Liam’s Game Room #5 (Ridge Racer Type 4, Playstation)

Introduction

Ridge Racer Type 4 is a racing game release by Namco in 1998 for the Playstation and is the 4th game in the Ridge Racer series of games. The game has 4 different modes that can be played, which are Grand Prix, Time Attack and Multiplayer. There is a 4th mode which is unlocked after being the game once, which is called Extra Trial where the player can use a championship winning car and race against another car, which can be unlocked and used in Multiplayer and Time Attack.

The game’s modes are somewhat limited when the player turns on the game for the first time as only 4 tracks are initially available with the other tracks being locked. The player can unlock the rest of the tracks and reverse versions of the tracks by beating the game once through. I feel that this is a good thing because it allows the player to get used to the tracks before undertaking Grand Prix mode, although the preset cars tend to less powerful than the most of the cars that can be played.

Gameplay and Difficulty

The gameplay of Ridge Racer Type 4 is something that is quite unique to the time and not many racing games experimented with the type of the mechanics that are in this game.  The game consists of 8 races across 4 different stages, which are series of races. After being a stage of races, dependent upon where the player finishes on the grid and how many attempts it takes the player to qualify, the player gets an upgraded car. The qualifying for the stages are 3rd or higher for stage 1, 2nd or higher for stage 2 and stages 3 and 4 will require the player to win the race. The ascending requirement of the player is a great way to incentivise the player to try and win the races, as it means that the car that they get at the next stage/tier will be a better car.

When the player picks the Grand Prix mode, the player has a choice from 4 different teams. The teams correspond to the level of difficulty of winning with the team. So, what this allows for players who are new to the game to decide how difficult they want the game to be, which really wasn’t seen with racing games at the time as it more based on player skill then difficulty levels. I will now explain the 4 teams and their corresponding difficulty levels.

DRT is the hardest team in the game and is considered expert difficulty. The backstory to this American team is that they were a very successful team in the past, but they hit a run of unsuccessful seasons. The team manager informs the player that the team has financial difficulties and also the fact that the new owner doesn’t wish to invest much money into the team. In terms of DRT’s cars, they are very difficult to handle and getting them around corners in an achievement in of itself. The car’s pace is also pretty poor as well, which makes overtakes very tough and winning races extremely tough. This difficulty is only for veterans of the game who have played the game quite a lot and is extremely familiar with the circuit layouts. The player would have to play pretty much flawlessly to win every single in a row with this team.

Micro Mouse Mappy Team (Or MMM) for short is the easiest difficulty in the game and is easy difficulty.The story of this French team is that the team owner was taken ill before the start of the season, therefore the owners granddaughter takes over the team for this season. The team is named after an old Namco arcade game which was released in 1983, although oddly the team was established in 1981. This team is the team to pick for beginners to the game, as the cars are exceedingly easy to handle around cornering allowing for precise turns around corners. However, MMM’s cars are also the slowest, making it difficult to win races in multiplayer. The player can make quite a lot of mistakes in this difficulty and still win races comfortably, as opposition cars in this difficulty are intentionally slower to allow for the easier difficulty level.

Pac Racing Team (Or PRC) is the medium difficulty team and the most balanced overall. The story of this Japanese team is that a team from the previous season had dropped out the championship and this was PRC’s rookie reason. The team owner was demonised from his past after being involved in an accident previously with a former teammate. This causes the owner to treat the player with contempt and also plays the player’s ability quite often throughout the season. PRC cars are the most balanced cars in the game with the car handling very well whilst having the second highest top speed. The team is named PRC after Pacman, which upon the release of the game was Pacman’s 20th anniversary since the original release of the arcade machine.

The final team the player can choose is Racing Team Solvalou (Or RTS), which is the hard difficulty team. The backstory to this Italian team is that the team is a highly successful team who has won multiple RRR championships in a row and they expect high standards from the player. RTS cars are geared much more towards maximum speed with lower than average handling, but not as weak handling as DRT cars. This difficulty is perfectly geared for maximising speed on straights, whilst suffering during the corners.

