E3 '07: Project Gotham Racing 4 -- Hands On With the E3 Demo

We play the E3 demo of Bizarre Creations' upcoming racing game.

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Now that Forza Motorsport 2 has been released, console racing fans' attention turns to Microsoft's other big racing title for Xbox 360: Project Gotham Racing 4. While we saw a bit of the game before E3 2007 began and during the Microsoft E3 press conference, today we got a chance to try out the E3 demo of the game for the first time. After turning multiple laps in the single race available, we can safely say we're greatly anticipating the next entry in this stellar racing series.

The single event available in the demo was a four-vehicle race at one of the new locales in the game, Macau. We were forced to ride a motorcycle--which, if you're familiar with PGR4, you know are new to the game this time around--against one other bike and two cars. Though the track layout was a mostly wide-open affair with long straights and some tight twisty bits at either end, the mitigating factor was the heavy rain falling on the track throughout the race.

Click to enlarge!
Click to enlarge!

That rain, in fact, made the bike more difficult to pilot around than we initially anticipated and we spent the first couple of laps simply trying to get a handle on how to keep the bike's tires from sliding across the asphalt each time we hit the gas. At extremely low speeds, the bikes required an extreme amount of throttle feathering in order to avoid the back end sliding all over the place, and the controls seemed very twitchy. The good news was that it was tough (though not impossible) to topple off the bike completely thanks to a somewhat forgiving crash model. Also immediately apparent were the differing abilities of the vehicles in the demo--the bike we drove was immediately quick off the line but fell behind one of the vehicles on the long straight. Eventually that car's speed was too much for us to handle and we had to make due with fighting the other three vehicles for second place.

Naturally, kudos are still a big part of PGR4 and, while riding about on the bike, we found it easy to earn kudos by doing traditional maneuvers such as taking turns quickly, or drifting around corners, as well as bike-specific moves such as endos, as well as wheelies, which were easy to initiate and hold, even at high speeds.

The Shanghai night circuit we played in our pre-E3 look at the game was, frankly, more visually impressive than the circuit we played in the actual demo; however, the weather effects and trackside detail seemed entirely acceptable, even if the frame rate wasn't always steady, especially around tight turns. On the other hand, the audio in the demo was top-notch; we especially appreciated the audio feedback from the squealing tires as the bike made its way around the track. The team at Bizarre has seemingly gone to great lengths to pack in as much variety of sound as possible when it comes the rubber meeting the road, and it's paying off to great effect in the game. Drift turns, for example, sound completely different from corners, which require heavy braking, and the quick squeal of rubber as the tire lost grip on the asphalt under too much throttle was an excellent touch, and has us excited for the audio delights to come.

It's too bad we couldn't get a chance to spend some more time with the cars in PGR4, but from the demo we played, the motorcycles look like they will be an entirely viable racing option in the game. Bottom line: They're fun to ride, and that's a great place to start. We'll be keeping you informed of all the latest PGR4 information in the coming months, so stay tuned.

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