Project Gotham Racing 4
PGR3 was without a doubt a fun racing game that in the beginning of the next-gen racing experience could convince with beautiful graphics and smooth gameplay, added with extensive online possibilities. Bizarre Creations, however, was less pleased as due to time pressure they didn’t manage to realise the ultimate vision of their racing game. With Project Gotham Racing 4 they managed to do what they wanted and set down a new standard.
Although veterans of the series shouldn’t expect all too many surprises, some nice innovations are present and to be found. The Career has changed a bit; you get a full calendar of events that come back every year and as usual you need to climb from a nobody to a beloved God of Burning Rubber. Of course luck has something to do with that, along with how well you drive during the races.
This more realistic structure luckily isn’t a signal for the makers to forget their more exciting and sexy racing missions. You’ll still have to bully flash cameras, finish races against time and of course successfully end takeover games. The Arcade mode has become a little more interesting as this is the only part where is being worked with the so well-known medals that drive you to the ultimate limits with the platinum rewards, or that allow the lesser drivers to get a bronze medal.
Noteworthy, and very pleasing for me personally, is the fact that the car park not only exists out of unattainable super cars anymore, but also has other ones going from a simple Mini Cooper over the Audi RS4 to the Ariel Atom and the Koenigsegg CCX. A lot more variation so to speak and a better way to get used to the horsepower of the top cars as well as the feeling that you truly get rewarded for your growing racing skills! Also the driving model and controls keep that perfect and hard to analyze middle between the arcade feeling from the past and the simulated realism of Forza. PGR remains for now the king of how to make a driving game accessible and giving adrenaline pumping gameplay without showing childish road behaviour.
New, and controversial, are the bikes that for the first time in history roam the tracks of PGR. As if the makers were conscious of the fact that many fans of the series would be a little negative towards motorcycles you can finish most of the game by car. People that want to do some wheelies will have to count in the fact that the motos are a lot harder to control and also need a more subtle and calculated driving style. Especially the curves proved more demanding and most people will prefer the cars despite the faster accelleration most bikes offer.
New York, the legendary Nurburgrin, London and Tokyo are back as tracks, but also newcomers like Shanghai, St.-Petersburg, Macau and Québec manage to impress. You get a lot of variation, not only in environment and types of tracks (fast and wide, short and curvy), but also between the diverse layouts of one city. Stuff for both speedfreaks as well as lovers of curves!
Combine that with the new weather-engine and you’ve got a setting that lets excitement jump in your face. Rain, snow, fog, ice, …. it’s all preent, has a real effect on how your car reacts and how you take a turn, and thanks to the way the graphics put this on your screen it will enhance the realism again a little higher compared to the predecessor. And yes, it looks even more impressive when choosing the cockpit view.
Visual whores that kick on sharp textures, sexy car models and detailed surroundings can be happy again, and everything flies by at a steady framerate although it’s not as high as that of Forza 2. Maybe next time?
Also powerful are the online possibilities of PGR4. Almost endless amounts of leaderboards to break your teeth on or achieve “eternal” glory, a ton of options to set up your own races and more than enough way to be able to play with those people you like most. The cat-and-mouse game is this time integrated in the game and is really a lot of fun. One person a team gets a slow car and needs to get it over the finish line as soon as possible. The rest of the players choose fast vehicles and need to protect their own mouse while trying to get rid of the other.
Also Gotham TV has evolved to PGR On Demand where gamers get to upload their exploits in movie or picture form, after which they can be shared, evaluated and searched upon by the entire community. And as cherry on the pie there’s Geometry Wars: Waves in an arcade in your still freely accessible garage.
Project Gotham Racing 4 is a lot. It’s the ultimate and best balanced PGR up till now, it’s filled with content and has beautiful graphics, and excellent and exciting driving model, online possibilities that work perfectly and will guarantee years of fun and pure racing pleasure. A big fat suggestion, even in these times of abundance in the genre for X360.