Retro Review: Ridge Racer Type 4

 It's sometimes suprising to look back at how popular a series used to be when in a more modern age it meets with little fanfare or hype upon a new instalment being released. The Ridge Racer series is just one of those series, and when the fanbase was at its highest Namco decided to take on the career (and simulation) focused Gran Turismo by applying a career mode to its more balls to the wall style racing game.

And for what its worth, it all worked out. Ridge Racer Type 4 was one of the finest racing games on the console, it was also amongst my favourites. The game featured around 600 cars (although only around 40 different variants), 2 fictional manufacturers and 4 fictional racing teams based upon different videogames from Namco's gaming history. The career was a pretty simple affair. A series of 8 races on different courses split into different difficulties. As the difficulty level was risen, the circuits became twistier, the distance between cars longer and the overall speed of the game much faster. Although that was the only way in which the game became difficult, the opponent cars never had the AI to be able to race you, so it was mostly down to just how fast you could drive which ever cars you were unlocking and racing in. As your season long career progressed with a specific team a story panned out revolving around that teams boss, winning the final race provided a news report that filled in the conclusion of the story.

At the time, no one had really done anything like this in regards to a career mode, and whilst it was hardly different in reality to any other racing games career mode it gave you a feeling of being part of a team rather than just racing in a vehicle featuring an pretty (or sometimes not, obviously) livery. The actual driving was typical Ridge Racer, accelerate until the last possible moment before sending the car into a drift around the corner and despite the fact there was now no countdown, arcade game style clock, due to the lack of competetiveness in the AI controlled cars you are still effectively racing against the clock.

Graphically at the time it was this or Polyphony's racer. Nothing else came close, the cars were shiny, the city scapes were stunning and everything looked stunning, I've always held that this game was better looking overall than Gran Turismo. In comparison the graphics were less blocky and the game had so much more style and was infinetely less sterile than its more "realistic" competitor. Obviously now it looks dated, but its still a nice looking game with cool stylistic choices like the red streams that come off the rear lights of your car on the night circuits and the touches of lense glare on others. I also think that now, thanks to the more "arcade" styling of Ridge Racer Type 4's handling, it holds up to modern standards of gameplay than pretty much every other racing game on the PlayStation and only really has something like SEGA Rally that holds up better overall as a videogame nowdays.

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Same old Ferrari, Always Cheating

 


Anyone even slightly interested in Formula 1 must have been absolutely seething yesterday. Well, anyone who isn’t a Ferrari and/or Alonso fan.

Many people are acting suprised by yesterday’s events, which saw Fellipe Massa’s race engineer inform him that he was running slower than his team mate who was behind him, followed by the question “do you understand that?”. A few corners later Massa slowed down on the exit to let Alonso through, his engineer then apologised to him over the radio. Massa later claimed it was his decision to let his team mate through. I, like many others, think pressure has been placed upon him by the Ferrari management to let Alonso through in order to get the “best possible result for Ferrari”.

When you look at the standings before the race, its easy to understand that decision. But the simple fact is that such an instruction is illegal in the modern sport. Wether you believe that is wrong or not is completely pointless to debate, which is why I found myself shouting at the hypocrite that has a big square jaw and mild Scottish accent on BBC’s F1 coverage yesterday (that’ll be David Coulthard for those that don’t know who I am on about).

So, taking out the obvious points situation out of the equation, why else would Ferrari do such a thing? Well Alonso’s behaviour in recent Grand Prix has become increasingly irratic and childish, throwing around complaints left right and centre. The most famous incident this season involving Michael Schumacher at Monaco where he was passed on the final corner after the Safety Car had pulled in. The claim was that they shouldn’t have been racing, but following a procession to the finish line, but it was clear from Alonso’s line through that corner that he was racing and it bit him on the arse when Schumacher did the same. So what happens when Alonso and Ferrari make a complaint? its investigated.

A few races later Hamilton got his timing wrong and passed the Safety Car before the white line, Alonso made a complaint, Hamilton was fairly disciplined with a Stop Go penalty which he took but events during the race led to him retaining his position, Alonso claimed this “wasn’t fair”. Whilst at Silverstone Alonso passed Kubica by cutting a corner, rather than allow Kubica back through Alonso flew away and tried to get away with it and was punished with a Stop Go penalty. A normal penalty under normal circumstances but in the events that happened (Kubica retired before the decision was made) it became rather harsh, the fact remains that it was Alonso and Ferrari’s own fault, they were reccomended to yield the position by numerous sources (other teams, plus the race director) but ignored such advice. Now this incident.

