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And, amazingly, I've got this far without even mentioning the two standout features of this iteration. First is weather. Even if the rain, snow and mist effects seem slightly more aesthetic than physical when you're racing, they still add a tangible layer of added danger to the action and there's no denying how spectacular it all looks on the screen. Racing through Shangai or Vegas at night with the rain pounding down and the neon smearing is one of my highpoints of gaming in the current generation.
Motorbikes, meanwhile, are a fantastic inclusion. Perhaps those used to Climax's MotoGP series will bemoan the slightly fanciful handling model and control scheme, but I think it's another case of Bizarre making smart choices about when to prioritise realism and when to prioritise playability. In PGR4 the two-wheelers are first and foremost fun, not least because you can pull some ridiculous wheelies as you pass some hapless driver then turn round and taunt him from your saddle.
There's a lot more good stuff I can say; about how streamlined and lag-free the online component is; about how well the different play modes work in multiplayer, and about how clever it is that the game automatically compares your scores in different challenges against those of other gamers on your Xbox Live friends list. I could waffle on at length about some of the excellent cars you'll meet further on, or burble all about the Tesla Roadster - a crazy electric supercar that sounds like a cross between a milk-float and a washing machine gearing up to spin. And in all this, the only negative things I can say are that there's still no real car damage to speak of, and that the driver AI - while good - could still be a little bit more aggressive.
While I'm at it, maybe we could do with a few more European makes and models, and perhaps a handful of tracks suffer from a lack of opportunity to overtake. Overall, though, we're talking minor niggles, not stinging criticisms. Some of you out there might regret the lack of car customisation options or complain that PGR4 still can't match Forza for the depth of its online and community options. But to that I'd say that all that tinkering often results in a spend-to-win mechanic, and that all the custom paintjobs and car auctions in the world can't make up for the lack of an engaging single-player experience. After the disappointment of Forza 2 and the non-appearance of GT5, PGR4 is practically de-facto the leader in its field. Unless either series can stage a spectacular comeback, I suspect it might stay that way for some time.
Project Gotham has veered even further from GT-style driving sim territory, but it has finally nailed its mix of speed, style and substance. As of now, it's the best road racer on the market.
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