TGS 07: Project Gotham Racing 4: Hands-on

I'm one of those skinny-armed guys that doesn't know anything about muscle cars. When it comes to racing video games, I've always preferred the unrealistic type--the F-Zeros, Mario Karts, and Wipeouts. Even still, I was a big fan of Project Gotham Racing 3. It gave me a hyper-real version of the racing world, and one that I could wrap my engine-ignorant mind around.

The fourth title in the series adds motorcycles to the mix, and I had a chance to take one for a spin this afternoon. Plowing down a Venetian course on a Suzuki--which can be ridden from a third person view, or behind the glass in first person, as any other car in PGR--was a lot of fun. On your bike, you can pop wheelies with a pull of the analog stick. You can grab some major air on jumps, gently shifting you weight to ease into the landing. Perhaps most importantly, you can crash in spectacularly painful ways. Burnout this is not, but rest assured, ragdoll tech is in full effect here.

Though the level itself was clearly unfinished, there were a few subtle touches to the rider himself that are worth nothing. As other cars approached, the rider would turn his head backwards to check his position. You can also hit the "B" button to pull off a little arm-pump victory animation. Most importantly, the rider seems independently modeled from the bike, so sharp turns will have him leaning into the road realistically. The motorcycle itself felt heavy rather than light--this is a serious machine, not a trick platform.

PGR 4 is shaping up to be more of the same, with motorcycles, weather effects, and a few new modes. Will it be worth the price? Without knowing the cost, all I can say is this: motorcycles are rad.

Bizarre Creations' Project Gotham Racing 4 arrives at North American retailers October 4, 2007.