Thursday, 20 November 2014

Driving into the horizon again

Forza Horizon 2

Back again is Forza, this time in the form of a sequel to it's spin-off series; Forza Horizon. The first game was released on the Xbox 360 in late 2012. The principle was to take the fantastic car models and handling from the main simulator series to a more easy-to-drive and free-roaming racing festival. The result was one of the 360's best racing games, positioning itself perfectly between arcade and simulator. No surprise then, that there's a sequel that has recently arrived for the Xbox One (it should be noted that there's a version on 360, which bases itself on this version, but it's not exactly the same game or developed by the same company).

Right from the awesome, though psychedelic and rave party inspired introduction video, to the moment you roll out of a car ferry with your Lamborghini this game shines quality and fantastic presentation. Your first drive is to get to a festival in the middle of Forza Horizon 2's map. As you drive closer, more and more racing cars meet along the way heading for the same festival destination. It's a really great way to give scope and atmosphere of the game's setting. Arriving at the festival and beginning with some pep talk, you are gradually introduced to FH2's many modes through three races. The learning curve is very subtle and gives you a variety of choices to suit your playing style from the get go.

FH2's map is a small representation of the coast of France and Italy, including the beautiful city of Nice. It's a lot larger than the previous Horizon map, and includes a lot of off-road areas to roam in. In fact, a lot of the time you can simply drive away from a road and just cross the countryside to your destination. Further heightening the sense of scale and size to this game.The races reflect this very well, putting you in normal road races, off-road ones or on gravel. Between travelling to various towns on the map and taking part at small festivals in each one, there's a huge freedom in choices; be it car type or certain races you want to partake in. In fact the game never forces you to drive certain type of cars at all, you can simply drive what you like and partake in championships best suited to your car type.

So if you enjoy rally racing a lot, you can buy only cars that suit this and partake in championships that offer this all the way to the final! Are hyper cars to your liking, or maybe american muscle? Simply buy these cars and partake in those championships that are made for these vehicles. It's a fantastic way to let the player choose his racing style and car type, without feeling the boredom of racing something you don't enjoy. Other than racing there are a ton of challenges to complete throughout the map, including old secret cars to find in barns and smashable billboards giving you experience points. With the XP you can unlock perks that allow you to for instance give you cheaper tune up parts, earn XP at a faster rate or see which cars you still haven't taken photographs of.

There are literally tons of things to do in this game and it will take you ages to complete them all. The main "story" though, until you reach the final, is shorter and as such perfect for more casual players to complete without having to dig in tens of hours into the game. It really is built to suit everybody's playstyle. I'd even go so far as to recommend it to players that don't normally play so many racing games, it really is enjoyable for them too!

FH2 is a wonderful technical showcase for the Xbox One. The detailed world, especially considering it is a free-roaming game, is truly incredible. Towns, mountains, woodlands and sunny coastal roads are depicted in high detail and look like something from holiday postcards. The lighting adds to the mood and is superb, transitioning from night to day looks especially amazing. The rainy weather is also something new for the entire Forza series, and actually add a lot of variety to the races. Weather happens randomly as the game world changes and goes through days and nights.

There's something stunning seeing the water reflections on the road lit up by your headlights and the windshield wipers moving away the raindrops on your front window as you tearing at alarming speeds down a small and windy road at night! A feeling I wish most gamers interested in racers will enjoy by getting this game!

If you are remotely interested in cars and racing games, be it a simulator fan or arcade one; this is the game for you this year. It's an incredible upgrade from last generation and an amazing package filled with tons of races, challenges and places to explore with a huge variety of cars. There really is something for everyone to like and nothing like it in the competition.

Sure the formula may have already been used in the first Horizon game, and perhaps fans of the original will find it simply more of the same, but FH2 is such a huge upgrade with even more content and  jaw-dropping visuals you cannot miss out.

The year's best racing game? The best racing game available for the new current gen consoles? Yes and yes!



    Monday, 17 November 2014

    Reading history

    I have recently read the book "Console Wars: Sega Vs Nintendo - and the Battle that Defined a Generation" by Blake J. Harris. It mainly focuses on the 16-bit era of gaming in the USA, explaining how Sega grew to take over 50 percent of the market from a very dominant Nintendo at the time.

