Ridge Racer was THE launch title on the Sony Playstation when it launched in 1994. It used the age-old technique of 'all the thrills of the arcade in your home!', and, by and large, it didn't disappoint.

Arcade Version The original arcade machine itself saw a number of variants, from standard racing game sit-down cabinets to a full-sized Mazda Eunos Roadster being fitted with a HUUUUGE projection TV and the steering being wired to control the game (this is called Ridge Racer Reality).

In terms of gameplay, the powerslides were simple but unconvincing, there was only one track with a desperately dire 'extension' to make it harder, and the announcer would drive you insane. But, when you've got helicopters swooping overhead, seemingly photo-realistic cliff textures and A340s taking off overhead, you're not complaining.

Ridge Racer (PS1)

Virtually identical to the arcade version. Granted, the framerate was lower, at 30fps, and the textures were much less vivid, but at the time, people were too busy being gobsmacked to care. You could also unlock a variety of cars, and the game was a hit. In fact, you often find copies of it in game shops today.

Ridge Racer Revolution {PS1}

The sequel, with more cars, more tracks, and more options. The handling remained unconvincing (whereby you release the gas, steer and then apply the gas pedal to generate a 3-10 second period of wheelspin where the car corners like mad, and sideways) but the tracks were pure genius and life was good.

This may also have been an arcade game, although I never saw it in the arcades.

Rage Racer (PS1)

Developed specifically for the Playstation, and the only Ridge Racer game I haven't played. Apparently, though, it offered a more in-depth experience compared to the previous two games' more arcadey feel, although I can't vouch for this one way or the other (sorry).

Ridge Racer Type 4 (PS1)

Developed in the wake of Gran Turismo, this was the last hurrah of the Ridge Racer series on the PS1, but what a sendoff. Graphics that rivalled the early PS2 titles, a dynamic plot affected by your performance, improved car handling - it was, in my view, the best of the bunch.

It used the Perfomance Analyser as Gran Turismo had, and the track design was absolutely astounding. Music was the usual elevator fluff that Namco churns out, but was strangely catchy. The obnoxious announcer remained, sadly, with my least favourite bit - during a time trial (there is no 'single race' option) if you fail to beat the previous record for that section, he'll shout 'My grandma drives faster than that, get with the program!'. GRRR.

Ridge Racer 5 (PS2)

Launch title for the Playstation 2, attempting to duplicate the runaway success experienced before. Failed. The game itself, while looking nice, was nothing special (everyone was waiting for Gran Turismo 3, then known as Gran Turismo 2000), and if anything showcased all the problems of the PS2's early days - none-too-impressive graphics, average gameplay and general mediocreness.

Ridge Racer 64 (N64)

Developed by Namco and Nintendo together, this was an attempt to spread the licence across multiple formats. In many ways it is the best 'realistic' arcade racer on the N64 (the best overall N64 racing game being World Driver Championship) but it also suffered the numerous problems of the previous games.

It shared the tracks from Ridge Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution, along with two 'exclusive' (read: dire) new tracks. It also added a nice four-player split screen mode, and had a lot of new cars to unlock. Unfortunately, later challenges demanded such impossibly precise driving that I doubt the developers themselves could have managed it. Still, probably the second best game, since you could customise it to use the physics of Ridge Racer, Ridge Racer Revolution, or the 'new' Ridge 64 handling (Ridge Racer Type 4's flawless handling was strangely absent).

I should point out that Ridge Racer Type 4, in Europe at least, included a bonus disk where the enhanced engine created for the game was also used to make an enhanced 60fps (well, 50fps, damn PAL system) version of the original game which is MUCH closer to the original arcade machine of almost a decade ago.

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