My latest look towards one of the leading developers within the industry is a studio I much admire for the fact that they were the team behind one of my favourite series of racers of all time: the Project Gotham Racing franchise. The developer is also one of the few remaining – industry leading studios – staying put within the UK, Liverpool to be exact.
Established way back in 1994, Bizarre Creations were originally involved in the Formula 1 licensed games for Sony’s Playstation and PC, whilst also focusing on other projects such as third-person shooter Fur Fighters. Perhaps first tested fully on the precursor to Project Gotham, Metropolis Street Racer for the Dreamcast introduced the rewards system of ‘Kudos’ (as well as many more standards that were then ported into the PGR games). Alike to Project Gotham in many areas of its design, MSR introduced the accurate re-creations of cityscapes for racing purposes, as well as the realistic, yet accessible game play that was later honed with the release of Project Gotham Racing, a launch title for the original Xbox in 2001. It’s unsurprising that the Project Gotham series (which now spans a total of 4 titles) has gone on to global success for the Liverpool-based company, its racing game play superbly replicated the high-speed freneticism of arcade racing with the accuracy of racing sims.
Not averse to setting trends, the fourth in the series went some way in ensuring real-world weather effects are now a staple within racing games if they’re to be considered a true competitor to the racer crown, adding another diverse dynamic into the then-staling racing genre. Also hosting engaging and challenging race modes, expertly replicated car models for the four-wheeled fanatic, gorgeous visuals, and ever-excellent online functionality (as well as split screen), there’s barely a game like it for pure, unadulterated fun. It’s something that their latest game, Blur, also looked to achieve in its Project Gotham meets Mario Kart set-up, perfectly capturing the ploy of neon power-ups with fast and thrilling racing. The team have already expressed their intent on Blur being “the start of a big franchise”, following their merger with Activision in 2007.
It’s surprising the diversity that comes from such a team (now with 160+ staff in their custom-built development studio), with the insanely addictive twin stick shooter Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved series for XBLA the epitome of the phrase “just one more go”, whilst they further diversified in development with the 2007 third-person shooter The Club, which would award players for stylish kills in a natural evolution of the Kudos system. Last week also saw the surprise announcement that Bizarre are currently working on a brand new Bond title – James Bond 007: Blood Stone - that features the likenesses of Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench and Joss Stone in the “original Bond experience” that is touted as bringing the “cinematic intensity of a Bond film”.
To be honest, I put all my faith in Bizarre, who have shown time and time again that their excellence within game development is rarely questioned. Just imagine what could become of the new Bond game for a second… the high concept, ultra-slick combat of The Club, a screenplay straight from acclaimed screenwriter Bruce Feirstein, the Bond license, and driving sequences straight from the standards of PGR. We’re on for a winner, surely!?