Project Gotham Racing 4: Hands-On With Gotham Career Mode

We go hands-on with PGR4's career mode for the first time.

We're hurtling down the long first straight of the Nürburgring again. We've driven this course hundreds, maybe thousands of times before, in a series of racing games that stretches from this year's Forza 2 all the way back to the original Grand Prix Legends for the PC. But we've never driven the Ring like this, nestled in the seat of a 1950s F1 car--a long, cylindrical front-engine monstrosity with thin little wheels, and an engine that sounds as if it's liable to rip itself out of the car at any moment. Oh, and it's snowing. It's one of the longest, most challenging courses in the world, and we're tearing around it as best we can in a 60-year-old car that wants to go sideways every time we mash the throttle. On sheer ice. Is this a dream or a motorsports nightmare?

Welcome to Project Gotham Racing 4, Bizarre Creations' latest in its heralded arcade driving series. We've spent the last couple of days tearing through the game's career mode, enjoying what promises to be another fun and fast-paced racing game by one of the best developers in the business. But before we get too far into our retro Ring excursion, let's back up a bit and tell you how we got there.

When you fire up PGR4 for the first time, you'll first establish your in-game identity. This entails choosing a gender for your driver, establishing your country of origin (which will play into the default color choices available for your riding uniforms), and then customizing your look with choices such as helmet and visor styles, as well as additional color options for your leathers and helmet design. It's not exactly Forza 2-level depth in terms of customization, but it's not a bad start.

Like 2005's Project Gotham Racing 3, PGR4 focuses its attention on racing some of the coolest cars around in some of the most cosmopolitan locales in the world. However, unlike PGR3, the lineup of cars isn't confined to exotic hot rods. In PGR4, you'll be racing everything from Aston Martins (complete with counterclockwise gauges) and Ferraris to pick-up trucks. Motorcycles are a big part of the action in PGR4, too. As we discovered when playing the game, certain tracks and events are better suited to bikes than cars, and vice versa.

The single-player game in PGR4 will include a number of different modes: arcade mode, time attack, custom match, and Gotham career. In arcade mode, you'll progress through ten chapters that will challenge your driving skills across a number of different event types that include speed and drifting challenges. In time attack, there are no kudos and no opponents; it's just you and your ride against the clock. In custom match, you can set up the kind of race you want to run--choosing all variables such as location, track, weather type, number, car type, skill level of opponents, and number of laps in the race. Weather effects are plentiful here, and you can select from any variation of weather available in the game: fog, thunder and lightning, icy conditions, snow, and practically everything in between.

One lap on the Nürburgring. In the snow. In a race car from the 1950s. Good luck.

We've spent the majority of our time in the centerpiece of PGR4's single-player game: Gotham career. It's your typical zero-to-hero story; you start at the bottom of the world rankings as a lowly amateur racer and then, by competing in a long string of race events, slowly work your way up the ladder into the professional ranks, ultimately becoming the number one driver in the Project Gotham world. To get there, you'll be facing stiff competition in a metric ton of different events, strewn throughout the game's various urban locations.

Career events are based around a calendar system. Only one event will be available per day; some are compulsory, and others, known as invitationals, are optional. For our career, the first event we competed in was the Asia Amateur Open, a three-event race series that took place in Macau. We had several ride choices, from a poky little Lancia Delta Integrale Evo, to a Camaro Z28 and a Sierra Cosworth RS500. However, we chose the motorcycle, a Buell RR 1200. It's certainly not the hottest ride in the game but, considering the choices, it's the best of the bunch--if for no other reason than motorcycles are typically quicker off the line in PGR4. Once you get a lead in the early goings, it's relatively simple to keep it, provided you drive a clean line.

The first two events in the Asia Amateur Open were straight street races. The third was a checkpoint race that challenged us to drive as quickly as possible through a long, winding section of Macau, passing through the occasional checkpoint along the way. The more checkpoints we passed through, the higher up the race ranking we moved. Having handily won in Macau, it was time to tackle the next event in the series, the Nippon Open Championship. Zipping through the streets of Tokyo, we managed another clean sweep of wins in the trio of events that composed this championship.

