titles' cars.
The main problem with Rage Racer is the same one that plagued both of the previous titles: poor collisions. Instead of realistic crashes, cars simply bounce off each other. Ramming a car from behind simply shoots it further into the lead, leaving the player's car sliding out of control. Brushing up against a wall produces a similar effect.
There are loads of racing games out there, with more being announced every day. Rage Racer is a very good racing game, and anyone who even remotely enjoyed either of the first two Ridge Racer games will go crazy over it. It's got a lot of gameplay spread out over the two different tracks, and there are hours upon hours to be spent attempting to earn every single car. Rage Racer is an outstanding sequel, but let's hope Namco addresses the collision problems in their next racer.