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Visually the game takes a different approach compared to previous PlayStation titles. The game looks more realistic and has a darker color scheme, it takes a lot of this from the arcade game in the Ridge Racer series, Rave Racer. For the first time in the Ridge Racer series, Rage Racer introduces a brand new advanced singleplayer career system which uses credits. The player can get credits from winning races which can then be used to buy and upgrade cars. The racing is separated into five classes, named 'Class 1' through to 'Class 5'. The game's objective is to earn money (Credits, or 'eg'), which can be spent on new cars or on upgrading existing cars. The player must place in the top three in all of each Classes' events to progress to the next class. The player can make three attempts within each class to enter the top three spots of a race. If the player wins all three races in a class using the correct grade of car (e.g., a Grade 1 car in Class 1), the gold trophy for that class is earned. Otherwise, the player simply moves on to the next class. When the player has completed the five 'Normal GP' events, the 'Extra GP' is unlocked. This allows the player to race the same Classes on reversed courses. As well as unlocking the Extra GP, the player receives 999,999,999 e.g. in Normal GP - more than enough to purchase all of the cars and upgrade them to Grade 5. Upon finishing Class 5 in the Extra GP, Class 6 is unlocked, along with the three 'secret' cars. Although it's in the Extra GP, the races in Class 6 are driven on the forward tracks. Class 6 features only four opponents rather than the eleven faced in all other classes.
There are four car manufacturers in Rage Racer. Each of the four manufacturers favors a different attribute (e.g., handling, acceleration, speed). All of the 'standard' cars can be upgraded, with the cost increasing greatly from one grade to the next. This is the first game in the Ridge Racer series that permits the player to race with a truck, but it only comes with manual transmission.
In an interview with the Namco development team, Nobuhisa Mikoda (Rage Racer game designer and project director) admitted that the game was "somewhat off series and aimed to pursue enjoyment in shift controlling". Rage Racer was the first in the Ridge Racer series to feature a CGI animated introduction. Here the Ridge Racer "mascot girl" Reiko Nagase was introduced. Composed by Tetsukazu Nakanishi and Hiroshi Okubo, it marked the beginning of Namco's new primary sound team after their former members began working with other companies doing production on games such as Street Fighter EX (1996) and Driving Emotion Type-S (2000).
IGN concluded, "It's not a bad game, we've just seen it all before (and before that even)". GameSpot described it as "an outstanding sequel" but added "let's hope Namco addresses the collision problems in their next racer", a reference to the unrealistic crashes in the game. The Official PlayStation Magazine said that Namco had succeeded in developing their game even further, and praised the track and car count, before concluding "The pick-up-and-play experience of the original remains, only now there is more longevity because of the incentive to progress through the classes and upgrade to the fastest cars". The game reached number 5 in the UK sales chart.
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- Official UK PlayStation Magazine, issue 23