    The book is well written, and explains a generation which I grew up with, not only from the perspective of consumers, but what actually happened behind the scenes on the business side of the war. I love the way the book explains meetings that took place and decisions within them; with actual dialogue. Told in a way that makes yo feel like you're there in the room when it happened. There are a lot of amusing scenes in the book, especially from Sega's side of things, as they were really doing their best to topple Nintendo's 95% market share from the NES era.

    It's impressive reading how Tom Kalinske and his handpicked crew at Sega, managed to completely change a market around and actually become the the leading company. From being almost nothing, to a huge phenomena, and then again seeing the fall as they approach the disastrous Sega Saturn launch. It's also interesting to see how Nintendo changes from being very non-rigid company and slowly adapting to compete with Sega in a more modern fashion.

    If you're an 80's kid like me and grew up playing videogames as a child in the early 90's, battling out in the school yard about what was the best of Sonic and Mario, this is really a great read. For younger people interested in the history of gaming I would think it appeals quite well, as this generation builds the foundation for how both Sony and Microsoft raised to fame in the later ones. It also illustrates how Sega modernised a lot of marketing for the industry, which even today is formula still being used.

    Buy the book on Amazon:

    Watch Blake talk about his book here:

    The first light transistors

    Infamous First Light

    After the fantastic Infamous Second Son I was hungry for more, and so here we have Fetch's story in Infamous First Light! It takes place before the events of Infamous SS and tells the story of how Fetch and here brother came to Seattle. The game is a DLC to Infamous SS, but it does not require the original game to play. As such it is a fantastic deal for the low entry price, you should however have played Infamous SS first, even though this is a prequel. Infamous SS eased you into the whole series in a more gradual way and teaches you abilities at a slower pace, it's much better to start there, especially if you are new to the series!

    First light is divided into two areas if you like; the city are, which is the backdrop for the story and the arena area. The arena area is a perfect place for levelling up and feels like a mini game on it's own. Here you have to either help hostages or fight of increasingly harder waves of enemies. I normally find this type of combo fighting very difficult and tiresome, but in first light it's fairly easy to get the hang of. As you level up Fetch, each wave becomes easier and you progress to some of the later ones required to earn trophies. While I did alright in them, this type of gameplay isn't something I personally enjoy so much.

    Luckily the story mode plays like the last game and there are some really cool and nifty abilities Fetch unlocks. It kind of illustrates how good the neon ability was in Infamous SS. There are some cool missions to play in the story as well, which bring some new ideas into the picture to make it a slightly original experience to the main game.

    Just like Infamous SS, FL is a graphical showcase of the PS4. It renders an amazingly detailed and beautiful Seattle, though this time limiting you to the lower residential side with the tower. Everything runs really smooth and there's even a mountainous snowy landscape further into the game that once again showcase how diverse the engine seems to be. It really is impressive how good they have made a free roaming game like this. Especially the characters look really detailed in the faces.

    For it's low entry price and generous hours of gameplay, this is a good DLC for fans of the main game. It's amazing they are giving people the chance to get it at this price when you consider you don't need the full game to run it! I enjoyed it, though the areanes stuff wasn't exactly my thing, it probably is for others. The best part of First Light is learning more about Fetch as she really is a great and very different character from Infamous SS' Delsin. Play Infamous SS first, then pick up First Light immediately, for a real fun and different experience!



    Check out my review of the original Infamous Second Son here:

    Two awesome exclusives in one year, very good work on Sucker Punch Productions' behalf! Probably the best games exclusives to the extremely thin line-up of exclusives this year on the PS4.


    Hearing of a  new game from the Bastion creators got me very excited, and there are a few similarities, especially the way the story is told with a voice telling the story and the artstyle. But further similarities end there and so transistor becomes Bastions spiritual successor, but a fairly distant and more weird one at that.

    Transistor's world is clearly a design  similar to Bastion, but it sets itself in a futuristic city fused with an Art Deco artstyle. The gameplay is a sort of turn based RPG in limited battle arenaes. You use a time stopping mechanism that serves as a way to limit your moves each turn. You need to combine various skills and attacks to take out the enemies. Winning depends very much on strategic decisions and the way you move around each turn. It gives some homage to the old JRPG's that featured a square-based board for a playing field.

