“Ridge Racer Month” comes to an end with the final fifth gen release of the series in the form of Ridge Racer Type 4, and not to give too much of a spoiler, it’s an absolute belter! Because I always like having him along for the ride (pun marginally intended), I’ve got my buddy, Adam Yates, to join me for this week’s article, and we’re going to have a bash at it tandem style! So, without further ado, get yourself settled, and we’ll bring Ridge Racer Month past the chequered flag and home to victory with Ridge Racer Type 4!
Backstory/Memories of the Series
Mike: If you’ve been kind enough to read the past three editions of this feature series, you’ll know what my histories with the previous three RR games were. I didn’t buy Ridge Racer Type 4 when it first came out back in 1999 here in Europe, but I was certainly familiar with it due to Namco’s heavy usage of “idol” girl Reiko Nagase in the promotion for the game. Indeed, you couldn’t walk into a video game store or read a magazine without seeing Reiko staring back at you. I still have an edition of the Official UK PlayStation Magazine that has Reiko slapped all over the cover. You saw more of her in 1999 than you did the actual cars that are included in the game itself.
I don’t know why I didn’t succumb to the marketing or why I wasn’t suitably impressed by the strong review scores the game received, but I just wasn’t moved to get Ridge Racer Type 4 back in the day. I had a demo of the game that came with the aforementioned OPSM UK, but I didn’t really play it very much and instead spent more time on the demo for wacky fighting-platformer T’ai Fu than I did for Type 4. I’m not sure if the fact the game looked a bit more realistic compared to the first two RR games put me off due to realistic racing games never really being something I’ve been in to.
Whatever the reason though, I never took the time to play Ridge Racer Type 4, even when I started working and actually had some disposable income to play with. Looking back at it now, I really wish I had because Ridge Racer Type 4 is heaps of fun, and I probably would have fallen in love with it back in the day had I taken the plunge. The game eventually found its way onto the roster of games included on the PSOne Classic, and I think it is fully deserving of its inclusion. It really is one of the best games to hit the PSX in its last couple of years of relevance until the PS2 came along in 2000.
Adam: My first memories of the RR series are playing Rage Racer at my cousin’s house when I was younger. I never actually owned that game myself, but it was one of the games I enjoyed playing the most whenever I visited my cousin’s gaff for a gaming session. I particularly enjoyed the option to customise the paint job of your vehicle and create your own team logo, something which I hadn’t seen in a game up until that point. I would spend hours designing my perfect car, which would usually be black and white with “nWo” written on the windshield as I was a big wrestling fan. This year was the first time I had ever played Ridge Racer Type 4, and I’ve become really obsessed with it due to how fun it is to play!
Adam: The gameplay in Ridge Racer Type 4 is very fluid and smooth, and after a few practice laps to get myself familiar with the courses, I was able to actually start winning races! I’m not normally very good at racing games, with me usually spending most of the race crashing into the walls (it’s probably a good job I don’t drive in real life!,) only to then either come last or even outright failing to finish the race at all! In Ridge Racer Type 4, however, I was actually good at it! Maybe that means it’s an easy game? I don’t know, but it certainly is a fun one!
The single-player campaign sees you becoming the driver for one of four different teams. There is an American team, a Japanese Team, a French team and an Italian team to choose from. Each of the teams has their own manager who talks to you between races, and they all come across as pretty rude at first, even after you win the opening races for them. You will only start to gain their respect later in the game once you’ve proven yourself to them as a worthy racer.
There is a small backstory about each of the teams’ managers that develops as your progress through the campaign. The Japanese team’s manager, for example, feels guilt for playing a role in the death of his former friend and teammate, and as the campaign progresses, he will slowly begin to open up to you about it.
In the campaign you have to come in at least 2nd place, I believe, in order to advance to the next race. From then on it gets harder as nothing but 1st place will do. The game at least gives you a few attempts if you don’t manage it on your first try. As you progress though the campaign, you will unlock new and faster vehicles that will help you finish higher up the totem pole. I found myself getting quite addicted to the gameplay and trying to unlock as many of the new cars as I could, so much so that I eventually had to put the controller down and give my hands a rest for a few days as I actually had a blister on my thumb from pressing the D-pad so hard!
Mike: If I had to use one word to describe the gameplay in Ridge Racer Type 4, it would be “polished”. The driving mechanics from Rage Racer have been taken, refined and adjusted to provide a more nuanced experience, and it’s a big step in the right direction. There are two types of vehicles you can race in, with “Grip” racers having better handling, and thus, driving them is based more around working the brake on corners, whilst “Drift” cars are much heavier to turn and require you to master the drift mechanic, which you instigate by taking your foot off the pedal and then pressing brake.