In any career-mode event you drive, you'll naturally be racking up kudos as you go. In a car, clean sections and hot drifts are great ways to rack up kudos, while on a bike you can earn kudos for wheelies, endos, and even two-wheel drifts of your own (as well as for clean racing). Kudos help determine your position at the end of a race; you earn bonus kudos for finishing a race in first, second, or third place, but you can still end up ahead of an opponent in the series' overall rankings if you earn enough kudos with your hot driving. Also, in the event of a tie, the driver with the most kudos for the series will be determined the winner.

With the initial Macau and Tokyo events under our belt, it was time for our first invitational event. We were strapped in the seat of the oddly shaped 1950s Jaguar D-Type, and our aim was to drive around the course as quickly as possible, while knocking down stacks of cones along the way. The goal was to knock down 125 cones within the time limit, which is easier than it sounds. We had a good time, barreling the drift-happy D-Type into the cones sideways and getting all of the cones at once. Once you pass the invitational event, you'll have access to the model you drive in the challenge. If you fail to pass, you can always try the same invitational event when it rolls around the following season.

When you aren't racing, you can spend your time in the various garages in PGR4. The amateur garage holds a handful of cars, but once you make your way up to professional, you gain access to the Michelin Test Track and a two-story garage. In both garages, you'll have access to Geometry Wars: Waves, Bizarre's latest take on its addictively gorgeous shooting game. You can also enter photo mode in your garage to take pictures of your various cars for saving or posting later to the PGR On Demand feature found in the game.

Overtaking challenges in Shanghai, speed challenges in Las Vegas, kudos challenges in Quebec; you'll take part in all of these different types of racing events and more in the early goings of the Gotham Career mode, and you'll move up in the world rankings as you go. For some events, your world ranking won't be high enough for you to enter--as in the Asia Time Major, which requires a rank of professional. Nevertheless, have no fear, because even when you don't rank an automatic berth, that doesn't mean you can't drive your way in. Special qualifying events will let you attempt to qualify for certain events that are above your driver level, but be warned, because some of these events can be very challenging.

The first step for any real racer: Establish your identity. You can customize your rider leathers, helmet, and visor in PGR4.

That subject brings us back to the snowy, slippery Nürburgring, where even the slightest miscalculation can send you hurtling into the wall at ludicrous speed. Tackling the Ring in a 1950s F1 car is an invitational event, one that is, as the game puts it, for experts only. The goal is to do a full lap of the Ring in 9:14 in a car that sometimes has other ideas when you initiate steering input, especially considering the conditions of the road. As for the Ring itself, it's a wonder to behold in wintertime. The Bizarre team has done a fine job of showing the behemoth German racing circuit in an entirely new light, with barren trees lining the circuit and the sun gleaming brightly off the icy sections of asphalt. It's a chore to pilot that temperamental car through the twisting sections of the course, and you can expect to spin more than once on your lap. After all, whatever the weather, the Ring takes no prisoners.

There's still plenty more to learn about PGR4, especially the details on the various multiplayer modes that will be featured. We look forward to bringing you much more on this game in the weeks leading up to its October 2 release.

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Discussion

80 comments
ternet
ternet

I don't know if I can go back to PGR after Forza 2, love the weather, but there is no customization compared to Forza...

ML21321
ML21321

The best of PGR! AWESOME! Hope there's more to come!!! I still am playing PGR 2... night races with broken headlights and 7 rivals in the rain; AWESOME.

galleon90
galleon90

lol this game is great is just wut i need it a race game and with the 360 the graphics are awesome...

Dub_c6969
Dub_c6969

I dont know anabub the game is all about technique more then customization skills.

Anabub
Anabub

Am I the only one who feels this game has been tainted by Forza 2? OK the graphics had there small jaggies but the game play and customisation were awesome ... Online you could be in a race with 7 diffrent types of car, but in games like PGR there is always one fast, dominent car ( or bike as the case may be here) so everyone jumps on that band waggon and there is nothing (customisation wise) that can seperate your car from everyone else's it may be a good, arcade racer but it just seems a little shallow ... I'm a big ever since MSR on the DC but I really can't see myself wanting this one ...

