Microsoft X’07: Hands-on with PGR4 (in all its moist glory)


For fans of the Project Gotham Racing series, the thrill of the race isn’t in spectacular crashes, long straightaways, or spending hours in the garage trying to squeeze out a couple extra horses. It’s about taking corners at ridiculous speeds and holding onto drifts until you’re perilously close to losing control. It’s that sense that you are barely keeping four tires on the asphalt and ‘kudos,’ the game’s clever reward system, that separate PGR from the pack.

For the series’ most recent outing, players will be able ditch two of those tires and saddle up on a crotch rocket. Like many, I’ve been curious to see how motorcycles will play into the well established formula. When I had the chance to spend some time with PGR4 at X07, I took a BMW F800S for a test drive on the streets of Quebec.


As one would expect, the bikes handle very differently through turns than the cars. Every corner needs to be addressed with a wider arc, which has a dramatic effect on the line you take through a track. The motorcycle gameplay is unforgiving. If you fail to start into a turn properly, there’s no quick drift at your disposal to get yourself pointed in the right direction. All you can really do is slow to a crawl, get your angle right and try to get back up to speed. If you fail to make this course correction and slam into a barrier, you’ll be thrown from your bike. The game resets you on the track pretty quickly and, while this might actually seem preferable to having to reverse and reorient yourself as you must in a car, it does tend to happen in situations where a car might have just bounced off the obstacle and kept on its merry way.

The same tracks are playable with either cars or bikes. Having to play a given track differently with each probably adds some value for hardcore players looking to master everything the game throws at them. Even then, the experience on two wheels just doesn’t provide the same thrill of the classic four-wheeling gameplay. More casual players may give a bike a couple of spins and then garage it indefinitely.


I hit the same track again, but this time in a car. I don’t even remember what car I got my hands on (Faith was good about taking notes at the event. I trusted this precious information to my memory, which is not unlike leaving your newborn child in the protective care of an old rusty rake). This time around, I was treated to a nice light rain. A chance to see those much-lauded new weather effects in motion! The verdict? Shiny! Too, too shiny! Those beads of rain look lovely close up, but from a slight distance it looked as though my car was encased a block of quickly melting ice. This might have worked, had the conditions in the surrounding world seemed a bit rougher, but the effect of the rain wasn’t nearly as pronounced elsewhere, making the road look pretty much dry by comparison.

This has been quite a year for 360 racers. With Forza 2 and Dirt already on shelves, and with a new Need for Speed, Stuntman and Juiced 2 (there was a Juiced 1?!) on the way, nobody’s short on options. While PGR4 certainly has a lot to offer, the bikes just don’t play well enough to motivate owners of PGR3 to buy in again. It’s a good idea, just one that could use a little more time in the oven… the IDEA OVEN.