After the player decides which team they want, the player is then offered a selection of 4 different manufacturers. The manufacturer also decides whether the player has a drift car or a grip car. Drift means that if the player hits the brake, starts to turn and accelerate then the player will drift around the corners. Absoluto and Lizard are the drift manufacturers. Grip means if the player stops accelerating and then starts turning, the car will gain a lot of grip and will be able to get around the corner that way. Terrazi and Age Solo are the grip manufacturers. Each manufacturer works best with the Nationality of the team matching the manufacturer. So Lizard and DRT work perfectly, Terrazi and PRC, Age Solo and Mappy and then Absoluto and RTS work perfectly. I think this mechanics with the team variants and the different manufacturers offers a different playthrough every time because of the 16 total combinations that the player can chose from. Overall, I think the gameplay and difficulty variety offers a great experience both for new and veteran players alike.

Graphics

Now the graphics of this game is sadly one of the major problems with this game. First of all, the car models are actually quite nicely detailed, however the decals and the paint jobs on the cars don’t look the best, almost like they took polygons and just used the paint bucket tool from Paint. This are 2 camera angles that the game offers, which is simply outside of the car and inside the car without the emphasis of the inside not being on a dashboard.

Another problem is that the depth of field or knowing when a corner is coming up can be very difficult to judge unless you glance up on the minimap, which can also sometimes be inaccurate. What I mean by depth of field is how far the player can see ahead of the car they are driving and the fact that the player can’t see too far ahead makes some circuits difficult to judge.

Circuits

In Ridge Racer Type 4, there are 8 different circuits, which have varying difficulties and some circuits have preferences for different car types. So some circuits are much easier when using a drift type car and other circuits are easier when using a grip car. This variety helps to make sure that the circuits aren’t bias towards one type of car to another. Below I will be explaining the circuits and what I find the car type preference for each circuit.

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Helter Skelter is the first circuit of the first stage. The circuit is actually quite a simple circuit with plenty of long straights, but with some difficult turns, especially in the tunnel section. The track allows the player to get used and adapt to the car type that they are using. There is no preference in terms of which type of car to use as both grip and drift cars are equally easy to use on this circuit. RTS would be the recommender team to be with for this circuit as the long straights allow the car to reach maximum speed comfortably and the cornering isn’t too complex once the player is familiar with the circuit.

Image result for wonderhill ridge racerWonderhill is one of the toughest circuits in the entire game and is much more difficult compared to Helter Skelter. Most of the corners are really tight and if the player goes too deep into the corner, there is some greenery which will slow the car down dramatically. This circuit is more geared to the drift type because of how long some of the corners are and how long the player would need to be turning for. Grip cars will struggle here because on some of the entrances to the corners, there are barriers that stick out meaning that there really isn’t a racing line. MMM would be the recommended team for this circuit simply because of how well the Mappy cars handle, especially the drift cars. Even Mappy grip cars do moderately well. The other reason why Mappy is preferred is because there isn’t much in terms of straights, so top speed isn’t relevant, but handling is paramount.

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Edge of The Earth is the first circuit in the second stage of the game. This circuit compared to Wonderhill is actually much easier because there are much more in terms of straights and less in terms of difficult corners. The corners are actually quite wide, which allows both experienced drivers who are very calculated in their approach to each corner and newcomers to the circuit to judge the corner effectively without being punished. Edge of The Earth is a circuit where which is geared equally to both drift and grip cars, as the longer corners are suited to drift cars, but the second half of the circuit is perfectly suited for grip cars. RTS would be the recommended team for this circuit because the long straight offer a chance to reach maximum speed comfortably and the cornering isn’t too difficult. This is one of my personal favourite circuits because of the high speed that even the stage 2 cars can hit on this circuit.

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Out of Blue is perhaps one of the toughest circuits in the entire game. The beginning section and the final section of the circuit is directly taken from the 1st circuit of the game Helter Skelter as both circuits are in the same location. I think that reusing some of the corners definitely is a nice touch, but of course the corners don’t behave the same because the cars are much quicker than during Helter Skelter. What this means is that the corners that are reused feel different enough that it doesn’t feel like the corners are reused for the sake of it. The cornering on this track is the hardest of all the circuits, as the the circuit isn’t very wide at all and the corners come at the players quickly. MMM is the preferred team for this circuit because the low top speed and the great cornering of the team simplifies the circuit and makes the circuit much easier. This circuit is also perfectly geared to the grip type of cars because there really isn’t any space for the drift cars to begin to drift effectively due to how tight some of the corners are.