Fang_lord
Fang_lord

omg, so many games leading to Christmas...if i try to count them all, i think ill need 4 hands lol. Metriod 3, Mass effect, bioshock, halo 3(not like i want it or anything), Mario galaxy, Bleach on the wii, DBZ BT4, Dragon blade, and that just a start...theres the new mario kart and SSB after x-mas, not to mention assassins creed comming out soon...to many...

u_poop
u_poop

hmmm.....amazing grapics!!1

sephiroth_4
sephiroth_4

TOO MANY GAMES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

capitancahonas
capitancahonas

str8 @g8summit &shadyjam wheres the faith guys? The folks over at Bizarre have a reasonably fair(excellent!!!) grasp of "fun" racing dynamics, I'm sure they have spent a hellava lotta time sorting just the bikes out ...After all, there's not much more they can squeeze out of the 4 wheeled experience..or is there? I must say though that I haven't (either) come across a really convincin/enjoyable (outside of an arcade!) bike sim to date, PGR4 could well sort that.

hitomo
hitomo

why are HANDS-ON longer than actual reviews ? ...dismissed !

jdbthexboxgamr
jdbthexboxgamr

wow this game is sounding and looking great,I only have until Oct 2nd to get done with Halo 3 it looks like,LOL

monkey2go
monkey2go

i wanna play nurburgring at night with broken headlights like in pgr2

therejectx
therejectx

cmmmoonnnn out with it already i miss my Ferrari F50 GT

fatafreak
fatafreak

i like the nurburing snow thing that looks fun. lol.

g8summit
g8summit

Yeah shady i'm with you on motorbikes. I have yet to find a game that incorporates bikes enjoyablly into a game. Normally they are un fun, and generic, or they handle very weirdley. Oh well, the focus is more than likely around the cars still.

shadyjam_nyc
shadyjam_nyc

It wasn't so much the graphics alone with me and PGR3, but the way they were incorporated into the gameplay by means of motion on the in-car camera and the additional graphical effects. I didn't rate Forza 2 graphically, and to be honest i found it to be a complete disappointment - this said i still enjoyed it to a degree because of the intuitive gameplay. PGR4, whilst providing an arcade alternative will undoubtedly support a more engrossing and adrenaline fuelled ride with sounds, atmosphere and effects than Forza was ever able to. Also, anyone with me in not really being too bothered about the motorcycle aspect of the game?

GR33DY83
GR33DY83

cmmmoonnnn out with it already i miss my Ferrari F50 GT

NinjaMunkey01
NinjaMunkey01

I want this game, when I played pgr3 I thought 'this is the next gen of gaming' and I am looking forward to this!

zamardii12
zamardii12

If you guys have seen a recent Game informer, you would see how incredible the graphics are going to be.

kyle_1865
kyle_1865

little hard to tell if the graphics will e good from a little video streaming off the internet, PGR3 still is one of the better looking race games and i imagine 4 will be on the same tier

GrimBee
GrimBee

"I'm sorry but the graphics don't look up to par. I think DIRT had better graphics. It looks washed out and lacking detail. That 50's race car is so plain. " I know what you mean. But then again when you have the motion-blur, roar of the engine and great gameplay - the visuals become merged with that, giving the game its own personality. Gran Turismo HD looked fantastic on the screen, but I dissliked how it played - personally. DiRT was a great game, and still is. If it wasn't for the motion of the cars and things like that then the graphics would mean nothing at all. PGR4 will improve graphically as it nears its release, but the series never had pushed out graphics as its defining feature (like GT does) - its all about the Kudos, different ways to get that Kudos and offer a great way around the track like alot of racers only get right some of the time. I really enjoyed PGR3 because of the overall presentation (in car views were nice) but it lacked a certain something, perhaps it was a little too much road for me (I like to have different kinds of surfaces to race on). But those looking to just get into a vehicle and race it - there really is no other competition because the gameplay in PGR is faultless. As the series progresses, there probably will be even better graphics, more kinds of vehicles to race and different kinds of terrain to race on. But for now - a slowly but surely progression is what this series is about. Perfecting the little things first and then moving on. If you want the fast and the furious - go for EA's offerings. I personally like the PGR series because it doesn't directly compete with other racers like forza and GT - it goes its own way, and for that I praise it and am looking forward to PGR4. It may not look like the best thing on earth, but you will find it tough to get a game series where all the elements which make a game are so well put together.

wolfmann
wolfmann

I want this NOW.. but still waitin on Nascar thou... God Speed

RAFDOG
RAFDOG

to Figcard yeah in the pic shown in the bulletin it could look better.. but look at the rest and they look amazing.... this game is gonna own...if its better than 3 i will be very happy..

