Retro Respawn – Ridge Racer Month Part Two – Ridge Racer Revolution

Welcome to the second week of “Ridge Racer Month”, where I will be writing about the four Ridge Racer games that made their way onto the PlayStation console. This week I kind of struggled a little bit to find that much to say as Ridge Racer Revolution is almost less a sequel than it is glorified full-priced downloadable content. It certainly doesn’t spit on its elder sibling’s legacy, but (ironically) it also doesn’t do that much to evolve the series either. It’s essentially more Ridge Racer, but with the critiques of the first game in the series being well known, is that enough for Ridge Racer Revolution to be a good game? Read on some more and maybe you might find out!

Backstory

Ridge Racer Revolution is not a port of arcade game Ridge Racer 2 but is instead a sequel made especially for the PlayStation. In that regard, more has been added to Ridge Racer Revolution in the hope of making it better suited to playing in the home, which makes sense as one of the more pronounced complaints about the first game was that it was too much of a straight up port of the arcade game rather than being designed as a standalone home release. A team of 20 people worked on Ridge Racer Revolution and did their best to squeeze as much out of the development kit as they could.

Europe actually got the game before North America did, with Ridge Racer Revolution hitting the shelves of London, Berlin and Rome in May of 1996 whilst the Yanks had to wait until September to get their hands on it. The game sold especially well over here in the UK, even though the Official UK PlayStation Magazine only gave it a comparatively measly 7 out of 10 when put up against the near perfect score it enjoyed from other outlets. I never actually played it myself back in the day as unlike the first game, I didn’t know any friends who had it, and I wasn’t personally interested in buying it myself because I didn’t have much chances at getting games back then, which meant I had to be selective when the opportunity came along, and even though I had enjoyed the first game, Ridge Racer Revolution just didn’t stand out enough to convince me to burn off a rare chance of a new PSX game.

Gameplay

Ridge Racer Revolution plays very similarly to the first Ridge Racer game, with the “drift” mechanic making a return if you take your foot off the pedal whilst taking corners. Mastering this will help massively with the two trickier courses in the game, but I once again really struggled with it and mostly ignored it in favour of nursing the break, usually with multiple light taps in order to try and get the best combination of turning accuracy and speed. I’m not sure if others will agree with me, but I personally found Ridge Racer Revolution more difficult than the first game, with the opposing drivers feeling more aggressive and the courses feeling more treacherous.

As in the first game, Ridge Racer Revolution gives you a Novice, Intermediate and Expert route on the same course, with the course changing and increasing in difficulty depending on which route you take. You can either compete in a standard race against eleven opponents, a Time Trial against a lone rival racer, or in a new addition to the game, you can free race on the track all by your lonesome doing an unlimited number of laps. I found the later mode to be essential when it came to getting to grips with a new course as you can just keep going until you know the course inside and out, which will genuinely be essential as the increased difficulty means you’re often going to need a perfect run in order to win the race.

As mentioned, the opposing racers in Ridge Racer Revolution definitely feel more aggressive than they do in the first game, with them just generally being more combative when it comes to overtaking. They will get in your way, they will ram you from behind, and they will swerve from side to side in order to throw you off. It can be anger-inducing to see perfect runs get torpedoed because one of the other racers just obstinately refuses to get out of the way, causing you to lose vital seconds whilst you try and get around them. Some of the corners on the two latter courses can be absolute pigs as well, especially when you have to tackle them whilst also holding off your opponents.

It certainly took numerous runs for me to win on the Intermediate level of Ridge Racer Revolution, much longer than it took me on the first game at that level, which strikes me as a good barometer for how the second game has had its difficulty spiked a bit. It certainly makes sense to do that, especially as the core gameplay in Ridge Racer Revolution is very similar to its elder sibling, so increasing the challenge is a way of differentiating the two games from each other. I found the Expert course to be frankly ridiculous in a race setting, with you having about a maximum of two to three mistakes throughout the entire race if you wanted any chance of finishing in the top three. It’s unapologetically punishing at times, so if you’re a bit of a difficulty nut, then Ridge Racer Revolution might likely tickle your fancy.

Graphics

There has been a notable graphical upgrade in Ridge Racer Revolution when compared to the first game, with the weather and lighting effects being utterly gorgeous for a game from 1996 and the cars themselves looking less gnarled and polygonal. Like the first game, Ridge Racer Revolution is very much of its time when it comes to its visuals, but I was generally quite impressed with what I found here. The way the sky can change from bright and welcoming blues to rich, hazy oranges is genuinely impressive and still looks good even to a modern eye. It’s unlikely to wow you, but Ridge Racer Revolution was another example of arcade quality visuals in the home, which was still an impressive selling point, even though the initial “wow-factor” wasn’t quite as pronounced anymore.

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Sound

Ridge Racer Revolution’s soundtrack is based on the one used in Ridge Racer 2 from the arcades, and I have to say that I didn’t really “feel” this one for some reason. It’s not like the tunes and beats are actively bad, and they complement the action well enough, but there was just something about the music this time that didn’t do it for me, even taking into account that some tracks from the first game, such as “Rotterdam”, return to the playlist. I actually turned the music volume down completely and played some different tracks over it, with the soundtrack from the first WipEout game working surprisingly well, especially in the night races. Not a homerun of a soundtrack for me this time then, but you may disagree.

Longevity

One of the big issues from the first game was that it had no multiplayer, but Ridge Racer Revolution thankfully goes some way to resolving that by bringing it in. Sadly, you’ll need a link cable, two consoles, two tellies and two copies of the game in order to play with a mate, but it was at least a step in the right direction. The pre-credits mini-game returns, with Galaga taking over from Galaxian, and once again if you can complete it, you will be able to unlock up to eight additional cars to race with. The increased difficulty stretches things out, but at the end of the day, it’s just very similar to the first game, and you can probably beat it in less than three hours quite easily if you’re on your game.

Would I Recommend It?

You can probably get Ridge Racer Revolution for less than a fiver if you shop around, which for what you get is certainly value for money. I can imagine being a bit annoyed if I’d spaffed £40 on this back in the day, especially as it’s not a “real” sequel in some ways, not to me at least, anyway. What Ridge Racer Revolution does, it does well, but at the same time, I’m not sure you really need to go out of your way to get it over the first game unless you have all the added stuff to actually get the most out of the multiplayer.

Ridge Racer has the historical and cultural value that Ridge Racer Revolution doesn’t, and the two games play so similarly that I think the first game is probably the one to get if you don’t have the budget for both in your collection. It’s not like most people have a link cable and two copies of the game, so the multiplayer aspect of the second game isn’t going to be much of an additional selling point to a modern player, so only get Ridge Racer Revolution if you’re a completest who wants it in their collection. Outside of that, you can have just as much fun with the first game in the series, so you don’t really need this one.

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