Gaming development and console power has undoubtedly led to more complex, gaming experiences for players. Be it the in depth strategy of Total War, the cinema like experience of Uncharted or the moral quandaries presented by the likes of Life Is Strange. In sporting terms, this has manifested in a move towards simulation. This is evident with the annual FIFA / PES battle or the attention to detail of something like MLB The Show.
Racing games have also had a foot in the simulation pond, dating back to Geoff Crammond’s F1GP on the Amiga. More recently Gran Turismo has dominated the Playstation scene and whilst its attention to detail and the strive for perfection is admirable, it leaves me a little cold. There are the occasional exceptions – Motorstorm and Burnout for instance – but the trend has been distinctly toward realism and away from arcade thrills.
My fondest racing memories are from the arcades, tearing along the beach in Out Run or chasing down bad guys in Chase HQ. Sat in a custom cabinet, huge screen in front, gear stick to the side and steering wheel clasped in sweaty hands, there are few more viscerally thrilling gaming experiences.
By the time the Playstation launched, it was finally possible to bring the arcade experience home, at least in a visual sense. Ridge Racer Revolution was home-console exclusive sequel to Namco’s arcade smash Ridge Racer but more resonant for me, it was the first game I ever bought my brother for his sparkling new PS1. I know, fascinating stuff, right?
Taking elements from the full-on arcade sequel Ridge Racer 2, Revolution expanded the original Ridge formula, notably adding a multiplayer option. Being a single player grumpus, this is of course of little interest to me. The core of the game is broadly unchanged; Ridge Racer has always offered a fast paced, drift focus arcade tear up.
Jumping into your choice of car and hitting the track, you can opt to view the action from either in the cockpit or behind the car. I nearly always opt for the 3rd person option in racing games but there is something about Ridge Racer, probably due to its arcade roots, that makes me stick to viewing the action through the windscreen. This viewing mode seems to enhance what is a rapid game. Cars fly around the track at speed, scenery zipping past in the blink of an eye. There are a choice of vehicles (and more unlockable) and each feels genuinely unique, the player left to make the trade off between speed and handling.
20-some years on it’s not much of a looker but get past the blocky textures and you can still appreciate the detail. And besides, graphical fidelity is no good if your car moves like a dog and here Revolution continues to score highly. It’s a nice drive too, tracks encouraging aggressive driving whilst at the same time punishing recklessness, success achieved through a combination of speed and finesse.
There are a handful of modes and unlockables but effectively the game is built around a single track, which seems unconscionable now. AI is fairly suspect too. In one race I had a nightmare of a lap, smashing into everything and losing considerable time and yet within just a few turns I had caught up with the back markers, as if they were waiting for me. And if you do crash there is little in the way of punishment, your car incurring no damage and only moderately impacting your race pace.
The key mechanic behind Ridge Racer has always been drifting and it is here where I became frustrated. I have never been able to master the art, instead relying on simply holding the accelerator down and steaming round corners full pelt, my crude attempts at drifting proving fruitless as I enter a time-sapping spin.
Revolution is a throwback to a simpler time. Thumbing its nose at the po-faced simulations that concentrate so hard on capturing the detail that they forget to capture the fun, this is an arcade-perfect racer that encompasses both the positive and negative connotations of the term. Lacking the long term gameplay one might expect from a modern day racer, this nonetheless remains perfect for a quick lap around the track and immensely satisfying to drive.
Plus you get a game of Galaga ’88 to play whilst it loads.