'Project Gotham Racing' returns to the Xbox 360 motivating gamers to spin their wheels and earn some kudos. Keeping within the tradition of the series and breaking into some two wheeled fun, PGR4 dominates the race track clocking in another winning lap.
If you haven’t heard the news, Activision has swooped in and purchased the UK developer, Bizarre Creations. This means that PGR4 is the last Project Gotham Game that will developed by Bizarre since Microsoft owns the rights to the game. It’s definitely a sad note to start the review, however as it stands, PGR4 is a strong point to leave on. For the future, you can almost guarantee that Microsoft will want to continue with series gambling on a new developer. I know Bizarre will be watching the development as they rebuild a new racing title for Activision.
Project Gotham Racing hasn’t changed too much from its debut in 2001 and in its core it features the same polished driving experience which includes the classic Kudos point system, exhilarating racing and a plethora of other modes, online and off. The biggest innovation in PGR4 is the obvious inclusion of motorcycles. PGR4 also continues to innovative in a number of little ways that complete the whole package into a solid game, I’m referring to the restructured career path, refined game modes and the always impressive online integration and multiplayer racing.
Unlike Microsoft’s other racer, Forza Motorsport, Project Gotham leans towards the arcade side of racing than pure simulation. This time around it feels like that lean is tilting closer to arcade roots then ever before. If your a simulation junkie, or racing purist then PGR4 won’t have the traction to keep you behind the wheel, however if you enjoy racing games in general then it’s hard to find a better substitution then PGR4. PGR4 accelerates with a ride range of vehicles including everything from classics to the new inclusion of superbikes.
Before I had the chance to get my hands on the motorcycles in PGR4, I doubted the idea of adding the bikes. In the past other racing games have tried to do the same thing and fell flat of their faces. In 'Bizarre Creations' case the Motorcycles seem to have value within the games structure and have been implemented in a way to please everyone. In the handling of motorcycles Bizarre smoothes out their ride, gives them high performance rating as and thankfully simplified the controls which is like a pony ride compared to a true motorcycle racer like Tourist Trophy. This makes riding easy to grasp and master which can give you an edge on the track. Bikes can easily cut tight corners and skim through bulky cars on the track with quick acceleration and equally impressive top speeds. Riding a bike isn’t always the best idea, but it’s usually the easiest. The only downside to the two wheels over four is the constant fear of wiping out on corners or by other cars. If you collide too hard with an object you’ll loose a few valuable seconds as you regain your composure.
I’m not going to mask my questioning of adding motorcycles to PGR4. In one hand the controls are easy to learn and they are a lot of fun to ride. However adding bikes also unbalances racing when mixed with cars and should have been left to their own specific races and events. Besides the questionable fairness of riding these slim rockets begs to ask the question, who would be crazy enough to race on a bike against cars in a tight quarters? and why would you want to? It’s probably too late for the franchise to go in reverse, but I’d like to see the motorcycles get a restriction, if they make it onto the roster again.
The other major improvement to PGR4 comes in the form of a graphical touch with the new dynamic weather system. During a race the dynamic weather system can come in as an unexpected rain storm, or snow flurries in the middle of an event. This adds an extra challenge as gamers will have to adjust to the real time changing physics. Weather is nothing new in racers, so I know a lot of you won’t be too impressed. It’s the hardcore gamers and coders who will be more interested in how Bizarre achieved this display of graphical tricky. If nothing else, the dynamic weather system adds to the realism of PGR4 along the challenge of keeping the Enzo under control in a rainstorm.
In the graphics department, Bizarre decided to give PGR4 a face lift in the red and white visual style which is fitting for us being Canadian. The new visual style has other changes with the games interface more than anything, for the in game graphics, PGR4 keeps up with its past effort without any major advances. This is fine since PGR has always been on the top of the heap for graphical performance. In the games other half of presentation, the audio, PGR4 has a large selection of tunes which is updated and current with a number of today’s hottest bands.
The cities in PRG4 showcase the return of New York City, Las Vegas, London, Nurburgring, and Tokyo. The new cities added include the split track in Macau and its related track in Shanghai, China, the Russian city of St. Petersburg and some love towards Canada with Quebec representing. Lastly PGR4 adds a fictional Test Track sponsored by Michelin. This track is similar to the test track in PGR2 and serves the same purpose as a testing to getting the most out of your cars performance. Overall, PGR4 has enough cities and variations of the tracks to keep the gamers busy for a long time. I’m proud to see Quebec added to the mix, it’s a great city and a nice touch providing long time fans with an icy challenge.
The new vehicles in PGR4 are as impressive showing a wider range in class than before. The selection includes the classic selection of Class A racers like the Ferrari F50 GT, McLaren F1, and Saleen S7 Twin Turbo to the slower style of Class F vehicles like the Buick Regal GNX, Lancia Delta, and Chevy Camaro Z28. If you’re looking for new rides Bizarre has included a few old school rides like the 1957 Maserati 250F, all the way up to the 2005 Vanwall GPR V12 and the Tesla Roadster that is scheduled for production in 2008. From cars to motorcycles, PGR4 hundred plus line-up should impress any gamer who has a love for speed.
The season mode has also changed in structure in PGR4. No longer can you skip along and work on earning medals perfecting each race into your an expect. In PGR4 the career is set up in calendar format to impersonate a real time racing season. This means that you’ll spending a lot more time in the single player game in at least two years to mop up in all the races. Each month is set up with a number of races that correspond with your skill level, new races out of your class are available through qualification and you also get the chance to unlock new vehicles through various challenges. The changes to the season invigorated the career mode making it feel new and fresh. It can be disputed as an improvement or not depending on your take on the old season’s structure. I was so used to the old format that racing under a calendar felt substantially restricted; however I welcome change and think it’s a good direction to take the franchise.
Online PGR4 has everything that the last version had to offer with more options with the PGRTV which has been PGR on Demand to include race replays and pictures from the PGR community. Online the racing is as solid is ever and remains one of the most fun racing games online. Following a queue from Halo, PGR4 includes a party feature which helps keep the players you want coming back for some competitive online races. If you’re in for the long hall until the next PGR game is released, PGR4 has enough life to last another two years.
Project Gotham Racing 4 is a solid note for Bizarre Creations to send off with. The Project Gotham series has grown over the years into one of the most solid racing games available. The new features which include motorcycles, dynamic weather, and a redesigned season mode give gamers a good enough reason to upgrade from PGR3. PGR4 is one of the best well rounded online, offline arcade based racing game you can get at the moment. Filled with value, longevity, excellent graphics and new features, you won’t be disappointed with PGR4.
Gameplay: 8.5, Graphics/Sound: 8.5, Innovation: 8, Mojo: 8 Final: 8.5 / 10