GC '07: Project Gotham Racing 4 Updated Impressions

What do Norm Peterson and Microsoft's upcoming racing game have in common? Find out in our latest look at this gorgeous-looking game.

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LEIPZIG, Germany--We spent an enjoyable half hour this morning chatting with the developers of the upcoming Project Gotham Racing 4, which the team at Bizarre Creations has been working hard on for quite a while now. While we were discussing the online aspects of the next version in the lauded racing series, a familiar reference was brought up more than once: the old NBC comedy Cheers. Now, PGR fans, don't be frightened off by the reference. The game isn't all of a sudden going to feature Cliff Clavin and Norm Peterson tearing through the streets of Tokyo in Cliff's mail truck. Instead, the reference refers to the feeling of unity and teamwork that the people at Bizarre are trying to create with PGR 4's online play. It's just one of the many factors in PGR 4 that make this such an interesting and highly anticipated racing game.

One of the most obvious ways the team is looking to create a sense of unity between players is by playing to our inherent nationalistic tendencies. As soon as you start your career in PGR 4, you'll be asked to declare your nationality and, as producers put it, you'll be able to easily spot your countryfolk in online matches, as everyone's flag will be placed near their gamertag in the game's online menus. While the developers aren't going so far as to automatically team players of the same homeland up for team races, it probably isn't that much of a stretch to think that those from the same country might stick together when race wins are on the line.

There will be more than just country of origin to specify for your created driver in PGR 4. Because your rider will be clearly visible when riding the various motorcycles found in the game, you'll have a good number of customization options to ensure that your created rider is as unique as possible. Options include different leather combinations and helmet types, as well as a ton of color choices for your various accessories. Couple that with a personalized rider number or a personal kudos total etched on the side of your ride, and everyone you pass online will know it's you the second you blow by them.

Project Gotham Racing 4 will feature two main game modes: arcade and Gotham career. Arcade races are your straightforward race events and feature a mixture of different race types spread across all of the various locales found in the game. However, Gotham career mode seems to be where the real meat of the single-player experience will live. This mode uses a calendar-based system with championship racing series available on different dates throughout the month. These championship events are multirace series all set in the same locale (such as the Asia Amateur Open, which is set in the Chinese city of Macau).

The idea in Gotham career mode isn't that far removed from any other career mode you might have played: you start out at the bottom of the rankings and, by skillful driving and winning races, slowly move up through the roster, earning new cars and unlocking new race events as you go. In addition to the standard championship races, you'll also periodically get notices for invitational races. One of the example invitational events we saw during today's demo challenged the player to a time-trial race at a slick, snowy version of Germany's legendary Nürburgring, while driving a classic front-engine Ferrari Formula One car from the 1950s. In this case, if you beat the challenge time, you win the car, which is a handy way to quickly build up your car collection.

The kudos system has been tweaked this time around to take advantage of the motorcycle-specific tricks you can do, such as wheelies, endos, and various tricks on the bike seat. While it might seem that bikes have an easier road to racking up huge kudos totals, cars will still have some distinct advantages, such as the relative ease of drifting around corners (which can earn you serious kudos in the process). In PGR 4, kudos will be more than a point of pride--you'll be able to spend them in the PGR Shop to unlock new race events, tracks, cars, helmets and accessories, and special treats such as filter effects, and a special PGR 4 gamer picture. That last entry on the list will cost you a cool one million kudos, so it's going to take a concerted effort to earn that kind of distinguished reward in the game.

Like the championship-series races in the single-player game, PGR 4's online racing will feature championship events as well, pitting you against multiple online opponents over a series of races. In addition, game modes like cat and mouse and a new mode, bulldog, will also be on hand to help keep the races feeling fresh. In bulldog races, one player is the bulldog; the bulldog's job is to tag every other opponent in the game, thus creating new bulldogs as he goes. The last person on the course is declared winner, and the longer you can go without being turned into a bulldog, the more kudos you'll earn.

One of the more ambitious aspects of PGR 4's approach is the PGR On Demand service, which lets you upload pictures and videos of your favorite cars and bikes, and download media from other PGR 4 players from around the world. In addition to viewing the work of other folks, you'll be able to vote on your favorite photos and videos, as well as add tags for any video or picture you run across.

