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10/25/2007 01:48:00 PM
Review: Project Gotham Racing 4 (Xbox 360)
Project Gotham Racing 4
Reviewed By Aaron Samus
Bizarre Creations :: Microsoft Game Studios
Things We Like
The Tradition Continues:Project Gotham Racing has always served as a fun foil for the realistic simulation games such as Forza and Gran Turismo, and this latest edition of the famed series continues that tradition. This time around, Bizarre Creations adds new wrinkles to its proven formula, piling on even more cars, racing modes and extras while featuring the tightest, most intensely fun racing yet seen in this franchise.
Kudos Revamped: As any PGR veteran knows, it's all about the Kudos -- the points you get for stylish driving. PGR4 is more generous than any of its predecessors in doling out the Kudos. Whereas you might only get 10 Ks for some nice cornering in PGR3, now you'll get more like 50 or 60. And that's a conservative estimate. The Kudos system has been tweaked further by adding a new "stars" system -- you get stars, anywhere from one to five, for how well you execute each move. The Kudos have another use as well -- you can trade them in for new cars, tracks and accessories such as driving helmets.
Wheelies: The biggest single addition to PGR4 is the option to ride motorbikes. Using what appears to be the same model as MotoGP -- you can lean forward for more speed (and less manueverability) and backward to slow down -- you can rack up Kudos at a much faster rate with bikes than cars. (The 500-Kudos achievement is much easier with the bike.) Plus, there are different sets of medals to earn for cars and bikes.
Impressive Controls: These are the tightest controls on a racing game I've seen in a long time. PGR usually runs a little loose, especially with the weaker cars. But this time the precision from what you do to the joystick to how it translates in the game is top notch. It takes a little getting used to but it's not a steep learning curve, at least for the cars anyway. (Bikes are a different story; see below.)
Let It Rain:Forza 2 was a fine game but it suffered from a lack of variant weather; it was like every track was in San Diego. PGR4 features 12 different weather "patterns," including thick fog and downpouring rain. You can even drive on ice and snow, rally-style.
New Stuff: All the exotic cars are still there, such as the Ferrari Enzo and the MacLaren F1. Among the more prominent new vehicles are the 2006 Ferrari 599 and 1957 Maserati 250F. There's even a pickup truck. New tracks in Shanghai, Macau, and Quebec are available too, though I'm strangely into the St. Petersburgh, Russia, circuits.
Please Share: Just like in Halo 3, you can upload pictures and video to the game's Web site to show off to your buddies.
Achievements: There is plenty of low-hanging fruit as far as achievements that you can pile up early on, which is a good change since PGR3 was miserly with points. I compiled nearly 300 points in only about six hours of playing. Here's the complete list.
Mini-Game: Yes, the popular mini-game Geometry Wars is back, it's on the second floor of the garage.
Rock Me Amadeus: There's a classical radio station you can listen to while driving and it's easily the best among the choices. Nothing like cruising at 175 mph while relaxing to Mozart's Sonata in A.
Bowl For Kudos: Among the new racing modes, my favorite is Cone Attack. Instead of slaloming through the cone gates and worrying about knocking them down, the point here is to topple as many cones as you can in the time allotted. Anybody who has struggled to win a cone race will appreciate the chance for revenge.
PGR4 from the cockit pit view, which if you can get used to it, is a cool way to play:
Things We'd Change
Tough Stuff: There is an ultra-steep learning curve with the bikes, especially the top-end models, and racing your bike against other cars online is a recipe for disaster unless you can get out in front and stay there.
Faulty Physics?: Strangely enough, you can get Kudos for drafting behind a bike ... with a car! How does that work exactly?
OK Graphics: This doesn't break any new ground graphics wise. The tradeoff is you get a silky smooth framerate.
Beats?: As much as PGR4 deserves props for its classical station (mentioned above), the rest of the radio channels aren't all that appealing. Save for a track from Wolfmother, there isn't much to keep your interest. Better to just plug in your MP3 player.
Damage Waiver: There is still no damage effect for when you wreck, which would be good to have as an option.
Linear Play: In the single-player mode, where the objective is to gain the No. 1 ranking in the world, there is a decidedly linear feel. You only get to choose between a few tracks at a time, so it's not like previous Gothams when you could pick and choose which track to run.
The Garage: Why does walking around the garage feel so awkward? The controls are sluggish, makes it feel like you are stuck in the mud. Also, why can't I see all my cars together? Instead you have to approach a car and choose to change it out for another one in your collection.
Paint Jobs: Borrowing a bit from Forza 2, PGR4 allows you some customization of your paint jobs. But it's not nearly as extensive.
Fishhooks: I didn't see an option for using the right joystick for acceleration, which I prefer to the right-and-left trigger system. This brings back bad memories of having fishhooks for fingers from marathon sessions of the original PGR.
It's a worthy addition to the PGR family and a nice change of pace for those of us who have been doing nothing but killing Covenant and Flood for the past month (OK, that would be all of us.) As long as you are not the obsessive gearhead type who craves simulation racers, this game will be well worth your dough.