There's something about PGR that screams fun from the moment you yank that acceleration trigger and burn off the start line.
In fact, there are loads of things: the balance of realism and arcade forgiveness in the spot-on handling; the exhilarating sense of speed you can carry around bends; the notion of endless variety provided by the courses and, of course, the all-important Kudos system. PGR4 has it all!
Yes, it's safe to say that if you have even a remote thirst for speed you can't go wrong with this. It's got fast cars, a billion courses (give or take) and the sweetest, most satisfying handling of any 'realistic' racer.
And if you're a massive fan of the series, how does the introduction of bikes, four new cities (Macau, St Petersburg, Shanghai and Quebec), an incredible new weather system, a revised Kudos system, a new career mode and a polished online mode sound? Your answer should be "awesome".
Of all the changes though, the bikes are what all the hoo-ha has been about so let's get them out of the way first. And let's not beat around the bush.
Shut up and drive
We don't like the bikes. There you have it. It's the biggest new feature and we're throwing it straight down the loo. Why? When bikes were announced for PGR, the first question on everyone's mind was how it will be balanced? Despite Bizzare's best efforts, the bikes just don't fit in, and if anything, it's the efforts made to create a level playing field that defeats the whole idea.
The idea of a bike is that its unwieldy, difficult-to-ride and dangerous in nature is paid off by its extreme acceleration speed and superior cornering ability. That's their big reward. In short, if you keep a bike's wheel on the ground, they own cars for speed. But for the sake of balance and fairness in bike vs. car racing, these rewards have to be taken away in PGR4.
So you end up with a flattened bike experience: they're no faster than the cars, corner with roughly the same speed, yet still pose the increased risk of falling off, particularly in barging scraps in which the bulky cars always win, and more challenging handling.
And on top of all that, the bikes' leaning tendencies make playing in the inside view bloody tough (even for seasoned PGR-ers) and so we end up using the external 'only for rubbish girls' view, which feels much slower. Give us an Enzo any day.
This doesn't mean the bikes are total crap - they're still fun, just not nearly as much fun as cars. It would have been a better decision to keep the bikes and cars separate in the game, so instead of trying to balance the two, Bizarre could have concentrated its supreme talent on making the bikes the high-speed, nippy cornering rockets they're supposed to be.
Fortunately, you're barely ever forced to use the bikes in the main career mode, so you can essentially pretend they're not there, like we did and you will.
Kudos to your career
Another big change is the increased focus on kudos in the career mode. This reformed mode works like a world tour - you progress through an in-game calendar, racing in mini championships.
Each championship consists of multiple events - from the usual selection of street racing, cone challenges, hot laps etc. Your aim is to win championships and earn Gotham Career Points to move up a Career leaderboard until you're number one.
The big difference is it no longer matters that you come first in every event, because your finishing position in a race (or your achieved score in any other event) simply awards you bonus kudos on top of your on-track kudos, and it's the total kudos earned in each championship that dictates the winner.