Before this had taken place Massa was clearly struggling on the harder compound tyres. Alonso was putting in faster laps (although immediately after a fast Alonso lap, Massa would reply with a faster one) but Massa was making mistakes. There’s clear footage of Alonso gesturing after a Massa mistake, just as there was when Alonso felt Barrichello held him up in Qualifying at Silverstone (despite there being huge gap between the two cars) and Alonso later claimed “this is ridiculous”. I think its clear that because of his previous two World Drivers Championship titles, not to mention his (sometimes incredibly immature) temperament, Alonso is #1 Driver in the Ferrari garage. I have no problem with that, but clearly if he’s as talented as people would have you believe and if he was indeed much much faster on a regular basis in yesterday’s Grand Prix then he would of eventually passed Massa with no help from those on the Pit Wall or (if the decision was indeed Massa’s) his team mate.

It was revealed late yesterday, early this morning that Ferrari have been fined for the incident, which is I can’t complain against there’s not quite enough evidence to force through a stricter punishment. Even so its hard to see Ferrari receiving a more harsh punishment than this. Formula 1 is Ferrari, Ferrari is Formula 1 especially now Jean Todt is President of the FIA. The case has also been forwarded to the World Motorsports Council, but I see very little else happening, at most they will have the points taken off them. I think a fair punishment would the points being wiped from the Constructers Championship for the race and the Driver’s points switched around, even though there’s an easy argument to suggest Massa would eventually have been passed by Alonso without instruction.

But once again, despite an incredibly entertaining season, Formula 1′s repuation has been dragged through the dirt. It’s hard to be enthusiastic when cheating is in abundance from every team involved. I think its about time Team Orders were re-introduced but communication between the driver and his pit wall reduced to using just pit boards and not microphone and earpieces. But then I also think that Blue Flags (or at least a Blue Flag meaning let the faster car through) should be abandoned.

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Retro Review: Ratchet and Clank 2

Now before I go ahead. I'd like to point out that I run a website (and write for it obviously) called bitparade. For the past few weeks I've been playing games that I've got gathered in my rather expansive (and rather random) collection and then putting up a review of whichever title I've been playing that week onto the site each weekend. I'll be putting these Retro Reviews up (even though PS2 isn't strictly retro) on here from now on and hopefully show off any writing talent that I may or may not have. If you're interested in reading anything else by myself or one of our other two writers, head on over to http://www.bitparade.co.uk.
 
So anyway, my retro review of Ratchet and Clank 2.
 
 Its probably an odd place to be introduced to the Ratchett and Clank series, but a spell of boredom and a lack of drive to play something that fits into my normally played catergory of games (so racing and JRPG then...) had me dig this out, I'd always heard good things about the series and this is the only title I have available in my collection of games, so Ratchet and Clank 2 (or Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando or Ratchett and Clank: Locked and Loaded depending upon where you live) is this weeks "Retro Review".


I'll happily admit to being a fan of Insomniac Games' Spyro the Dragon games on the original PlayStation so its a wonder that its taken me this long to play a game from this series (the first title was released eight years ago!). Now that I have though I'm glad I did. Insomniac have taken everything they did succesfully with the li'l purple dragon, ramped that up a notch and thrown guns galore at the gameplay. It's odd saying this so long after its release but it really does feel like a platform game designed for the Modern Warfare generation, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Visuallly its still pretty damn good considering that this is a PS2 game, there's not a blocky texture or poorly designed item to be seen and the worlds the game has you visiting are richly populated and vastly different to each other resulting in each new location being a genuine treat. Okay so it still visits the staple Platformer style locations of "swamp place" "ice place" "fire place" "big fat futuristic city" but come on, if you didn't expect that then you were just being delusional. The characters are all fun, especially the relationship between the two main leads which provides many moments that will raise a smile.

The only criticsm I can possibly aim at Ratchet and Clank 2 is that sometimes the difficulty is cranked up a little too far, usually in the form of there being too many enemies, and whilst this was only a mild iritation (and no where near as difficult as some sections of Nintendo's Mario games) it could provide too much for someone much younger or less experienced with games than I and detract from them enjoying the rest of the game. No ones asking them to make the game stupidly easy, and in all honesty it makes overcoming those situations quite satisfying, but a bit o f middle ground would of been nicer especially as the spikes come at almost random moments where the level beforehand was fairly easy and the sections immediately afterwards are a breeze. Admittedly most of these problems are resolved as your weapons upgrade, but sometimes it involves alot of dying in order to have the firepower to progress.