    Amongst this fairly uncommon gameplay style in todays world, I found it interesting and actually fairly refreshing, is a story that is very stylishly told. However, I found it to be very confusing and difficult to actually understand. At times it's very strong, at other times it's like standing in a modern art exhibition where I understand nothing, but it looks artistic. As such the game never really grabbed me the way Bastion did, but it did get me through two playthroughs, since it's fairly short. The game adds some more difficulty the second time around as well as letting you continue your levelling ladder further, which is nice.

    I found Transistor's gameplay to be intriguing, and it's 1920's Art Deco setting wonderful, but it became a little to obscure for my taste. The story is very "way out there", don't get me wrong it's presentation is mysterious and well executed with the storytellers voice, but it just was too dreamy for and strange for me. If you have never played the previous game, Bastion, by the same people you really should start there, it is fantastic. If you are looking for a Bastion inspired, but ultimately very different and more psychedelic game and story, well transistor may be to your suiting.



    Thursday, 23 October 2014

    Sneaking and motorbiking!

    Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

    Finally on sale, I jumped in and bought MGSV:GZ, mostly to finally get my hands on the MGS creator's, Hideo Kojima, newest gaming engine. For me it was a huge deal that the entire game and gameplay finally has been built up from the ground again and renewed. Playing the old MGS games, including MGS4 of more recent time, feels archaic. The controls are stiff and clumsy, and do not suit the smooth and stealthy setting of the series. Luckily in MGSV:GZ it plays like a modern third person game.

    The game sets itself around an army prison camp, which you must infiltrate and extract a child during a rainy night. The game sets you far from your goal and introduces you quickly to the concept of a far more sandbox based playing field. Now you can fairly much take the route and style of getting there in your own hands. I also like that you can actually get there by being more action orientated, but thus making it even harder for yourself. It's more about letting the player take choices, rather than forcing a certain way of playing on the gamer.

    At times the game can be fairly unforgiving and tricky to avoid being seen, but once you get into things it really shines as a game. The game looks good on the PS4, with crisp and clean looking graphics running at 1080p@60fps. While it may not have the level of detail and amount of fancy effects like other games of the current gen, it looks very nice in a clean way. I guess we once again have to suffer for the benefit of still releasing games on the PS3 and 360, sadly.

    The main story mission, which works as a prelude to the main MGSV game coming next year, has a very cool ending and will keep you excited for playing even more. Luckily they have added a few extra missions to complete around the map. All of which take part at various daytimes and weather conditions, further showcasing the new engines diversity. One mission has you sneaking into the camp on a truck looking for secret intel, another is action focused and begins with letting you take the role as a helicopter gunner. All in all, it's a rather large and varied package for a cheap price to try out the "new" MGS!

    While good looking, smooth 60fps framerate (sorry last gen, you get 30!) and far improved visuals, combined with a far more sandbox layout, the game still feels slightly clunky compared to lets say the latest Splinter Cell. Stealth games, with a lot of commands and equipment will always play a little slower and more cumbersome then run-of-the-mill third person shooters. The improvement compared to old MGS games though, is huge and feels like going straight from a PS1/PS2 game to current gen. My biggest gripe are the old-school, animations of Snake, damn it Japan, get those player animations up to date! They are robotic and look really out of place, like sticking animations from two generations back in modern game!

    This title is an exciting new turn for the MGS franchise and Kojima, it gives us a great idea of how well MGSV: The Phantom Pain will work out gameplay wise. It refreshes my view of the series and gives me hope that it has returned completely rebuilt, almost like a reboot. Recommended for a low price and a fun sandbox army camp to explore and play in, though the main campaign mission won't take you more than around an hour. The hidden gem in here though, is using your time to mess around in the game world, and have fun and try out various strategies. Doing this will make it many hours worth.



    Trials: Fusion

    Most people have probably played a Trails game of some sort through the years. My main console from last gen, the Xbox 360, delivered two excellent Trials games. This time around it's ready for the current gen and looking more spectacular than ever!

