Joystiq hands-on: PGR4 (Xbox 360)

Zack Stern
Z. Stern|07.09.07

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Joystiq hands-on: PGR4 (Xbox 360)
Project Gotham Racing 4 follows the track of previous PGR titles by recreating cities on a building-by-building basis and then letting the fast cars loose. The September Xbox 360 game will include 10 total locations: New York City, Tokyo, London, Las Vegas, Quebec City, Shanghai, Macau, St. Petersburg, Nuerburgring, and the Michelin Test Track.

I got some hands-on time with a recent version of the in-progress game, with the touted weather and rain specifically being shown off. PGR4 looks and feels like it'll be a fun racer, and this time, motorcycles get to play alongside the cars.


I rode a motorcycle through a rainy Shanghai night to get a sense of the game. Rain streamed down the face of my chase-camera as I practiced racing and turning. Motorcycles -- new to PGR -- follow slightly different "kudos" rules as the cars; I earned PGR's point currency not only by drifting on turns but also by tricks including wheelies and standing on the bike while racing.

The roughly 30 licensed motorcycles will be able to race directly against the roughly 100 licensed cars, although the game isn't being promoted as a cars-versus-bikes showdown. Instead, the single-player missions will straddle both vehicles, although online drivers can more easily specialize in one type.

In addition to the rain and puddles -- I got a close look skidding on the pavement after failed tricks -- PGR4 will include snow and ice. Volumetric fog -- rendered in a three-dimensional shape instead of a 2D layer -- was also touted. As we drove up the city hills, dense fog at lower altitudes cleared at peaks, showing city vistas. While the demo omitted snow and ice, fog and rain looked good at least.

Developer, Bizarre Creations, says AI will be improved in this version, giving opponents more of a vindictive memory of how you drive and more interest in earning their own kudos. But online play, including team-based racing, seems the most interesting way to race.

Specifics are still being defined, but friends will be able to play together, earning team points and individual points at the end of the race. (A teammate win will earn you points regardless of your own individual placement.)

And if your friends aren't around to help win a race, in-game replays and video sharing will recap that glory. Bizarre hopes it'll create a YouTube-like community within the PGR4 interface, and players will first be directed to Gamertag friends' videos before looking though random clips and top-rated movies.

Motorcycles, new weather, and team tactics make PGR4 worth considering for any racing fan. And the gorgeous real-life city settings still stand out against other titles.
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