Project Gotham Racing 4 Xbox 360

Project Gotham Racing 4 Xbox 360
Let’s face it, there is no shortage of racing games on the 360. 2007 has already brought both Forza Motorsport 2 and Dirt, so it’s going to take something pretty special to stand out from an already crowded field. Fortunately, Project Gotham Racing 4 is more than capable of fending off the competition because it improves over its predecessor in almost every way possible.

While every new game in the series has added some new features, there has never really been an attempt to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, and because of that there’s always the chance that some of the new stuff goes unnoticed. So while the subtlety of the effects that weather conditions might have on control seem unimportant during the intensity of some races, there’s no overlooking racing on two wheels instead of four.

The motorbikes are a surprisingly successful addition to the series. They add a new level of challenge that once mastered, actually can give a bit of an advantage in some races because of their manoeuvrability. Their handling is definitely less realistic than the bikes in Moto GP and there are some strange physics from time to time when riders are ejected for no apparent reason, while some collisions go unnoticed. But for the most part, the bikes were a very good idea.

Just like the previous games, the "Kudos” system is still in effect. That means you get rewarded for stylish driving, driving cleanly and for achieving specific goals, and those points can in turn be used to unlock new cars and tracks. The game modes have been overhauled though, with extensive "Career” and "Arcade” modes for solo play, and lots of online choices, including the wonderful "Bulldog,” which is a chaotic game of tag.

Everything else is just fine — the graphics are better than ever and the control still walks the line between simulation and arcade almost perfectly. The in-game AI is still a bit on the unforgiving side, in that if you fall behind during the first lap your chances of winning the race drop dramatically, but if you drive a flawless first lap, then a few little mistakes don’t matter so much.

It’s also worth mentioning one final added bonus — Geometry Wars Waves, a new and much harder version of the Xbox Arcade classic, is hidden away in the first "Career” garage. While it doesn’t overshadow the main game, it’s a welcome distraction even if it’s so tough that most games won’t last more than a minute.

With so much to do and such a varied selection of cars and bikes to choose from, Project Gotham Racing 4 is one of very best driving games that the 360 has to offer. (Bizarre Creations/Microsoft)