The 10 locales in PGR 4 are all gorgeously rendered, and the team happily returned to some old PGR favorites such as Saint Petersburg. They've added more details to older tracks, and are continuing to lovingly re-create brand-new urban race courses in Quebec, Shanghai, and Macau. Couple that with dynamic weather effects that can change as a race progresses, and you have a game that's capable of some truly spectacular visual moments--one look at cars ripping through the slushy snow of the Nürburgring is all you need as evidence. Though producers said the weather would affect how the cars handle, they were quick to point out that this was still a Gotham game and that the team is still striving to find that sweet spot between true-to-life handling and arcade fun that has marked the series' driving model since its inception. That, coupled with careful consideration of how cars and bikes are classified, means that you'll have a shot at the checkered flag no matter if you're on two wheels or four.

One other aspect that demonstrates the attention to detail Bizarre is giving PGR 4: by widening the runoff area in many of the game's first corner turns, the team is looking to minimize the first-turn pileups that inevitably occur in online racing games. It's this kind of thing that has us so excited for the release of Project Gotham Racing 4, and we're looking forward to bringing you much more on this game in the coming months.

Discussion

41 comments
DHenze
DHenze

At least there is some American muscle in this one.

---n00b_kid---
---n00b_kid---

Graphics look amazing in PGR4, better than the bland tracks in Forza 2 and horrible jaggies.

LoXodonte
LoXodonte

My biggest gripe about Project Gotham is lack of what should be standard control schemes. I use the right stick to shift gears, triggers for gas and break. You're limited to shifting gears with buttons on this "next gen" game. Also, their is no adjustment for bumping up your engine noise, making listening for shifting difficult. It's great that they're adding so much to the game, but get back to the basics and play some other racers, most all of them have these options. Until they fix these fundamental issues, I'll stick with my forza 2.

GR33DY83
GR33DY83

Ummm is it true PGR4 is being released in australia before north america ????????

supastaa88
supastaa88

I'll be enjoying the crap outta this. Seeing as how both Forza and PGR are made under the Microsoft game studio blanket, I can't really compare em. Plus, they're two diffrent types of racing games. And honestly...quit arguing over consoles, they;re both great. and both overpriced, and both break alot. Lol. To the kids out there, if you were spending your own hard earned cash on the systems...you'd probably like the 360 better. I dont care though. dont bother arguing me or something, im just gonna ignore it anyways. lol

Frost451
Frost451

This will be the first PGR that is native 1080 P . PGR 3 was good but it maxed out at 720 P. Forza 2 was better and it looks amazing at 1920*1080 P over the VGA. Dont listen to the hype of PS3 fan boys the 360 can do 1080 P and still get good frame rates. I'm looking forward to a snow lap around the ring.

buzzard31581
buzzard31581

I'm a huge xbox fan and the 360 is my primary system. I've loved the PGR series so far, but I have to say, this just doesn't look nearly as polished as GT5 has been shown to be thus far. But I guess flashy visuals are one thing. What it mainly comes down to for a true gamer is gameplay. I hope that this will be better than what PGR has been to date and better than anything that GT5 could be. Only time will tell. That being said, there is the addition of motorcycles to this game which hasn't been done in either series. I like the idea of racing bikes as much as the next person, but I don't know if they really have a place in a car racing game. That's my two cents anyway.

Agermemnon
Agermemnon

This game don't have to beat forza 2 as the pgr series is all about speedy engine roar arcade racing i think and it does that superbly as for the bikes i hope their done better than the ones in test drive

AKAkiwi
AKAkiwi

i hade a hard time when i jump from PGR3 to forza lol forza felt like i was going 5 k not 100 k for a bit

ROFLcopter_69
ROFLcopter_69

the weather looks like it'll be a fun edition, specially with the amazing in car view PGR has

43n1m4
43n1m4

PGR3 was really good, but right now Forza Motorsport 2 is my fav racing game... but I'd definitely buy PGR 4 eventually, if for nothing else, then for the very fine balance between arcade and simulation, this series have. And judging from the screens and movies, it looks just fine.

gevans1989
gevans1989

aslong as the bikes ride like real bikes this will be good

suzukigsxr
suzukigsxr

The only feature that they haven't touched on in the splitscreen multiplayer. I hope it allows up to 4 player splitscreen as that is the bulk of what my friends and I use when we play games

NND1
NND1

I dumped forza 2 and cant wait to get this one.. PGR 3 was awesome so hopefully 4 will be a lot better.

pavel_nedved_br
pavel_nedved_br

10wellsmit, are you that narrow-minded or is it just an impression? Wouldn't you be able to communicate and express your opinions without the "PS3 sucks", "@#%&ty" and such?? No one needs any comparison. If you like any other console, good for you. If you hate PS3 then go make a better console yourself.

darthzew
darthzew

Looks sweet, but I'm still satisfied with Forza and I won't buy it for a while.

