So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Microsoft Game Studios Project Gotham Racing 4
- Beautiful weather effects, over 120 vehicles, lots of tracks and offline events
- Lousy collision and damage models, unconvincing motorcycles, dearth of online events
All in all, PGR 4 is enjoyable enough that it warrants a look but it just doesn't play to its strengths well enough to stand toe-to-toe with the current champions of the next-generation racing world.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
With automotive monsters like Forza Motorsport 2 and DiRT nicely filling their respective niches, you might wonder what there is left to do with the racing genre.
As fun as it can be, Project Gotham Racing 4 doesn't seem to know either.
Making an impression
At first glance, every race in PGR 4 is a stylish mix of simulation precision, arcade excitement, and egomaniacal showboating. Showing skill on the asphalt in any form earns you Kudos -- everything from peel-outs and powerslide drifts to expert cornering and air time can be strung together as long as you don't tag a wall too hard in the process, and each sequence is rated from one to five stars so you know precisely how cool you really are.
The Kudos you earn in every mode can be spent on a range of unlockable goodies such as unlockable cars and tracks but they can also make the difference between winning and losing a championship series in the long Gotham Career mode. Style is almost as important as form as you claw your way up from the amateur ranks, and the historically conservative AI has finally learned to express itself a little bit.
Mix and match
What's most unusual about PGR 4 is that the physics engine is strangely uneven. Slam into the right rear corner of an opponent's sled and he'll barely flinch, let alone spin into the wall as you'd expect. Contrast that to the fact that if you fail to feather the throttle as you come out of an arcade-style drift, you'll spend precious seconds just spinning your wheels.
Some racing enthusiasts will love the atypical mash-up; others, especially car tweakers and purists, will probably find it maddening. The disappointing audio is also lamentable as is the damage modelling that appears to be merely cosmetic. Still, once you wrap your head around the quirks, the game does deliver some thrills. The unfortunate thing is that the whole experience never truly comes together.
There are plenty of offline modes to keep you entertained but the online mode is rather lacking, despite some bells and whistles like the ability to categorise and upload photos for others to vote on. There are only four rather unimaginative event types, and one of those starts off locked.
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