Gaming Today Reviews Project Gotham Racing 4
Heading into Project Gotham Racing 4, I expected a pretty standard fare; the established PGR formula of grinding away at each race, trying to get as many Kudos out of them as possible, only with motorcycles and various weather effects laid on top. While that is the reality of the matter, the game makes up for what appears to be an expansion pack on paper with pure thrills and a solid racing experience.
I’m feeling a tad queasy as I write this review, which doesn’t seem to be all that uncommon among gamers who have played with the bikes in PGR4. A new camera effect, which basically tilts the camera the opposite way you’re turning – almost to simulate the feeling of inertia when you’re driving – is something I noticed while racing with cars. I didn’t think much of it, other than it being a nice little effect to immerse you in the game. After an hour or two of racing cars, I took a bike for a spin and then I noticed how exacerbated the camera effect is – to the point where I was flat-out nauseous after driving for less than a minute. While I did adjust after 20 minutes or so, I noticed that I felt dizzy after walking away from my TV. So, just keep this as a buyer’s beware from someone who has never gotten motion sickness from a game before (including that Marathon: Durandal Xbox Live Arcade mess).
Despite the nausea factor, I found bikes fairly easy to drive right off the bat. While you do have to take on a different mentality from when you’re driving a car (breaking early and avoiding contact with other vehicles is obviously crucial), it doesn’t take long to get the hang of pulling off wheelies and overtaking other cars while on bikeback. (Is that a word? Should be.) The game also lacks the frustration factor that many other games featuring bikes has, where you feel like you have to slow to a crawl to make turns without landing on the pavement.
Cars are equally as slick to drive. Bizarre has really refined the driving mechanics to where each car has an extremely distinct feel to it. Plenty of racing games can claim that, but PGR4 is about as good as you’re going to get in this regard outside of Forza Motorsport.
The straightforward and easily-accessible Arcade mode is intact, while the Gotham Career mode is a change in pace from previous PGR games. Unlike before, where you would select a race and repeat it as many times as you wished, PGR4 has you competing in seasons where various events come along and allow you to play them only once. Fail or succeed, you’ll have to wait until the following season to try again. While it’ll depend heavily on your preference, this struck me as a good thing. In PGR3, I felt like I needed to retry the same event over and over until I mastered it and got the maximum amount of Kudos out of it. PRG4, on the other hand, ushers you forward and keeps mixing things up with the different types of events (standard races, overtakes, time attacks, cone races, etc.) and different locations.
One particular instance of deviating from the norm was where you need to take an old 1950s hot dog-looking car around a snow-covered Nurburgring. It’s insanely challenging, as it’s easy to lose any and all traction (protip: don’t be afraid to let off the accelerator completely to regain your control) of your hot dog. And while I failed by a small margin, I couldn’t help but grin afterwards about how awesome that nine minutes was and think, “Next season, that’s mine.” It’s these unique challenges scattered throughout the career mode that make it particularly fun and worthwhile to continue along.
Everything looks fantastic, especially when you take the time to stop a race and enter photo mode. (It’s lame that you need to do that to really experience what the game’s visuals have to offer, but boy, do they ever look good.) The new weather effects, like rain and snow, all look terrific and make enough of an impact on the racing itself that a sunny day on Nurburgring and a snowstorm on it are drastically different affairs.
Even though Forza 2 was released what only seems like a few months ago (actually, it was, come to think of it), PGR4 offers enough variation that diehard racing game fans will be happy to eat it up. For those of you out there who were put-off by Forza 2 and its seemingly insane amount of customization, PGR4 will still offer a solid racing experience while reducing the need to be a car junkie. Anyone can pick up and play the game, and while it does fall into a bit of a gray area between the Forza and Gran Turismos of the world and the Burnouts, the combination of bikes, fun challenges, gorgeous graphics and sweet weather effects make PGR4 worth picking up for any racing fan who hasn’t tired of the core PGR gameplay.
Presentation: 9 A slick interface and easy access to all of the game’s features – including a simple and easy way to paint cars however you’d like – make PGR4’s presentation first-rate.
Graphics: 9 These are definitely the best looking graphics we’ve seen in a racing game yet, and most likely will be until we see Gran Turismo 5 show up on PlayStation 3.
Sound: 7.5 A nice mixture of techno beats, albeit ones with strange lyrics to go along with them, and engine sounds make PGR4 nice to listen to.
Gameplay: 8.5 The PGR racing experience has been refined greatly, and offers very accessible simulation racing to those who don’t know how to properly align their car’s Johnson Rod.
Replay Value: 8.5 A lot of variety among race types, different weather effects that drastically change any given race, good online features, and challenging-but-achievable achievements.
Overall: 8.5 While PGR’s core gameplay remains unchanged overall, the various small tweaks and inclusion of a great new career mode and Kudos that work as currency make PGR4 the best PGR yet.
Geometry Wars: Waves: 8 I know you were all waiting for this part of the review. It’s an interesting take on Geometry Wars and is really quite fun despite its simplicity. But it ain’t worth paying $60 for, so you’ll just have to do without it if you’re not interested in PGR4.