    Just like before Trials Fusion plays wonderfully and puts you through some amazing scenery to completing each level. The game is all about controlling your bike in a 2D game fashion, with increasingly difficult and challenging tracks. For this version they have really pushed the size and scenery of the levels. You jump down huge mountainsides, skyscrapers or desert hills. Each cup, which contains many levels, has a scenery theme. Each cup is opened by winning enough medals to unlock them.

    The game really encourages the plays for one more try, with it's instant reloading to checkpoints, or if you're hardcore: right from the beginning. Completing a track fast and without failing earns you gold medals, which again unlocks new cups and levels. It's addictive and oddly balances perfectly between satisfying fun and frustration! Each fault you make, makes you try even harder and soon you start making perfect runs, but the road to get there is tons of practice and endless restarts!

    There's even training levels that gradually learn you more ways to control your bike even better, as you progress through these you also get more powerful, yet more difficult to control, motorbikes. The later cups are a serious challenge, and I almost couldn't beat half of them. Over time you will get hang of the challenge of perfectly balancing your bike and making your way over huge gaps, jumps and hills to complete the difficult levels.

    I've enjoyed Trails Fusion, it has a fantastic presentation, with spectacular tracks and looks incredible sharp. There might not exactly be anything revolutionary new here, but it's still as fun and addictive as the previous games. There's a comprehensive track editor for those wanting to make there perfect challenge (or nightmare) of a track to ride. Which again gives you an almost endless amount of tracks to download from other users.

    If you enjoyed the previous Trails games you'll like the visual upgrade to this one, though there is not much new in terms of gameplay here. Those who never have played these games, and you don't need to be interested in racing games, really should consider this game for their Xbox One or PlayStation 4!



    Sunday, 28 September 2014

    Looking back: Rage Racer and Ridge Racer Type 4

    PS1's Ridge Racer collection in all it's glory, the series' high notes:
    You'd be advised to play the NTSC games today, they run faster. The PAL games had great boxart though!

    With or without you

    There wouldn't have been a PlayStation without Namco and there wouldn't have been a home invasion by Namco without the PlayStation. Sony's decision to team up with Namco for their first console launch was a brilliant one; it would secure them popular arcade titles and go straight up against as a competitor for the Sega Saturn. Namco and Sega competed in the arcades for modern 3D titles of their time; Daytona USA vs. Ridge Racer, Virtua Fighter vs. Tekken and Virtua Cop vs. Time Crisis to name some of the major titles.

    As obscure as the whole "arcade" phenomena may seem to the young children of today, they actually meant something back in 1994. They meant a huge deal in fact. Bringing arcade titles to home consoles was important, and bringing the new "3D" games was revolutionary. Sega made their choice line-up of arcade games easily by choosing from their own in-house titles. Sony, on the other hand, had to team up with a third-party developer and so the friendship with Namco began.

    Anybody interested in gaming history knows the story of 1994 too well; Sony launched it's PlayStation a $100 cheaper than Sega did with it's Saturn. The Saturn hardware was complex and clumsy to develop for and so Sega messed up their home console versions of even their own star titles Daytona USA and Virtua Fighter with bad framerate and graphics. Sony succeeded in brining great, by 1994 standards, arcade ports of Ridge Racer and Tekken for launch. One could argue that Namco simply was a copy-cat of all of Sega's games, and indeed it was partially true for the arcades. However, Namco prepared themselves better for the home consoles and as such managed the transition from arcade to consoles for 3D games far better than Sega. Ironically, as Sega lead and dominated the 3D graphics race for years before and after.

    This arcade port success gave Sony the lead, and Sega had lost that moment in time to win the battle and gain the consumers trust. Though Sega later ported Sega Rally and Virtua Fighter 2, in excellent home versions from the arcade, the sales race was lost. Sega had won the battle in the arcades with Daytona USA far outselling the popularity to Ridge Racer, but at home Ridge Racer was the king. Sony and Namco had put the arcades in your home; an early warning of the arcade scene's death, but that's another story.