Figcardi151
Figcardi151

I'm sorry but the graphics don't look up to par. I think DIRT had better graphics. It looks washed out and lacking detail. That 50's race car is so plain. I think i'll wait for either NFS prostreet or Burnout paradise.

littlestreakier
littlestreakier

PGR4 is gonna be amazing, i still honestly think to this day that PGR3 was the definition of a next gen racing game. but i donno, i went from xbox and PS2 to the in-car more of PGR 3 in HD to make it seems wayyyyyyyyyyy better than it really was...but it was amazing lol. PGR4 looks just as promising to me

ColdGen
ColdGen

Let us pray Bizarre Creations are over their "motion blur" fetish that spoiled PGR 3!

miasomia
miasomia

Can't wait but I am not lookin forward to the motorcycle crap. I hope they dont force you to use motorcycles!

TVR_Fan
TVR_Fan

I may start getting picked on, because of the comment I am about to say

choasfreak
choasfreak

Looks very very nice almost made say is this really PGR4.

AL13NK1LL3R
AL13NK1LL3R

the only thing i hate bout pgr is kudos.. its soo lame and it stupid to rank up by kudos...

wilt1725grog
wilt1725grog

This game reminds me of need for speed1 for playstation 1 and PC, where they let u choose weather effects. another thing that i wish that they would have add toPGR4 is the morning afternoon and evening efects. need for speed 1 had that too. PGR4 is a super great game and another reason to buy a 360

n3ck
n3ck

How are we supposed to afford all these sick games at once?

beckit_beck
beckit_beck

looks great, like the weather effects

shadystxxx
shadystxxx

bardockisGOW for the people who thinks this game is off the chain , well wake up. I am sorry to inform you this game is just like Grand Turismo, very repettive. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The only similarity between pgr at gt/forza is it's a racer and you drive cars around a track. GT is a simulation, a great one at that but pgr is compleltly different. In GT it's about driving a car cleanly around a track hitting apex's and not losing controll of your car that handles just like a car would in real life. In pgr it's about driving in style(while still tying to drive cleanly) drifting,powersliding etc etc, and although the cars handle in a mix between arcadey and simulation it's allot more arcadey than gt. I love both franchises, and if you think both these games are boring and repetitive am geussing you dont like racing games(maybe you like ridge racer or something) if thats the case then why bother commenting let alone open the preview page.

shadystxxx
shadystxxx

shabab12 no where near gt5, y do ppl keep saying that. gameplay looks great though ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- There 2 different type's of racers, both great at what they are good at it. If you mean graphics, of course pgr4 is near the quality of gt5 graphics if not better. they are both beautiful games and are basicly on par with the best looking games going as they always are. Why do people say it's nowhere near gt5 when clearly anyone with 2 syses and a brain can tell they are at the top of the table for graphics.

xbox_1
xbox_1

Having only read the tow few posts: I love the PGR series, but it's not supposed to be compared to the GT series, that's what Forza is for.

GIF
GIF

More racing in closed circuit tracks. Whoopee. Pass.

shabab12
shabab12

no where near gt5, y do ppl keep saying that. gameplay looks great though

gillri
gillri

yup looks flashier than GT5, not as anal and definitely more fun

daveg1
daveg1

why are these vids always from the out side view??? noobs play like that.. i wanna see the effects when yuopr actuasly behind the wheel!!

e1337prodigy
e1337prodigy

Looks good, with some nice weather effects.

chips-ahoy
chips-ahoy

PGR4 worth a rent at the most. Not worth spillin over $60 for.

cryingfoot
cryingfoot

Another good game that get a bit to many sequel. It's not EA so maybe they will impress us; but there is so many games this years... wish them luck. look really good.

ShmenonPie
ShmenonPie

Looks no different from PGR3, if you ask me. And, @tizmond: o, it won't always be second choice, as GT comes above both PGR and Forza, so it will be, according to your opinion that Forza is better, 3rd place at best.