10wellsmit
10wellsmit

Hey, Dartha Perkinjan, this is in response to your post on GT5 1080p and such, 1080p and 60FPS?? lol, its 1080p and 30fps, I would choose 720p and 60fps over 1080p and 30fps anyday!! HAHAHA PS3 fanboys always bend their @#%&ty specs!!! PS3 sucks! if u want a comparison email me at mitchellwellstead@hotmail.com

potatoesman
potatoesman

gran turismo series got boring after number 2 so hu cares

SpEdPngn
SpEdPngn

RE: Saquib_h: Seeing how the game will be out in less than two months, I'd assume that its nearly completed and that many of the recent screens, and the ones that will be released between now and the game's retail debut, were taken with the game's camera mode. That's something that they did with PGR3 in order to show off the feature and it potential for taking cool shots. Many racing games this generation wont be using CGI anymore, anyway. Much like MGS4 and GoW, the cutscene/movie models are the same as the in-game models. Its all the game's engine.

Supabul
Supabul

GT5 = boring PGR4 = fun

saquib_h
saquib_h

screenshots look like cgi or somethign from starting cinematics... are they ingame? i always think actual ingame screens are the best way to present screenshots...

SidV101
SidV101

I've never understood what makes PGR so good. It's just a very pretty driving simulater with style points. The crashes are no fun and the sense of speed isn't very high. Why do people like it so much? I'll take Burnout, NFS, GT, Forza, or DiRT over it any day.

DeanCorleone
DeanCorleone

You've got to love the cockpit views in these PGR games, it makes them insane, at no other time in my life will I think I'm going to see the inside of any of these higher production cars (unless I steal one.) Nothing like watching that tach ping to red while having afew beers in your PGR high performance car while not having to worry about the police either... Cheers to drunken GAME driving.

CodyTG
CodyTG

Forza 2 is going to be hard to beat.. but having motorcycles is a major plus.

bcolter
bcolter

This is on my shopping list.

usule
usule

Another awesome game coming to the 360 this fall...How am i going to find all t he time for bioshock, halo 3, mass effect, call of duty 4, PGR4 and more...

PhilRiker
PhilRiker

FINALLY! That 1st corner turn is where everybody rams everybody else. If you are lucky enough to spawn as one of the first 3 cars in the line-up fof the race you MAY have had a chance at winning. HUman beings will cheat at every opportunity and without car damage to hold them back all a devious player has to do (and this is why I stopped playing pgr3 online) is smartly ram a guys hind fender and spin a guy out into the corner when he brakes and skillfully drive through the pile-up in first place. And it was usually one of the first 3 or 4 guys that would do that and RUIN the chances of a fair race for everybody. Even widening the first corner won't do much good. Try subtracting KUDOS for every bump against others .... according to severity (speed and angle of ram).... program THAT in the game if you don't want to add in damage modelling!

DarthaPerkinjan
DarthaPerkinjan

Go look back at monkeyman's comment. He claims this looks 'quite a bit' better than GT5. We're discussing graphics, not gameplay. and BTW, I dont have a 360 but I like this game. Reminds me of what NFS use to be before it sold it's soul to rice burners

beyond360
beyond360

Dartha..... why the hell would you try compare this to GT5 is not a racing sim its an arcade game

DarthaPerkinjan
DarthaPerkinjan

@ monkeyman. Are you kidding? Until there is 16 cars on track @ 1080p native @ 60fps its got nothing on GT5

gord_mose
gord_mose

Forza 2 is good but I'm actually looking more forward to the new PGR. I can't wait!

DemonSlayer2063
DemonSlayer2063

This game looks absolutely amazing. Coming from an avid fan of the first three incarnations, this game looks to be improving upon every aspect of the series. I can't wait!

monkeyman
monkeyman

Gran Turismo, eat your heart out. This game looks quite a bit better.

fenwickhotmail
fenwickhotmail

this looks leaps and bounds better than the 3rd - and that was a good game!