Review by NES4EVER
A must have for racing enthusiasts
Project Gotham Racing 4 is the latest instalment in the Microsoft arcade racing genre. While games such as Gran Turismo 4 and Forza 2 dominate the realistic driving simulators, and Burnout captivates the arcade wanton destruction crowd, PGR4 takes a somewhat in-between approach to racing. Its not so realistic that you arent able to pull off epic drifts through the corners with relative easy, yet it isnt so arcade feeling that the game is robbed of an element of realism. This approach has been seen in later instalments of Need for Speed games, but PGR4 just seems to do it better.
The game is essentially split into three modes: time trial, career and arcade mode. The time trial mode basically feels like a tack-on to allow players the opportunity to beat their best times, but really adds nothing to the game itself. Both Career and Arcade modes will provide the player with Kudos, which act as somewhat of a monetary system in the game. Championships award kudos for placing higher in the races, as well as performing certain tasks in your car, such as a drift, clean lap or drafting a competing vehicle. Amassing these kudos will allow you to unlock different things, such as packages of vehicles (some brand specific, others not) or certain tracks, such as the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Both Arcade and Career modes are broken down into a series of differently styled races, such as time vs. Kudos, which encourages the player to earn kudos while racing to stop the clock from counting down, or elimination races that eliminate the last car of the pack every 30 seconds until the race is over. There are about 10 different kinds of races, which you may think would become very laborious to complete considering how many times you will be doing the same task, but the game keeps things fresh by not sticking too many of the same event in a specific class of racing.
The career mode pits you against a hundred or so competitors in a series of challenges, championship races and qualifying matches which ultimately decide whether you advance up the list of the worlds best racing drivers. As you progress through this list, different classes of racing will become available, and in return new classes of cars will be available. If your goal was to hop straight into a Saleen S7 and run circles around everybody, that wont be the case, but it provides good motivation to progress through the career mode. The mode is also based on a calendar which will move you from continent to continent based on the completion of races rather than allowing you to retry and place high in the event before moving on. This is somewhat annoying because if you are a perfectionist, it feels annoying to move on without perfecting each championship, but as the next year rolls around you will have the opportunity to retry the event.
Arcade mode is broken down into a series of events that allow you to earn different coloured metals. From the lowest tin to the highest platinum, you are charged with completing races in each class of vehicles and in both car and motorcycle form to complete each series. This can become somewhat monotonous when you start to go back and complete each one on a motorcycle, but that might just be my experience because I find riding a motorcycle in this game to be an exercise in futility.
Graphics in PGR4 are top notch considering the age of the game and the fact it came out early in the Xbox 360 life cycle. Cars are rendered quite beautifully, and the game scores a big hit with me by creating a cockpit view for driving. I dont understand why more games dont do this because it doesnt feel like a realistic driving experience when the camera is sitting 10 feet behind the car or 3 inches off the ground in front of the car. All of the vehicles cockpits have been faithfully rendered, but compared to the renderings of the much more recent and visually stunning Gran Turismo 5: Prologue, the interiors feel somewhat spartan and rushed.
Outside the car, the assortment of tracks from around the world look like they were carefully created and on par with graphics found in Forza 2. Quebec City and New York in particular incorporate iconic images of the cities in the background, while keeping a somewhat faithful layout of the city in consideration. One track that I thought was particularly beautiful was the iconic Nurburgring Nordschliefe. After spending many hours playing the circuit in Gran Turismo 4, the PGR4 version retained the realism and added to the experience by providing a much more vivid picture. I actually feel that the PGR4 version is better than the one found in Forza 2.
Like most racing games, the controls for PGR4 are intuitive and well thought out, but the real difference comes in the physics of the game. As previously stated, the game is not supposed to be a driving simulator, but it is also not plagued with annoying arcade physics. The game falls in between, and does so exceptionally well. Drifting a 500 horsepower sports car through a corner at high speed feels downright simple in this game, which leads me to believe that this game is unrealistic considering how terrifying and unpredictable it is drifting my own 200 horsepower car at low speeds. Like real life, motorcycles are terrifying to race against cars, and more than likely some boneheaded AI vehicle will smash into the side of you when you try to go around the track. The physics are somewhat realistic in having it necessary to dump most of the speed before the corner and apply gas through the corner to bring out speed, but by combing cars and motorcycles in the same race, it is near impossible to win unless you establish a commanding lead early on in races.
PGR4 also delivers on the sound front. Unlike Gran Turismo 4 and Forza 2 where most cars sound similar to their real life counterparts, but lack the realism to impress, PGR4 delivers exceptional sounds. Whether it be the lopey cams on the D-type Jaguar, the visceral roar of the V12 Ferrari 250GTO, or the raw power of the Ferrari 288GTO Evoluzione, this game will leave the player feeling like they are closer to the cars than ever before. The music collection for the game seems to be very eclectic, ranging between bollywood sounding dance tracks and hip hop, but I cant say that it detracts from the experience. However, I am not a fan of how the music is delivered in the game. If I restart a race several times, I really do not want to be listening to the exact same song every time over and over.
The fact that this game sold so well is a testament to the quality of this product, and if you dont already own it, I highly suggest that you purchase it if you are a fan of the racing genre. This game is abundant in the used stock at many gaming stores, and can usually be found very cheaply. For the price it can be found at, this game will deliver many hours of fun and exciting racing to keep you occupied.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Project Gotham Racing 4 (US, 10/02/07)
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