As a complete package though, Ratchet and Clank 2 is incredibly entertaining, suprisingly so for a game of its age, I really mean it when it shows very few rough edges in any of the key area's we look at when playing games and its only the mild irritation of a few poorly chosen difficulty spikes that detract from the overall experience.

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Yes Boss

I may have hinted in my previous blog post that I've racked up a fair amount of hours on Football Manager 2009. Steam claims I'm on about 227 hours played.  I'd like to add that thats not one save file, I've restarted the game numerous times usually because my career has gone tits up in some manner or I've just gotten bored. My current save file says that I've put in 6 Days, 5 Hours with the addicted rating as "Remember, eating gives you the strength to keep on playing".
 
I'll explain now that I'm a Gunner, for those not informed on club nicknames, that means I'm an Arsenal fan. But I very rarely start off as the manager of my favourite team, usually I start unemployed and see where that takes me but on this occassion I started in Ligue 1 in France as Manager of Bordeaux, a semi succesful first season was followed by a disastrous start to my second season and before Christmas I was fired and then employed by Burnley in the English Championship. That first half a season was a struggle against relegation, which is the state the club were in when I signed on. I prevented them going down and have spent the summer bringing in a fair few free transfers and now have a squad I feel confident in.
 
So why blog about it? I honestly don't know other than to say this is the first time in a long time I've been playing Football Manager 2009 and enjoying it rather than feeling that I owe the game my time. I feel like I'm building something at Burnley (I've got a mix of young English, Spanish and French players plus some old heads like Louis Saha dotted throughout the squad). My statistics aren't exactly brilliant (think my win % is around the 33% mark over 2 and a bit seasons) and I tend to just rely on playing the game my way and trying to work things out whereas I know ALOT of people use pre-built tactics and guides to lead them to success.
 
I've actually been posting monthly updates (as in in-game months) on the Arsenal forum I frequent as have other people on the site for the various editions of Football Manager that they play so its quite interesting to see how everybody approaches the game differently, has different success with the same clubs, tactics or players and just how different everything is in each individual persons game save. Football Manager really is an incredibly personal experience and everyone who plays it has a story to tell, although these no doubt bore those who don't give a crap about the Beautiful Game or Football Manager.

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An early love letter to Alien Swarm

I honestly do not give enough time to my PC as a gaming machine. In all honesty its not as good as I'd like it to be, but it runs pretty much everything thats available on the Source engine and Football Manager 2009 so thats more than enough to keep me happy (in fact FM 2009 is probably my most played game since Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast if I'm being honest). I'm beginning to think that will change with the download of Alien Swarm.
 
Okay, I've actually only played it for about 25 minutes and that was this evening, in single player. But provided I really love the atmosphere of it. It reminds me of James Cameron's entry into the Aliens series (the second film for those that don't know). Especially because of the Motion Sensor, but also because of the manner in which the game relies on everybody watching each others back. There's more to it than Left 4 Dead in my opinion, although thats a damned good game too. I don't think the price tag has swung my opinion either, although I doubt I'd of bothered with it if it hadn't of been free (unless I'd of managed to get a code of the developer/publisher to review it for bitparade.
 
Graphically it suprised me, Okay its not the sort of game you use to show off your rig, but its got its own style and its a pleasurable one at that. The sound too is top notch, especially because they've copied the noise of the Motion Tracker in Aliens and the different classes give room for mixing things up a bit. I can most definetly see me playing more of this in the future.

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Why not to race randoms on Forza 3.

   



 
This actually happened a few days ago now. I'd taken a loooooong break from playing Forza Motorsport 3, most of the people I used to play it with had moved on to other things, so I started having a few races against randoms. The video below is exactly why you should never do such a thing. This was in the Circuits-R3 lobby/whatever, so not games, just pure racing. I honestly don't mind a bit of argy bargy when it comes to racing, after all letting your opponent know you're there is all good fun, but the two "moves" below were clearly aimed at taking me out. I wasn't even racing for first position, this was a battle for fifth, six and seventh. I ultimately finished seventh thanks to the second so-called "crash".

 
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