As regular readers of this feature will know, I was never really able to master the drift mechanic in the first three games in the series, but it’s been tightened up a bit in Type 4, and I was finally able to have some semblance of success with it, which is essential if you want to have any chance of completing the Grand Prix mode with the two drift-focused car manufacturers. There was usually one corner on the more difficult courses that was an absolute pig to drift around, but aside from that, I was mostly able to get the drifting down this time, and I enjoyed that style of driving a lot more as a result.
The main single-player campaign in Ridge Racer Type 4 sees you becoming the driver for one of four different racing teams, with the idea being that you qualify in 7 races before finally getting to compete for the Grand Prix Title in one last six-lapped race on New Year’s Eve 1999. Strangely enough, the final race is probably one of the easier ones you’ll take part in as there aren’t much in the way of difficult or dangerous corners, and the race itself is more a battle of attrition due to you needing to remain focused for so many laps.
When you pick a team to race for you, then need to also choose which of the four manufacturers you will select to provide you with cars. The team you choose will determine how difficult the driving will be. The French racing team is essentially Easy Mode, whilst the Japanese team is Normal difficulty, the Italian team is Hard difficulty, and the financially strapped American team is Expert Mode. Between races you will converse with the owners/general managers of each team, with most of them being pretty rude to you in the early going before you eventually earn their respect through your driving success. The only exception is the American team, where the manager is nice to you from the beginning, probably because it’s hard enough to play Expert Mode as it is without a snooty bugger giving you the stink eye for good measure.
I personally found Ridge Racer Type 4’s gameplay to be top notch and enjoyed the difference in playstyles depending on what type of car you choose to race as, which wasn’t the case in the previous three games, where I would normally just pick the cars with good handling as I couldn’t get along with the drift mechanics. However, in Type 4 drifting is not only doable now, but it’s also a fair bit of fun to boot, so I split my time evenly between the two driving styles. The difficulty curve is weighted well, and progression from Easy to Expert feels natural. Overall, the gameplay in Ridge Racer Type 4 gets a big thumbs up from me!
Mike: Ridge Racer Type 4 looks pretty great, even to a modern eye. Yes, being a fifth gen release means that there is a little bit of a roughness around the edges, but all in all, Type 4 is very nice for a game from 1999. The cars look sleek and well detailed, the courses are designed nicely, and the menu screens alternate between jet black and mustard yellow. All in all, Ridge Racer Type 4 builds on the more photorealistic look first seen in Rage Racer and does it even better. Namco was on a bit of a role around this time period as Tekken 3 was also a graphically solid effort too, and Type 4 just keeps that streak going. If you expect 2021 visuals, then you’re going to be disappointed, but if you’re willing to give the game a bit of slack for being over 20 years old, then Type 4 looks the business.
Adam: Comparing Ridge Racer Type 4 to other racing games of its era, I think it looks great. I like the bold colours and bright logos that feature throughout the game. I like how the last track in the campaign mode takes place at night on New Year’s Eve of 1999, with fireworks registering the change of the millennium.
Adam: The music in the game is quite chilled out, and the menu track almost has a “lounge” vibe to it. It’s quite inoffensive and doesn’t get on your nerves like the generic music in other arcade racing games can sometimes do. The soundtrack for Ridge Racer Type 4 is actually available to purchase on CD online and is about £30 in the UK. It even has over 100 five star reviews!
Mike: Ridge Racer Type 4 has quite an ambient soundtrack that is more in line with the one found on Rage Racer as opposed to the more arcade-styled high tempo tracks from the first two games, and it suits the racing action well. The track called “Ridger Racer (One More Win)” plays in the opening video, as well as in the final race of the Grand Prix, and it’s excellent. Once again, it’s another great selection of tunes from Namco to go along with the excellent beats found in the Tekken games from this period.
Mike: There are 320 cars to unlock in Ridge Racer Type 4 (along with a special extra character), so you’ll be emptying hours into the single-player experience if you want to unlock them all. On top of that, Type 4 is the first game in the series to FINALLY introduce split-screen multiplayer, and if you have the link cable, you can even have four-person multiplayer for good measure. The combination of a rich single-player campaign with the addition of the multiplayer mode finally pushes the series over the line from just being an arcade racer to being a genuine home console calibre release when it comes to longevity.
Adam: As mentioned earlier, I became addicted to this game for a few days and couldn’t put the controller down, which resulted in actual blisters on my thumbs! With so many different cars to unlock, the game has some serious longevity, in my opinion; you could play for hours and still have hundreds more vehicles to unlock.
Would We Recommend It?
Adam: Definitely! It’s become one of my favourite games for the PlayStation and possibly even my favourite racing game of all time, it’s certainly up there. If you like arcade-style racing games that aren’t too hard, then this is one for you!
Mike: Oh, absolutely! Ridge Racer Type 4 is probably one of the very best racing games on the entire PlayStation, and you can get it for around a fiver if you’re prepared to shop around. That’s practically a bargain for such a great game. If you own a PSX, then you’re going to want to have this game in your collection!