Subscribe To Xbox 360 Review: Project Gotham Racing 4 Updates
Players:Online Multiplayer Enabled
Price: $59.99
Platform(s): Xbox 360
Developer: Bizarre Creations
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
ESRB: Everyone

There’s a simple reason the Project Gotham Racing series has become so popular for gamers; it is a little sim and a lot arcade. Bizarre Creations has struck a balance between the two that provides the most rounded experience currently on the market for racing fans. PGR4 is a ton of fun, challenging at times, and improves upon the PGR3 formula where it counts. If there’s one issue here, it’s that the latest iteration is really PGR3 with just a bit more. It doesn’t quite feel like a full new title.

Much has been made about the weather effects, so let’s just get right to it. The game looks a little better than PGR3, but the tracks have been updated with some polish. Which makes sense because you’re constantly running into weather that directly affects how you’ll be driving. At first the use of weather appears heavy handed because you’re not used to it, but PGR4 uses the calendar brilliantly to bring this feature into the game. When going through the vastly improved Career Mode you race at events throughout the year. So, as you’re speeding down the road in Tokyo on September 26th there’s a good chance you’ll hit some rainy weather. It makes sense at all times, and not only looks beautiful, but causes you to have to change your driving methods.

The other widely talked about aspect is motorcycles, which are honestly nothing special. This is a good thing, because bikes are just like cars in their balancing. You don’t have any advantage driving either one. A motorcycle will blow past most cars on a straightaway because of how light they are, but during turning sections the cars have a distinct advantage. This keeps you from ever feeling you’re losing because of vehicle choice. The game handles well enough that you losing is a fact of poor driving skill. One word of caution, if you got sick playing Marathon you should not set your view behind the windscreen of a motorcycle. Bizarre took a realistic approach so that when turning your bike leans left, while your head leans right. It’s extremely disorientating.

The major improvement made to PGR4 is the Career Mode. You start out as an Amateur racer on the circuit and have to work your way up the worldwide leaderboard. You’ll travel the world competing in events to gain points that increase your standings, and the other racers will be doing the same. This makes Career Mode far more interesting as you’ll be going up and down the leader board based on your performance, as well as that of your opponents. It’s also here where the weather effect becomes a major factor in gameplay. You could be doing a great job running through the fall section of the season, when all of a sudden your next trip is out to Germany in November during a snow storm. Now you have to race a Formula 1 car on a Nürburgring track that is covered in snow. Good luck.

Bizarre did such a wonderful job implementing subtle nuances to the Career Mode that you’ll often miss what’s happening. Even as an Amateur racer you are not shunned from an event, you’ll just have to prove yourself in a qualifying race. It gives you the chance to feel like you’re breaking out from your humble beginnings, and becoming a major player on the racing scene. All of this comes together to provide the fully realized racing experience the PGR series has been lacking. Add to that the fun of online multiplayer modes like chasing other racers around a semi-open city environment, and there’s a lot to keep you satisfied.

You can’t tweak your car, or give it detailed custom paint jobs. But there is a PGR Shop in the game where you can spend kudos earned by doing tricks – and driving well – in races. It’s not much, but it adds some variety to the look of your vehicle and driver. With the style of game this is the damage modeling, or lack of, isn’t a huge problem for me. It would be nice to see a little more, especially when you smack a wall in your Buell and it flips over your head. You’d think there’d be some sort of dent at least. It’s a minor gripe though.

PGR4 is the game that PGR3 wished it could be. With time to refine the details, Bizarre has made the dream racer for gamers. An improved Career Mode makes playing alone a thing of joy. And while it’s beat over your head, the weather effect is incorporated into gameplay instead of being a simple checkbox on the back of the packaging. Overall, this is the most satisfying racer out this year, even if it has some imperfections.

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