Project Gotham Racing 4
Developer: Bizarre Creations | Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios | Release Date: 2007 | Genre: Racing | Website: N/A | Purchase: Amazon
Project Gotham Racing 4 basically gives you a bunch of exotic (and not so exotic) vehicles and a series of racing tracks to try them out on. There’s no story elements of fancy gimmicks, just pure arcade racing fun. In single player Arcade mode you can work your way through a series of challenges, earning medals and kudos along the way. The medals range from steel to platinum, but you’ll make progress no matter which medals you go for, which means players of all skill levels will have fun. Kudos is earned by driving with style (or like a maniac) and performing moves like drifting, drafting and other stunts. These points can then be spent in the shop to purchase new vehicle packs, tracks and other goodies. Each challenge in Arcade mode throws something new at you to keep things fresh. You might be performing street races, hot laps, eliminator events, break through challenges, overtaking goals and even a few cone based events.
The career mode takes up the bulk of the single player game and has you participating in events on three different continents. The events are spaced out on a racing calendar and once an event is over there’s no going back, so you’ll have to wait until the next calendar year to try again. Along the way you’ll move up a rankings ladder with the ultimate goal being to reach number one on the leader board. You’ll get a few new vehicles along the way by completing “invitationals” and the rest by buying them with kudos points, but even with the vehicles available straight away you stand a fair chance of winning.
The game really has a nice diverse mix of vehicles and for the first time motorbike fans will have their chance to shine in a PGR game. Performing stunts, with the bikes for extra kudos is fun and on curves they are unbeatable, but can be easily be overtaken on straights and run the risk of getting knocked over by competitors with cars. In total there are more than 130 different vehicles and while you can’t really customize them beyond a simple paint job this is still an impressive figure. Even more so when you discover that each vehicle has an interior view as well. While it’s not our favorite viewpoint to drive with, we can appreciate the effort.
The tracks are all recreated from real world locations and features cities like Tokyo, New York, London, Las Vegas and more. The level of detail is really impressive and the neon lit, night time races are a definite stand out.
Another new feature to the series is the dynamic weather effects which ranks as some of the best we have seen in a racing game. Driving through rain, snow and mist not only looks visually spectacular, but adds an extra layer of challenge to the tracks. Water puddles and ice forms on the tracks and some careful breaking is required to get through them unscathed. This is important as smacking into walls cost you time and momentum not to mention messes with you kudos combos. To show off all this visual splendor you can access the “photo mode” at any time and take shots of the action. Various effects can then be applied before saving the photo or uploading it to PGR Nations.
The audio took us by surprise as the first song that came through our speakers sounded like it came from a Bollywood film. We soon discovered the other “stations” all of which have been separated into genres like metal, rock, dance and pop. There isn’t a lot of songs in each category, but there should be something to satisfy everyone’s taste. The sound effects are great and all the cars have their own unique engine noises. There’s no annoying announcers to put a damper on things either.
PGR 4 packs a nice set of achievements to aim for, some of which actually show some originality. The ‘puzzle’ achievements in particular are head scratchers provided you don’t resort to guides. The majority of achievements can be gained offline which is always a nice touch. DLC wise you are looking at a free challenge pack, which adds some new vehicles and achievements plus a premium challenge pack. The Premium Pack is going for dirt cheap at this stage and has enough content to make it worthwhile. Geometry Wars fans will be pleased to know that a new arcade machine with “Geometry Wars: Waves” can be found in your garage to try out. It doesn’t give you anything for playing, but it’s pure fun and a nice extra.
Project Goham Racing 4 is the last title that Bizarre Creations delivered under the Microsoft label and as far as swan songs go it’s quite spectacular. We thought that we would get bored with the game, but was hooked for over 40 hours on the single player modes alone. If you are looking for a game that isn’t as realistic as Forza, but not as arcade like as Burnout then PGR 4 is a good choice. We would have liked to see some vehicle damage beyond a busted window or two, but there’s not much else we can find fault with. Even with all the other racing titles on the market PGR 4 is a standout title.
*Review originally published in 2008.