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Phantomile is the first circuit of the final GP and it is a nice introduction to the final stage because the track is very short and nowhere near as difficult as Out of Blue. I think that the decline in difficulty from Out of Blue to Phantomile is very welcomed because it may have caused some players problems adapted to the faster stage 3 cars that the player receives for this circuit. The corners in this circuit are quite wide, which allows for a variety of different of racing lines and also plenty of opportunities for overtakes. This circuit is perfectly suited for both manufacturers as the drift cars have enough space to drift whilst the grip cars have the opportunity to start out wide and then find out where the best place to grip around the corner.

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Brightest Nite is one of my favourite circuits and offers something completely different compared to previous circuits. The first and final sections reuse the corners from Edge of The Earth, but before the long straight of Edge of The Earth, there is a turn to the right where you go down a tunnel and on to the alternative route. There are quite a lot of big jumps, which makes the circuit really fun because you see the car take off down the hills, although the player would need some quick reactions to make sure that they don’t crash into the wall. The second big jump, which is the biggest has the car jump for about 2 to 3 seconds and unlike the first hill, you don’t see the bottom of it until about a second after the car launches. This circuit is very well suited to PRC cars because even though the top speed is more suited for RTS, the weaker cornering means that PRC is the preference. Also, the lower top speed helps control the car after the jumps and gives the player a little bit more time to react for the corners. Grip cars here are extremely weak because of how sharps quite a lot of the corners are, whilst drift cars glide around the corners very well.

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Heaven and Hell is the toughest circuit in the entire game because of how relentless the corners are. The first half of the circuit uses all the corners from Wonderhill, which considering the cars are about 40% faster than stage 1 cars makes some of the corners almost impossible to manoeuvre around. The second half of the circuit is extremely difficult with really tight corners and long corners, making precise cornering a must and players to know the car that they are driving, otherwise player will struggle to win the race. MMM is the preferred team for this circuit as the lowest top speed and great cornering makes the circuit much easier to race on, whilst the grip car type is preferred because the tightness of the corners mean the drift cars will struggle a lot.

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Shooting Hoops is the final circuit of the game and the player is given a stage 4 car, which are the fastest cars in the game without completing extra trials. This circuit is really simple as it is pretty much an oval of a circuit and the way to go faster in having the tightest line to save the fractions of seconds. RTS is the preferred team here as the top speed of the car really shines here with the potential of going over 200mph and there is no favouritism in terms of car type.

Music 

The music of Ridge Racer Type 4 is my favourite soundtrack of all time because of the sheer variety of music on the soundtrack. The orchestral house introduction music really sets the mood for the variety of music and the amount of fusion of musical styles and genres. The core genre of the soundtrack is centred around house, electronic with some funk and orchestral elements. Each individual theme has it’s own unique feel to it and really explores the fusion of sounds and styles masterfully, which at the time in video game soundtracks was unheard of. But, what this created was a soundtrack which is truly timeless and still sounds very modern and unique.

The amount of different instruments in the soundtrack was vast and very fusion with the synthesisers work perfectly with no instruments overpowering one another, but more adding another layer onto the pieces. The live instrumentation used seems to be pretty much a full orchestra with a full synthesisers to add more detail and thicken the texture of the pieces. Impressively, instead of opting for a synthetic bassline, the soundtrack features a huge presence of bass guitars and live drum kits, which adds a natural sound to the soundtrack. I feel that the musical styles explored in the soundtrack still haven’t been full explored in modern music, which helps produces this synth style of music but with a natural, timeless feel.

The most impressive thing about the soundtrack is just how much detail went into the soundtrack. It doesn’t feel like a video game soundtrack, it feels like a very well produced studio album, as there is even care taken into the panning of the instruments, which also feel perfect in a studio mix. Also, there are some tracks that can be considered acid jazz, which is a synth fusion with jazz instruments and timbres. To get jazz working in a racing game and make the songs fuse with dance music is really impressive as it is was something that just isn’t seen in modern soundtracks or popular music.

Conclusion

Overall, this game is still a great game to play, even if the graphics haven’t aged very well. The car mechanics work really well and the variety of tracks offer a wide range of challenges for new and experienced players. The game also boasts perhaps the most unique video game soundtrack of all time, with wonderful and beautiful fusions of musical styles that work perfectly.

9/10

Liam Piper

Copyright ©2016 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use

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