You have got to love racing games. I mean, there is no other way you could drive a Ferrari at 200kmph on a slippery snow-laden track, speed past the twists and turns like a maniac and live to tell the tale.
To begin with, the Project Gotham Racing (PGR) series squarely saddles the line between hard-core simulation racing and arcade-ish racing. It’s somewhere between the ultra-realistic driving simulation of the Forza Motorsport series and the over-the-top, edge-of-your-seat style of the Burnout racing series, although it leans more towards the former. In other words, it manages to walk a fine line between serious simulation and good ol’ pedal-to-the-metal racing fun. This is a good thing because there is definitely a market for gamers who like their racing simulation done medium-rare.
PGR 4 offers a host of exciting cars, like any decent racing game would, and they all look fantastic and each seems to possess its own driving characteristic. You start with a basic set of cars but you get to unlock new cars to buy for your garage, any of which you can use for a race, as the game proceeds. But where PGR 4 really scores brownie points is in the addition of motorcycles for your driving pleasure. Theoretically, this should add a new dimension to the game since they are powerful machines that you can use to race against other cars. However, since I am generally terrible at riding them (probably because I spend far too much time trying to do wheelies), I have yet to experience their full potential.
PGR 4’s main mode is the “career” mode, where you take on the role of a championship driver who must tackle a variety of racing championships during the calendar year in order to come out on top. Each racing championship offers a variety of challenges such as speed laps, eliminators, or street races where you will have the opportunity to not only win the races, but rack up some serious Kudos points. Kudos points are important because that’s what you will use to unlock new tracks, cars and motorcycles in the game. PGR 4 does a wonderful job of giving you plenty of challenges so the racing never becomes boring, and the Kudos system ensures that a steady trickle of new stuff keeps coming your way during the course of the game.
The game really scores on visual flair. Some of the tracks, such as the Shanghai circuit, are a treat, what with the developers leaving no stone unturned in making the circuits feel vibrant and alive. Then there are the all new whizz-bang weather effects, such as the rain and snow, which actually have an impact on the racing in the game. Racing in the rain, especially, is a joy to behold as raindrops glisten on the windshield and the roads become wet and shiny with water. You will need to brake a bit more carefully in snow and rain as the corners can become treacherous during high-speed laps. The game also offers some great camera angles, including a superb cockpit view where you can actually see the driver working the gears. The over-the-fuel-tank view on the motorcycles is equally sensational, especially as you lean in on the high speed corners.
The sound effects are equally well done with engine revs, tyre squeals and weather effects sounding as they should (especially if you have a Dolby 5.1 set-up). The music isn’t bad, what with an assortment of tracks from different genres, although I found it a bit underwhelming after the aural assault of Burnout 3. Still, there is something for everyone, since you can change your radio station while driving.
There are some interesting multi-player options too if you are on Xbox Live (I’m not), which should round off the already healthy package quite nicely. I’ve not been able to test out the multi-player modes but, based on the strength of the single-player experience, I won’t be surprised if the multi-player mode is equally rewarding to play.
All in all, PGR 4 is a great racing package and a definite must-have if you own an Xbox 360. Highly recommended.
Game: Project Gotham Racing 4
Platform: Xbox 360
Price: Rs1,895 at all leading retail stores
Write to Arjun at firstname.lastname@example.org