    In this blog post, for my "Looking back" series, I will focus on the Ridge Racer games; and especially my favourite two: Rage Racer and Ridge Racer Type 4. The third and fourth version on the PS1. First though, lets take a look at the series up until those two fantastic entries.

    It began with racing on ridges

    The Ridge Racer series has always been centred around street racing in the fictional "Ridge City", focusing on cornering with drifts. It's a pure arcade racing experience with little focus on realism. Taking corners is all about letting the gas go and then pressing it in again at the right moment to get the car to loosen on the back wheels and slide through a corner. Advanced players would progress and learn to slightly hitt the brake to loosen the grip in a far more controlled fashion. The cars vary in there amount of grip, some require a lot of drifting, while others turn sharper and don't loose grip as easily.

    Learning this drifting is key to all Ridge Racer games, and then learning each and every track and in turn every corner within them. When to start a drift, when to hit that sweet spot for the apex in a corner and when to straighten up and speed forward on the following straight. It's a ballet in a auto-mobile environment, risk versus reward; the faster and tighter you pass through a corner the better, however if you hit the walls the punishment is grinding halt in speed.

    You could argue and say simulator racing games are much more technical and difficult, but then you have missed the challenge and point of a quality arcade racer like Ridge Racer or Daytona USA. They might not be realistic, but they are equally as challenging and difficult to master as the simulators.

    The arcade drifting mechanics is something we have since seen in more modern games like the Burnout and the Need For Speed series. Though I would argue that more modern games are far more forgiving when you screw up, as such they miss that risk versus reward feeling, which is key to the pure fun of an arcade racer.

    Most PlayStation owners had at least one of these brilliant games!

    Ridge RacerRidge Racer 2 and Ridge Racer Revolution are the first three entries in the RR series that are almost difficult to set apart. They were released in a short time span of 1993-94, upgrading on the original formula only slightly for each release.

    The first game featured a laughable, but iconic, 1,5 track(s). Requiring you to race at higher difficulty levels and with various cars to progress. RR2, an arcade upgrade of RR1, added a rear view mirror and an extra track. It is often referred to as the best version of RR1 and a more direct competitor to Daytona USA.

    As seen above, my recent visit to Tokyo gave me an idea where the urban environments for Ridge Racer are taken from. It's almost like a part of the track itself, when you arrive in this huge city on the elevated highways that wind themselves in between skyscrapers making their way down to ground level. 

    The common denominator for these three first games were; sunny tracks with an urban, Tokyo-looking start area, beaches, palms and a seaside. Complete with a cheesy and cheerful Japanese techno soundtrack, a stupid, over-the-top race commentator and, of course, a bikini babe starting the race.

    RR Revolution introduced the rear view mirror from arcade-only RR2 for PS1 owners and three brand new tracks with changing daylight. RRR was what the home version of RR1 should have been like from the start, more tracks and options for a player with more time on their hands at home than in a busy arcade hall. RRR dared to be focused even more on the hardcore RR fans, and gave them more of the same formula. As such the title alienated newcomers somewhat. 

    Looking back, RRR was a great sequel for fans and is sadly over-looked, not so for newcomers though. The learning curve may have been as brutal as RR1, even more so mater of fact, though each track gradually featured more and more difficult corners, working as a difficulty level. With it's slightly cleaner graphics, RRR compliments the first game perfectly and really should be played if you were on the fence about it back in the day. It's more of an evolution than revolution, but I guess the latter sounded better in a title.

    Rave Racer was the next entry and an arcade exclusive. It featured wider tracks with various routes to choose while racing. It changed the art direction towards a more darker style and as such more realistic tone. While still retaining some of the light-hearted and colourful vibe of the previous titles. It was the first RR game to feature an intro and introduced the female character Reiko Nagase as a racing host.

    Rave Racer never received a home release, though at one point it did have a cancelled PC port. Rave ran on superior arcade hardware compared to RR 1&2 and would have been difficult for the PS1 to match graphically. As such it marks the point where RR splits from it's arcade heritage into the home versions. Once again it reflects how the market changed at the time.

