The Project Gotham Racing series has been an important feather in the cap of Microsoftâ€™s console gaming ambitions. Not only has it helped launch its two consoles to date, but it also has helped Xbox Live get off the ground, and given it a real shot in the arm with each new iteration in the series.
Bizarre Creations has been instrumental to this success, and for the first time in the series, they will release a PGR game that isnâ€™t being touted at launch, or help promote a major service/product/accessory. Without the extra interest are we presented with an excellent racer, or just another cash-cow in the series?
Bizarre Creations made three significant changes for Project Gotham Racing 4, none of which, in hindsight, will prove ground-breaking for the series. Firstly they added motorcycles. Then Bizarre added a new career mode meant to imitate a racing season. In theory it would seem like a good idea to give the series some new vigour and excitement, yet while the racing season does have merit and the bikes are initially enjoyable, both come across as overall being underwhelming.
In PGR3 career mode, you were given a series of events to choose from, with each having a variety of medals to be earned. The higher the medal you sought, the harder the win conditions and AI. Those medal-gaining choices still exist in arcade mode, but the bulk of the single-player, the season mode, is vastly different from what fans are used to from PGR.
However, once that season race has been and gone itâ€™s like real life - there are no repeats or try-againâ€™s. This can become quite tedious, as there are a plethora of skill events scattered throughout the calendar, and like previous PGR games these are very much trial and error until you find success.
A successful feature Bizarre implemented is a dynamic weather system and, unlike the first two additions, this one does the job right. The extreme weather variables add a lot of substance to the racing, and will actually get you thinking of how hard you should be pushing your car, and really gives a sense or risk versus reward, especially in career mode. As you race over the winter months the roads will become icy and snow-ridden, whereas in the summer months you will experience relentless heat waves in various locales around the world.
You'll experience these conditions as you race up the hills of Macau, speed through the narrow streets of London, and battle the ever-changing conditions in the NĂĽrburgring. The cities and tracks look flawless in PGR 4, and are a clear cut above other racing titlesâ€™ renditions of the featured cities and tracks. The sound effects too help give the impression that youâ€™re right in the cockpit, as once again Bizzare has hit the nail right on the head with these. That success hasnâ€™t spread to the rest of the audio department however, as it is pretty mediocre effort outside of the racing.
PGR's strong point has always been multiplayer. PGR 2 helped launch Xbox Live and both it and PGR 3 were applauded for really boosting the profile and community feel of the service. Everything has received a touch up here and there, and what the user is presented with is PGR On Demand, a service which lets you search for any race running, or view stored footage based on track, times, kudos etc. Add this to the solid racing component, and youâ€™re presented with a neat online multiplayer package.
While not being just another cash-cow, PGR 4 is treading down a path it has gone before. That takes nothing away from this title however as it is a very good racer on its own merit. But apart from some new implementations here and there, it is a similar package to what we have seen before, and Bizzare would want to have a long think about its future plans for the series.