People rate this game on vibes alone. I won't lie the vibes are strong with this one, but it's overall marred by the corniest and most cringely executed story in a racing game ever, nonsensical replay value structure, and the fact that, as a Ridge Racer title, this one is pretty mid. The game omits out the upgrade system of Rage Racer or really any freedom to choose what to do next, you're simply dragged from race to race w some dialogue scenes sprinkled in, until it's over. The game is extremely short so, as if to compensate for this, four story arcs are included, but you're taken on the exact same courses each time. You're essentially tricked into playing through the game four times. There's little sense of speed and the drifting also seems to be worse, feels.. stuttery somehow. Honestly it felt like the drifting became slightly worse with each PS1 installment, I didn't mind this in Rage Racer since I felt I was getting something in exchange, but not so with "R4."
Another thing I was hung up on was that the courses weren't connected, which to me was like, it defeats the point of calling it a Ridge Racer title! It's too much just like any other racing game at that point. Granted, this would go on to become the norm for Ridge Racer games (Ridge Racer V would be the last one to do it) but that feels like Namco retconning this game to seem less bad by making future games unremarkable.
I always felt as though there should one day be a remake of this game that addresses the issues, and a better story. But it's admittedly futile seeing as everyone likes this game already, and a game already exists called R Racing Evolution which I've only played briefly but is uncomfortably close to being a spiritual remake of R4, but with even more Ridge Racer elements removed, and still cringey. Any future effort is unlikely to fare better.