Throroughly Entertaining, But Not Outstanding
The Project Gotham Series has entertained me since I picked up PGR2 way back on the original XBOX. PGR2 was one of the first few games to utilize online play through Xbox Live, and it did it fantastically well. When I got PGR3 at the Xbox 360 release I was pumped for more fun like that online. The game stayed awesome for single play throughout the arcade mode, but the online championships killed the casual fun that PGR2 had going for it online.
PGR4 has a high quality single player mode. In fact, it has two different modes for single player fun. Arcade Mode is the standard race after race with five different difficulty levels. Steel, the easiest difficulty, is pretty simple and easy to pass even if you crash constantly. Bronze steps it up a bit, but it still is easy. PGR4's achievement list obviously credits Silver as the standard difficulty to beat. The highest gamerscore is given for clearing arcade on Silver. Gold and platinum clears give what I am going to start calling "Holy Crap" achievement points. They each give only 10GS where Silver gives 40GS. If you see someone with Platinum Gotham Arcader, just know they are crazy good at PGR. Silver is a moderate challenge, but if you are looking for more there is always Gold (achievable but tough) and Platinum (Yeah, I barely can do one or two races with this medal).
Career Mode is a new feature for the PGR series. Basically you start out as a new racer in the PGR circuit and you have to play championships for points to get to Numero Uno. This is spiced up by Invitationals and Majors along the way. Invitationals are fun challenges that unlock cars for your garage, while Majors are extra-hard tournaments that get you some nice bonus points for your ranking. Career also has three difficulties, none of which affect your achievement earning abilities, which means you can switch it to easy and get it all done. I liked normal difficulty however, I generally won but had to work for it most of the time. I never tried it out on Hard. I was losing more than I like on Normal as it was.
The online in PGR4 is not as deliberate as it was in PGR3. Where PGR3 had a set of championships online that was too intense for people like me, the casual PGR player. People on PGR3 were running me off the road to guarentee their victory and their points. In PGR4, the online is much more casual, but yet they have running championships that you can join if you are looking for more serious fun. Ranked races are set up by your Trueskill rank, and I can imagine they get more serious as you rise up in rank.
PGR4 brings back the main draw of the PGR series with Kudos being awarded for various things while driving. Drifts, nice corners, overtakes, drafting, and other things all earn you points while you race. These points are tallied into your championship scores (for Career or online championships) and you total Kudos that you can spend to buy car, track, and cheat packs. Kudos have always been a fun aspect of PGR. The addition of Motorcycles to PGR4 expands on Kudos even more. Wheelies and Endos (Stoppies) give some nice points and you can also simply hold B during them to perform a sweet stunt, look awesome, and earn some nice Kudos.
PGR is a fun racing game, and I thoroughly enjoy it obviously. It has its own little niche in my mind, where my other racing games hang out. If I want a serious and realistic racer, I'm playing Forza 2. Want a crazy, crash filled party? Burnout Paradise. When you want a game full of licensed cars that drive in a nice, almost arcadey style. Definitely pull out PGR4.
PGR4 gets Four out of Five stars for being totally awesome, but it doesn't stand out as classic or perfect.
Oh yeah. You get Geometry Wars: Waves in your garage in the game. It is a pretty fantastic game. If you like Geometry Wars, PGR2 is where it all started.
PGR2 has Geometry Wars (Retro)
PGR3 has Geometry Wars Evolved
PGR4 has Geometry Wars Waves
Geometry Wars 2 is in XBLA.
PGR4 is the only way to get your hands on Waves is my point. It is pretty cool, and obviously a bridge between Evolved and GW2.
Maybe Geometry Wars puts it up to the 4.5 out of 5 area, but I'm sticking to whole numbers.
Catch me if you can. I might be online.