    Then the road rage began

    Rage Racer continued the slightly darker style that Rave Racer had introduced, but turned it up a many notches. Gone were the colourful tracks and tropical vibe from the first two PS1 games, in replacement was a more realistic and very gritty look. At first glance the squarish car models and grainy textures looked almost too gritty, but beneath lay a memorable and original racing game. Rage marked the beginning of the series taking a distance from it's arcade heritage and of a game more built solely for a home version in mind, complete with a proper single player championship mode.

    What I love about Rage Racer is that it's one of the very few racing games that has an actual atmosphere and a mood to it. As you begin the game you are introduced by this dark, scrolling text intro that explains the back story of the game with a sepia coloured race video rolling in the background. It's probably the only racing game that has given me a slight feeling of a lonely and dark emotion when playing it. This feeling is further enhanced by the detailed, complex and very atmospheric tracks, which are all set in cloudy and dark lighting.

    From the stone cobbled streets on the first right turn after the huge and intimidating Triumph Arc look-alike on the first straight from the start line. Right to the steep and winding curves of a coastal mountain route. Each and every track are some of the best designed and distinct looking tracks I've ever played in any racing game, before and since. 

    "What I love about Rage Racer is that it's one of the very few racing games that has an actual atmosphere and a mood to it."

    You can really tell that the developers put a hell of a lot of work into the three main tracks, the fourth and latter one is simply an oval. However thanks to the dark look of the game, the changing daylight and the sheer speed of cars the oval becomes an intimidating and almost scary experience to drive. I love how the three main tracks all share the same start area, then branch out at the first tunnel after the huge waterfall into separate tracks. Each requiring various skills and cars that suit the track layout.

    Rage Racer introduced for the first time car upgrades to the series. Every upgrade changed the look of the car into something slightly meaner and more bad-ass looking. For every upgrade you were excited about how the car behaved and looked. The game even let you alter the grip of the tires. This simple, yet entertaining, upgrade system sadly was removed in the sequel. A huge disappointment, in my opinion.

    Car choices were essential for each track; one track would require a car with fast acceleration as it had steep hills. While another track with tight corners would require a more manoeuvrable car with superior grip and turning abilities. These choices were reflected in every race as the leader for each race would be driving the car that was best suited for the track. Giving the player a slight hint at what car to buy if you were having trouble winning!

    Each cup in the main championship mode toys around aggressive titles further heightening the gritty and dangerous feel of the racing; from Fury GP to Agitation GP and so on! It was a game that put you on the edge of your seat for each race; one error could spoil the whole race. Even the female announcer tries to get your temper up by spotting out special rival cars, that will be become an extra challenge during the race, and shout out things like "Teach this sucker a lesson!" or "There he is! Take him!". Neat little details I just love!

    Although there are a fairly small amount of cars and a tiny selection of tracks, thus making the cups slightly repetitive, I still really put this game as a true classic for the PS1. It's one of the very few racing games that builds up and gives me feeling of atmosphere playing it. From time to time I replay it simply to relive that racing tension Rage Racer so cleverly builds up.

    The fourth type

    From Rage Racer in 1997 it took two years for RR4 to emerge in 1999. In-between these two titles a significant release had hit the PS1; Gran Turismo. The effect of this ground breaking game was huge. It sent every developer back to the drawing board with the idea of making realistic racers with real life cars, and no longer was it acceptable to release a game with a few tracks and a couple of cars in it. Gamers wanted cars in the hundreds and the huge graphical upgrade GT had introduced, especially the shiny and detailed car models, which were ground breaking in it's time. Racers had to look and play real.

    For the third time we see a clear shift towards something new in the racing genre, all in the same console generation alone. First we had the importance of porting cutting edge arcade 3D titles, then we saw the slow change into more home version built main game modes. No longer relying on the quick and dirty single arcade race style. Then lastly we see much larger scaled and detailed games tailored for many hours of lifespan, built entirely for home console gaming. Removed from the boundaries of arcade limitations. The RR series followed this trend and shift in development focus, and gives an interesting historic view of the changes.

    The RR series changed it's style, focus and approach once again, and became greatly inspired by GT, though retaining it's original heritage. RR4 had hundreds of cars, eight tracks, more complex replays with shiny bodywork on the cars (though not ingame!) and arguably the best graphics the PS1 ever delivered. The lighting and shadows in RR4 were simply stunning and unrivalled even compared to the two GT games on the system. While RR4 retained the more realistic looking approach that Rage started, it re-introduced more colours again. Only this time with a less vibrant, but more subtle palette, further heightened by excellent shadow effects.

