Project Gotham Racing 4
6th Aug 2007 | 11:17
It's difficult to keep the fourth game in any series fresh - especially when its a racer. But this is a fact that the lads at Bizarre Creations are well aware of...
Bikes and weather effects are the biggest touting points of PGR4 - but web and community lead Ben Ward assures us they're more than just for show. In fact, he reckons this'll be the best instalment since PGR2. Here's hoping...
Including Metropolis Street Racer, this is your fifth racer. What else can you do in the genre?
Ward: Well I think the feature list of PGR4 says it all. This time around we're adding dynamic weather, motorcycles, a new party-based matchmaking system, the most detailed tournament system yet seen on Xbox Live, PGR On Demand, a nations-based statistics website, and a brand new Career Mode.
So yeah, there's lots of new stuff. We understand that there's a danger of the fourth version of any franchise becoming stale, and that's why our design team has gone to town with new features in PGR4.
Not only is there all that good stuff I just mentioned, but also probably our broadest vehicle selection yet, and in my opinion the best set of cities since PGR2.
Where does Bizarre racing team go after PGR4? Well, we'd like to get this one out the door first.
You've placed heavy emphasis on the new weather effects. How does weather affect the race, beyond water on the windshield?
Ward: Weather is going to be one of the two main gameplay-changing elements in PGR4 (the other being motorcycles). Of course we've got all the pretty graphics stuff you'd expect, drifting snowflakes and shining puddles. Also the dynamics are affected how you'd expect, so naturally your Ferrari will slide around more in the wet, and even more in the snow and ice.
However, our dynamics team has put serious emphasis on "fun" over "realism". Driving in heavy rain won't be a massive hindrance... it'll be super-drifto and really fun to thrown your backend out whilst driving those hairpins.
Also, the puddles actually affect your dynamics this time, meaning that if you try to go through a deep one you'll lose a lot of speed, and perhaps even spin out. If you're racing in snow and ice, the puddles will freeze over and become more dangerous.
So puddles fundamentally change the way you drive. As you might have heard, the cities from PGR3 are making a comeback in number 4. However, you'll have to change the way you used to driving them, based not only on the weather but the addition of motorbikes. Oh, and we've thrown a couple of new courses per city in there too...
Does the weather change dynamically during a race, or is it set before the race begins?
Ward: It changes dynamically. You won't see massive changes like bright sunshine to a snowstorm in five minutes. Of course it won't happen in real-life, and it would just look silly in a videogame with such realistic cities. However, you can expect to see changes like light rain to a heavy storm, or a frozen icy morning to a full blizzard.
The longer races in the career mode are actually scripted with this in mind, so you might be racing a six lap one-on-one which ends in a blizzard, meaning that you need to concentrate even harder as the race goes on. Of course that's a particularly cruel example, but you get the idea.
In PGR3 you could get your hands on the best cars rather quickly. How are you changing car acquisition in PGR4?
Ward: This time around vehicles are unlocked with Kudos. The further you progress in the Career mode, the more Kudos you earn. With this Kudos you then unlock vehicle packs on the cool wall, as well as other cool stuff like gamer pics.
That's not the only way to earn vehicles though; sometimes you'll be invited to special manufacturer invitationals...if you succeed you keep the prize.
What influence, if anything, have you drawn from Microsoft's other racer, Forza Motorsport 2?
Ward: We haven't really drawn any influence from Forza, as our design was finalised before they came to market. It's nice to see them make use of features like Photo Mode and online Tournaments, which are things that we're really kicking into overdrive with PGR4...
How will you make sure that the bikes and cars are on a level playing field?
Ward: Our dynamics team has been hard at work for literally months working on all the subtle implications of cars and bikes racing on the same track. This is something we just didn't have the time for with PGR3, so we're very confident that we'll have nailed it before we ship number 4.
We haven't actually announced the specifics of how the vehicles will interact on the road, specifically with regard to crashing and car-to-bike collisions. I want to wait until the current version of the game is absolutely locked down and final before talking about it in detail, as our dynamics guys are still hard at work balancing the game and tweaking the values until they fit perfectly.
What about the new Gotham TV? Can we expect any improvements in the vein of Halo 3's saved film system?
Ward: Possibly (smiles). Gotham TV has been souped up due to the use of Microsoft's new Xbox Live Content Server (we're the first title to use it). It's now called "PGR On Demand", and it's certainly got some very interesting features. We're talking more about PGR On Demand in a couple of weeks time.
The PC has moved firmly back into Microsoft's plans once more. Is there any chance of PGR4 making the crossover?
Ward: That's really a question for Microsoft, not Bizarre. However, our internal shared tech systems are running across several platforms including PC so we're more than capable of doing so.
And surely, Geometry Wars 3 will be bundled in as well, right?
Ward: We're playing our Geometry Wars cards close to our chest right now. As you know, we've just announced Geometry Wars Galaxies for the Nintendo platforms, GW:Mobile for mobile phones, and we've recently released the game onto Steam too. So there's a lot going on, but that doesn't mean we've forgotten about the Xbox 360...