|Project Gotham Racing 4 (2007)
Available for: Xbox 360
Last year, when I finally decided to jump ship from the Sony side of the video game fence after they announced that their PS3 was going to sell for 600 bucks, I bought myself an Xbox 360 bundle. Packaged with the console was “Project Gotham Racing 3,” which wowed me instantly with its crisp graphics and all-around fun racing elements. So even though the game’s sequel wasn’t something that was permanently locked in on my radar, I was more than pleased to know I’d be getting to review it. After all, this was the series that inaugurated me to 360 gaming, and helped turn me into the huge fan of the system that I am today.
Unfortunately, not a lot has changed from the last time around for “PGR 4.” The game is still all about the Kudos system, which gives you points for drifting around corners like crazy. The only problem is, a number of these tracks just feel too narrow, especially around the turns, to successfully pull off great drifts. When the turn itself isn’t getting in the way, the other racers certainly are, making getting to the finish line first a bit of a frustrating ordeal. It certainly seems like this entry in the game’s series is hell-bent on making racers pull off as many drifts in tight angles as possible.
Bizarre’s big change to the game is the addition of motorcycles and weather other than sunny days and clear nights. To be honest, the motorcycles just aren’t that fun. I immediately picked one for my first few races and found that the handling is somewhat off. Braking and/or letting off the throttle before the curves seems to be delayed just enough to either make the bike come to an abrupt stop by hitting the wall, or causing a complete collision. For something that was touted so much before the game’s release, this feature should have been a little more player-friendly out of the box, instead of something that players with mad skills could tackle. And really, after having played “PGR 3” so much, the motorcycles feel more tacked on than something seamlessly integrated.
The addition of changing weather works pretty well. Basically, this feature is all about making the drift experience change. Dried up, hotter situations will obviously make drifting more difficult, while rainy and snowy days will make it easier and/or more dangerous. It’s definitely cool to see a race start out with one weather situation and then progress to something a little different as things proceed. Obviously, developers are still fascinated with this feature (ever since Activision first introduced it in “Enduro” all those years back on the Atari 2600). To Bizarre’s credit, they got it right, making this feature one of the few true step-ups from the last game.
However, they also saw fit to introduce a career mode into “PGR 4.” I’m not sure what it is with so many games any more, but the career mode often just doesn’t seem to be very exciting. “PGR 3” excelled in letting players choose from various events that ranged from the easy to the frustratingly difficult. That’s pretty much toast now, and instead gamers get to work their way through a calendar season of races. The experience is okay, but I preferred the old setup much more. What really pissed me off is that in this mode, once you finish a race, that’s it. No going back and retrying to be the winner. Ah, fake “realism.”
Graphically, the game looks as sweet as it ever did, although the soundtrack pretty much sucks. Seriously, when can we get a racing game that’s not filled with a bunch of lame bands cranking out tunes that offer nothing to the driving experience? Maybe in the next decade. Overall, though, “PGR 4” is a solid racer, if a bit tweaked in frustrating ways that might make you want to play the earlier games in the series. It’s definitely good enough for a weekend rental, but there are better racing titles that came out this year deserving of full purchase price before this one.