The Good: Stunning environments and rain effects, great control, kudos can be used to obtain more content.
The Bad: Motorcycles can be slightly overpowered, and aren’t very challenging to drive
Bizarre Creations has an excellent track record with the Project Gotham Racing series, and the latest offering from the talented developer continues this tradition. A dynamic weather system has been implemented this time around, and players will be able to choose their rides from a wider selection of cars and motorcycles. PGR on demand is also a welcome addition to the game, and enables users to share race replays and pictures online.
The gameplay and car/motorbike controls remain on the line that separates simulation and an arcade experience. New players will be able to play and not worry about spinning out of control, but veterans will find enough depth for an enjoyable experience. The motorcycles –which make their debut in PGR 4-, are actually fairly easy to control. Players will rarely be falling off their bikes.
Arguably the biggest addition to PGR 4 is the inclusion of motorcycles. There is a healthy selection of bikes to choose from, ranging from less powerful ones to others that are more powerful, such as the MV Augusta F4 Senna. The motorcycles are much easier to handle than the cars, as there is no split between the front and back brakes. However, bikes can feel too easy to drive and lessen the challenge while taking away some of the fun factor. Generally, bikes will be quicker than the other vehicles at the starting line due to their power/weight ratio, but cars have the better top speed. With that being said, if the player can maintain consistency on a bike from the starting line, there should be some very tight competition with the cars.
Another welcome addition to the series is the dynamic weather system. This means that during a race the weather can and will change just like in real life. The sunniest of days can be ruined by rippling sound (and of course the rain itself) of a thunderstorm. Visually, the weather effects are simply stunning. Individual water droplets realistically fall on vehicles, and slide down them or even create puddles of water on the road, forcing the player to change their driving/braking patterns. One of the downsides to the weather is the fact that Bizarre Creations clearly had their focus centered on the rain effects. While other weather patterns aren’t necessarily bad, but they do not behave as realistically as the rain. Driving at top speed with the most exotic of vehicles on a racing circuit covered with ice and surviving to tell the tale is something that would be only achievable in a video game.
PGR4’s Amazing weather effects
Raindrops keep falling on my head…
The single player Gotham Career mode is centered on a calendar based system, and should take around 12 or so hours for racing fans to complete. The player’s goal is to become the number one driver in the world by completing a wide variety of race types ranging from cone challenges to hot lap, and of course regular races. The kudos system is still in place, and players can earn kudos points for example by popping a wheelie on a bike. Driving with style will award the player with these points and this time around kudos can be used to purchase new items such as cars and even a gamer picture on Xbox Live.
The real meat of PGR 4 can be found in the multiplayer portion of the game. There is a vast array of single and team events including elimination races, street races, and the new bulldog mode. The online play is pretty much lag-free, unless some players out there have really terrible connections. PGR on Demand enables players to share photos and videos in a similar way to recent releases such as Skate and Halo 3. There are some very simple tools that allow for limited car customization (visual), but it is nice to have a chance to make your ride unique.
Project Gotham Racing is known for having brilliant visuals, and PGR 4 continues to impress. All of the previous locales are included in the game as well as three new ones: Shanghai, Macau and Quebec. Environments and vehicles have a great amount of detail and have to be seen in motion to truly be appreciated. The frame rate is rock solid and never stutters despite the fact that this game is one of this year’s best looking titles.
PGR4 Racing in Action!
The game looks much better in motion.
The soundtrack has a large variety of music and covers all the expected genres as well as some unexpected ones like jazz. However, the individual tracks themselves feel like they’re of lower quality than the ones in PGR 3. The only sounds that the big racing fans will care about are the engines. Thankfully, there is a giant variety of authentic-sounding engines that will change tone and quality depending on your camera view.
Despite the fairly minor shortcomings, PGR 4 is a great racing title that should be regarded as a definite purchase for sim and arcade-racer fans alike. The dynamic weather system is a great addition to the series, and will hopefully be expanded in the next instalment. The great feature-rich multiplayer will have game players coming back to Project Gotham Racing 4 for a long time to come.