    "The RR series changed it's style, focus and approach once again, and became greatly inspired by GT, though retaining it's original heritage."

    Each and every track had a distinct and different skyline colour, setting them apart. Two and two tracks shared their starting area, except two unique stand alone ones. Although the realtime daylight changes from Rage were gone, the excellent lighting and shadowing made up for it by miles. I'll say it again; RR4 has to be one of the best looking PS1 games ever made.

    One the things I've always been impressed by in the RR series on PS1, considering the technical limitations of the system, are the fantastic draw distances. In most PS1 racing games the track is drawn right in front of you, but not so in the RR games. Especially in Rage and R4 you see the road winding for miles into the distance. Sometimes you even see parts of the track which are much further on, in a section crossing over on a bridge or underneath in a tunnel. Details like these give the series a en excellent quality in it's track designs, almost unrivalled on the console or since.

    RR4 featured a storyline in it's championship mode, and invented it's own little Racing Roots '99 league. You choose a team to race for, and winning races would give the team more money to get new cars. As mentioned earlier, the tuning was sadly removed, in favour for this team setup. Racing through one season of the league was a very cool experience; you gradually started to feel that you could win the championship towards the end. The magical last race, that is set on New Years Eve, explodes into the year 2000 with fireworks along the trackside combined with uplifting music.

    A fantastic racing experience, sadly spoiled by having to repeat this season over and over to obtain all cars, though for most players a playthrough of each of the four racing teams is sufficient.

    Ridge Racer Type 4's mascot racing girl; Reiko Nagase.

    Although RR4 looked more realistic, not only graphically, but in the movement of the vehicles there wasn't a doubt that the game was classic Ridge Racer in the handling. Two car manufactures were grip cars; let off the gas to get more grip and turn harder. The two other manufactures were drift cars; let off the gas to drift and slide though the corner.

    I love the design and aesthetics of RR4. Right from the great CGI work of the intro to the slick menus, the design is clean, minimalistic and stylish. The music was overhauled and sounded less cheesy and more mature. The RR games have since kept this modern design and it has suited the series well.

    Ridge Racer and beyond

    Well there you have it, my two favourite games in the Ridge Racer series; the aggressive and dark Rage Racer and the stylish and clean Ridge Racer Type 4. Both are great in their own unique way, both content wise, as well as aesthetically. It's strange to think they're two games sequentially in a series!

    Are there any of the later RR games to mention though? I must admit not following the series too closely since the golden four RR titles on PS1, my interest shifted elsewhere. Apart from on the Sony PSP. Ridge Racer V still demands my attention on the PlayStation 2, I need to actually play it properly. I'm currently playing through Rage Racer again on an emulator so I might consider RRV after that.

    On my to-do list, the RR game I missed it in the transition from PS1 to PS2.

    The PSP felt like a rendezvous with the PS1 launch, by having a RR and a WipEout game at launch. I enjoyed RR on the PSP which focused on all the PS1 era RR games, although it only featured a selection of tracks. My favourite though, is the less known RR2 on the PSP. It has every single track from RR1, RRR, Rave, Rage and RR4 in upgraded graphics! It's an incredible package and warmly recommended for anyone that can get hold of it. You could almost call it the Ridge Racer PS1 Collection or something! It badly needs a release on the PlayStation Network, so PS Vita users can play it too!

    The excellent PSP Ridge Racer games, RR2 has all the tracks from the first one and more!

    The series has further expanded with some lacklustre boost mechanics to RR6, RR7, RR on the PS Vita and some Nintendo versions. Even on mobiles too. I feel the series needs to get back the more storydriven singleplayer and the "quality over quantity" track designs. An RR game needs to have unique tracks and be focused around the fictional Ridge City world it suits best, it should be about learning the tracks and not just speeding past some random environments (as the misplaced RR Unbounded horribly proved).

    I'd love to see a new version that upgrades old tracks and ties the old PS1 versions together!