The balance between realism and arcade driving is what always gives PGR the edge over its four-wheeled competitors, and number four nails the formula perfectly. If Bizarre hadn’t quite managed this, the great new weather effects feature would have lost much of its impact, but thankfully the driving mechanics and the on-track conditions compliment each other well. It takes genuine skill to control your Ferrari when it starts to hydroplane on a giant puddle, or when a sharp corner suddenly emerges from the fog and you’re forced to yank the handbrake and slide so close to the barrier you can count the rain drops on its super-shiny surface. Genuinely thrilling stuff.
If PGR4 has a weak spot, it’s the two-wheelers. On the one hand, the new bike vehicles introduce a new way of playing, but conversely they don’t live up to their hype. From trailers and all the pre-review talk we expected bikes to be glorious playthings capable of mind-boggling stunts and teeth-rattling speeds, but in reality, they’re just a set of overly twitchy vehicles.
In straight street races and timed events the bikes are a novelty, and mastering them does require you to play in an entirely new way. You can’t throw bikes around the course like you can the cars - a gentle touch is needed - but once you master them, the two-wheelers will outpace most of their rivals. The drawback, however, is that you can fall off (or be knocked off by opponents), and that means losing valuable places. It’s trickier to score Kudos on a bike too, so events like Time Versus Kudos and Superstar are tougher to beat.
Bikes are certainly not a failed experiment, but this is one new feature that needs some fine-tuning for the inevitable PGR5. Thankfully, Bizarre isn’t ramming motorbikes down our throats, and you can quite happily complete the entire game without ever touching a butt cheek to the saddle. You’ll miss out on plenty, but if that’s how you want to play it…