While PGR4 doesn't do much to distinguish itself from its predecessors, the game still pulls off an enjoyable experience

User Rating: 8 | Project Gotham Racing 4 X360
The first Project Gotham Racer not being launched along side either a system or XBL is finally here. And while it may not live up to past expectations, PGR4 is able to hold its head high above the surplus of mediocre racers on the Xbox 360.
The first thing you will notice about PGR is its implementing of racer personalities. Upon starting up the game you are asked to create a racer and to pick out a helmet, cloths and a paint jobs. Your character will be put up against other racers in the Gotham career mode to see who the best in the world is. The game wants you to feel like each person in the career has they own driving style. Sadly, this feature falls flat on its face. You never really notice any difference between the racers; they still feel just like lifeless CPU's. But that doesn't put a hamper on the whole mode, the race types do. These modes, like Time Vs Kudos, Superstar, and Cone Sprint also become a problem in the Arcade mode. They're flat out not fun and it feels like Bizarre Creations just put them in as fillers. And it wouldn't be that bad if these modes didn't come up too often but you wind up racing through cones to beat the clock more then you do racing other cars. The Career mode is fun to play through once but after you become #1 in the world there is no real incentive to keep playing. Sure you can try to rank up more Kudos to unlock all the vehicles in the shop but it's not worth the time (or the 5 Gamerpoints). It also doesn't help that the game only gives you 5 limited garages to store the hundreds of cars in the game. And yes, Kudos are back and better then ever. For those of you that have never played a PGR game before, Kudos are simply style points. You gain Kudos by drifting, performing tricks on a bike, drafting behind other cars and so on. Kudos also act as in-game currency and are vital to your placement in championships.
The Arcade mode feels just about the right length at 10 Chapters with 6 events each. 40 events can be done with both a car and bike, which are new to PGR. The bikes take some time to get used to and feel like a gimmicky addition to the franchise. The bikes just don't handle like they should (see Moto GP 2007). While they do have great acceleration any top tier car will always beat a bike in a race if the drivers have about the same skill level.
This is about where my complaints end. The racing itself is fun to say the least. The new weather system worked out beatify; seeing Quebec covered in snow or driving over the Brooklyn Bridge in a severe thunder storm will take your breath away. All of the cities from PGR3 return and look better than ever before along with newcomers Quebec, St Petersburg, Shanghai, Macau and the Michelin Test Track. All present new challenges and new thrills and fit perfectly into the PGR family. Cat and Mouse is back and is still one of the best online race modes ever conceived. One person on each team is the mouse and they are force to use a slow car. All the other teammates have fast cars and are considered cats and the first mouse to cross the finish line wins. Sound simple? Well, that's because it is. Simple and fun is what makes Cat and Mouse shine along with the new Bulldog mode. Think of it like a zombie mode from an FPS game. One player has to tag the other racers and once he does, they become a bulldog. All the cars being chased have to try and stay un-tagged until time runs out. The only thing wrong with the online component of PGR (which also includes online championships which tie right into your single player career) is the lack of people playing. PGR was totally overlooked last holiday season and has never been able to accumulate a large fan base. But that doesn't mean no one is online; around 30 people will qualify for the daily tournaments. While even less will actually play in these tournaments it's a guarantee that a handful of dedicated racers will show up for the final every day.
To sum up to other notable features: Gotham TV lets users upload videos and pictures to be viewed by friends and the whole Gotham community. This is a great addition that seems to be on its way of becoming mandatory in a post-Xbox Live world. The other feature is DLC which includes a free roam mode and some new cars and bikes. The new vehicles are worth the very cheap $5 price tag and so are the challenge packs that come along with them (don't forget the 250 Gamerpoints). Two of the packs are easy and use all the new vehicles and the last Platinum pack is excessively difficult.
While it may seem that I ripped on the game quite a lot I can not say enough how much fun the core gameplay is. Sure, some of the new features don't live up to there full potential but that doesn't stop PGR4 from really standing in front of the curve. While I would be reluctant to recommend this game to someone who has completely played PGR3 I would gladly give a copy to someone who has not. From the way the weather looks and directly effects the gameplay to the outstanding online modes and arcade racing PGR4 is a game that should never have been missed.