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Project Gotham Racing 4 on Game and Player

Project Gotham Racing 4

Ed Kirchgessner  //  November 1, 2007

Bizarre Creations' beloved franchise gets a flat.


s I examine most modern racing games, there's a part of me which longs for the good old days. Ever since Gran Turismo debuted on the original PlayStation, we've seen great attention paid to driving simulations while the more arcade-style titles have often been cast aside. I don't know about you, but I already know what it's like to drive a car – I commute to work five days a week, and every moment is pure misery. Why must my racing games strive to replicate "realistic" driving?

Few titles have straddled the line between simulation and arcade racer with as much grace as those in the Project Gotham series. By combining a quasi-real physics engine with a points system that rewards crazy maneuvers with "kudos," the PGR games have always struck a balance which appealed to casual arcade fans and hardcore sim drivers alike. That was before Bizarre Creations released Project Gotham Racing 4.

PGR4 hit shelves at roughly the same time as Halo 3, meaning it's been all but ignored thus far by the industry press and consumers. Though the game's far from broken, too much has been done to alter the old formulas, taking away much of what made this series addictive and unique. I first noticed things weren't quite falling into place when I fired up the game's career mode. PGR's simple progression system has been given a backseat this time around. In place of receiving a medal following each race, players earn season points like they would if they were racing in a real league. A great idea in theory, but the implementation here is abysmal. You see, you're not actually a member of a racing team. Instead, you're an individual name on a long list of individual names. Why does this matter? Without teams controlling the vehicles that you and your opponents have access to throughout the various races, any sense of balance is gone. Sure, all the cars in a particular event must fall into the same "class," but most of the match-ups I came across in my first few races were utterly ridiculous – believe it or not, one should consider more than engine displacement when comparing two vehicles. Don't even get me started on the inclusion of motorcycles in the game. Let's just say that there's a reason why we don't see bikes racing cars head-to-head on national television.

The physics engine has also been altered quite a bit in PGR4. The cars seem to be governed far more by real world mechanics this time around – drifts and powerslides are much more difficult to pull off, which for me was a letdown. Though I enjoyed the inclusion of an in-game weather system and its effect on PGR4's courses, the handicaps which rainy or snowy conditions placed on one's car were applied without any consistency. I often found vehicles with AWD fairing worse in an inch of snow than RWD behemoths – go figure.

No, you won't see this
on television. And for good reason.
PGR4's AI was definitely tweaked since the last game, and not entirely for the better. Although races tended to be more challenging, the performance of my opponents seemed governed by a simple rule – if I made it to second place within my first half lap, I was destined to win. If however, I fell behind the third place car and was unable to pass, there was no hope at all of me reaching the head of the pack. The computer's performance was frustratingly inconsistent, even within races. Many were the time's I'd blow by a car in lap one only to find that same car hot on my tail in lap three without any rhyme or reason. I was also let down by the overall variety of events. When you start out and your driver is placed low in the career rankings, you'll notice that "kudos" challenges are scarce. Gone are the days when you could skip around between events, focusing on those you enjoyed – I was forced to endure far too many standard races and time trials before gaining access to the fun stuff.

PGR4 isn't a total loss. The old medal-based progression system is still present in the game's arcade mode, but this doesn't offer nearly as many unlockables or achievements as the career mode does. The online play is relatively unchanged, and that's a good thing. This series continues to offer some of the best racing on Xbox Live due to its easy to learn controls coupled with oodles of cars and course options. Oh, and did I mention that this game looks absolutely gorgeous in high-definition? Weather effects are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen, and the game's in-car perspective really shows off each course's details.

Still, pretty graphics aren't enough to make me overlook a perplexing physics engine and an uneven single player campaign. So much about this title seems to be symptomatic of Bizarre Creations trying to fix what wasn't broken in the first place. If you're a long time fan of this series, you may want to give PGR4 a look. Otherwise, save yourself $40 and pick up a used copy of PGR3.

Project Gotham Racing 4



Bizarre Creations


Microsoft Game Studios

NA Release

October 2, 2007


Play Mode

ESRB Rating

In Favor

  • Gorgeous graphics
  • Fun with friends on Live
  • Weather more than eye candy


  • Perplexing physics
  • Inconsistent AI
  • Motorcycles

G&P Rating

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