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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Developed by: Namco
Published by: Namco
Distributed By: Ingram Entertainment
Genre: Racing
Players: 1-8
Rated: E (Everyone)
Released: March 22, 2005
Written by: Matthew Prunty

April 2, 2005 - When gamers think of Arcade Racers, the first name that pops into their heads is Ridge Racer. A Namco creation, Ridge Racer set the bar for what has come to be expected from arcade racing titles. With every Ridge Racer title that Namco came out with for the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 consoles, they pushed the envelope in terms of content, gameplay, graphics, and overall playability. And because of this quality Namco has put into each title, RR has garnered a loyal fanbase around the world.

When Sony officially announced that the PSP was heading to the video game community around the world, many were wondering what Sony possibly offer the handheld community that Nintendo hasn't already done. Nintendo has always prided themselves on their creativity and playability of their hardware and software, so of course graphics isn't the main focus. With Sony and the PSP, Sony took a piece out of Nintendo's book, but with their own special twist. And naturally, RR would benefit with both styles of gaming.

Anyone who has followed this series would know that when it comes to Ridge Racer, it's all about showing off. Drifting (powersliding) into corners, allows you to whip by your opponent or even put them into the wall. But knowing with a new console/system you can't have the same gameplay as always, Namco decided to add the Nitro boost feature. When you powerslide into corners, you start to build up canisters of Nitro boost. The faster the turns, the quicker it would build. Every time you one of the three capsules, you have acquired a nitro boost that will propel your car at great speeds. But what keeps the race interesting is that when you power slide into the corners, you have a high chance that you can loose control of your car, either spinning out of control or running into the wall. Not stopping there, Namco also tweaked the A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), thus giving you stiffer competition and keeping you on your toes every second of the race.

Once you get the hang of the game's various cars with their different types of drifting ability (Standard, Mild and Dynamic), you will be able to give yourself a run for your own money with Single Race. Though you are only racing by yourself, once you complete the race, you have the ability to race against your ghost (pre-recorded version of your previous race) seeing if you can improve on your mistakes in order to overtake yourself.

Once the specs were released for the PSP handheld, it was known that the PSP was able to conceive graphics comparable to the early days of the PS2 console, but no one was expecting the shear beauty that this title, along with the 4.3 inch TFT LCD screen provided. With a 16x9 widescreen perspective, Namco had a tough task of making sure that the detail in car design, landscaping, and even atmospheric effects showed to their true potential. Some examples of Namco and the depth of their detail would be when you are racing through Greenpeak Highlands, you will notice that when you are actually driving through what looks like a countryside area, you see cows on the side of the road. Now I know this isn't a big deal, but if you look throughout this game on the various tracks, and then look back to Ridge Racer: Evolution for PS2, you will notice that the addition of animals, moving buildboards, etc. that weren't evident in previous titles.

Not stopping there, Namco makes full use of the graphical capabilities of the handheld to give one of the best perceptions of speed in any racing game out for a handheld. And if you have ever watch Too Fast Too Furious on DVD before, then you would similarities in how once the nitro boost is used, you car seems to be speeding faster than the blink of an eye.

When it comes to realism, Namco paid attention, but maybe not enough. The cars sounds are dead on target. From the revving of the engines, to your tires screeching when your powerslide into a corner, to you ramming the backside of an opponent's car, the sounds are all on par with that of a real car. But the one thing that you will notice is that the announcer only has about 8 phrases that he will repeat over and over throughout the course of the race (not as repetitive as you think). But you have to like what Namco did with the musical score of this title. You get a blend of old musical scores from previous Ridge Racer titles, remixed versions, and all new scores that helps blend the history of RR into this latest installment, which will give new and old gamers a new taste of the direction Namco is taking RR into.

Controlling your cars via the analog nub takes some time to get use to. The nub's sensitivity isn't too loose or too tight, giving you incredible control over your vehicles as long as you aren't flooring it at incredible speeds. You are given the choice of using the D-pad or the nub, but you will come to find that though the D-pad has better positioning on the handheld, the nub gives you a better sense of control that you will definitely need the further you get into the game's World Tour mode.

When it comes to the game's lasting appeal, you wont be disappointed one bit. With the wireless 8-player mode you can race against your best buds, or even total strangers and prove who is 'the best of the best'. You have the ability to host your own round-robin tournament with your friends, or join someone else's multiplayer battle (so long as you are within 100ft. of that person). When playing through World Tour and completing various tournaments sets, you unlock bonus cars for varying classes and new tracks that can be either used in the multiplayer mode, or by yourself to test your skills with a greater difficulty.

With all the hype that surrounded this title from E3 2004 to now, it can honestly be said that Namco didn't disappoint it long-time supporters, and it gives new racing fans an interesting spin of what define the Arcade Racing Genre. With the beautiful and stylized graphics, coupled with an amazing musical score and classic gameplay of Ridge Racer, you can't possibly go wrong with the game at all. And if you are more of a multiplayer buff, you can compete against all your buddies and show them why you are the reigning king. So whether you are into racing games, or this is your first time playing one, I suggest you pick this game up, it wont disappoint.


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