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Project Gotham Racing (Xbox) artwork

Project Gotham Racing (Xbox) review


"In about every racing game out there, speed is the most important thing. You drive fast, you get to the finish line first in order to win. And that makes sense, right? They ARE racing games after all. Project Gotham Racing is rather different. You still have to win races, but driving like a badass is just as important as driving with speed. Itís really as much a driving game as it is a racing game."



In about every racing game out there, speed is the most important thing. You drive fast, you get to the finish line first in order to win. And that makes sense, right? They ARE racing games after all. Project Gotham Racing is rather different. You still have to win races, but driving like a badass is just as important as driving with speed. Itís really as much a driving game as it is a racing game.

Itís a cool concept, and they execute it in a cool way. You get points called Kudos for doing various things while driving, such as sliding, going up on 2 wheels, catching air, clearing sections of track without bumping anything, going fast, pulling 360s, etc. All the traditional racing modes (quick race, time attack, etc) are still here, but the real heart of the game comes in Arcade mode where itĎs just you alone on a track and your only objective it to earn a certain amount of Kudos points. The Arcade race tracks are set up like a drivers-ed course with little cone gates scattered everywhere - you also receive Kudos for making it through the gates.

My first attempt at the Arcade mode went something like this: I pulled a couple slides, made it through all the gates, and ended up with 100some Kudos. The only problem was that I needed 400 just for a measly bronze medal, and 1200 for the gold. ďNo way in hell will I EVER be able to do that.Ē, I said to myself. But ever-relentless, I pressed on. Eventually I figured out that I could do little Kudos combos - for example, after you do a slide thereís a short interval where if you can pull off another Kudos-earning stunt, it adds it onto the previous stunt and multiplies the total sort of like in Tony Hawkís Pro Skater. Stringing moves together into combos is absolutely necessary if you want to get anywhere in the game. Youíll start out doing smaller combos, but you eventually have to get to the point where your entire run is one everlasting combo. Oh, and if you bump a wall or hit a cone at any point during the combo, the combo is dead.

The most interesting part of the game is the Arcade Mode, but itĎs not as if they put all of their energy into that and then just shoved in a couple of other quickly thrown together modes. The Quick Race and Kudos Challenge modes are both fun and challenging. Quick Race is your basic racing against CPU controlled cars for medals. Kudos Challenge gives you a ton of different challenges, most of which are speed related. The driving takes place in four major cities (Tokyo, San Fran, London, NY) on over 200 different circuits. Every mode in the game has multiple levels, each containing several challenges - whatís cool is that you can take them on in pretty much any order you like. Say youíre having a tough time on a certain Quick Race, you can go to Arcade Mode and unlock a newer faster car, then try it again.

Speaking of cars, there are 29 of them in the game. Unlike in some OTHER racers out there, you wonít start with some lame middle class soccer mom crapmobile. Even the low-tier cars are pretty sweet, and they only get better as you go on. As youíd expect, the performance dynamics of each car are unique, and new cars will take some getting used to. They all look nice, too. From the little Mini Cooper S to the Aston Martin V12 Vanquish, theyíre all rendered very nicely and look super-smooth. Everything about them is detailed - from the real-time reflections, to the interiors, to the little driver that you can see realistically switching gears. As sometimes happens with racing games, the cars fared a little bit better than the rest of the game, graphically. While PGR has some of the coolest lighting and the best bump mapped streets Iíve ever seen, some of the buildings lining them look a bit dollhouse-ish. Thatís my only complaint on the graphics, overall itís a great looking game.

The sound also fared rather well. The cars all sound good and burly as they should, but what I most enjoyed about the audio aspect was the music. There's a good variety of tunes on the soundtrack, from the Chemical Brothers to Gorillaz, and shockingly even a personal favorite of mine, the Murder City Devils. If that stuff isn't good enough for you, you're in luck - PGR supports the Xbox's custom soundtrack feature.

Thereís nothing that I found to be truly bad about PGR, but there is one possible negative that I have to mention. The game starts out challenging, and quickly moves to pretty damn hard. Somewhere around the 5 hour mark, the game lays the smack down. CPU opponents buckle down and get really hardcore (though they donít cheat), the challenges in challenge mode get tough, and the amount of Kudos required to pass through the Arcade Mode gets crazy. You just need to keep honing your skills. The challenges that once seemed impossible will become reachable with practice. This was a positive for me, I like seeing a game with some beef in these days of very cheesy difficulty levels, but a lot of people might not enjoy it as I did. This game takes dedication, skill, and practice to complete - a lot of people probably won't like that.

PGR isnít for everybody. The difficulty level will definitely be a turnoff to a lot of gamers, but if you give it time youíll find a brilliant racing game filled with depth, challenge, and innovation. Itís a very rewarding game if you can put up with the difficulty. If you manage to get into it you'll get some great mileage out of this baby. I loved it mostly because it provides something thatís really new. In almost all racers, huge oversteering slides only take away precious seconds - in this game, driving like a madman is not only encouraged but downright necessary in order to succeed. The Kudos system is really cool, there's an addictive quality to it. God knows how many times I found myself saying ''Just...once...more..'' in an attempt to squeeze a hundred more Kudos out of the track. Whether or not you're a fan of racing games you should try this game, but those looking for a light walk in the park need not apply.

Rating: 9/10

goatx3's avatar
Staff review by (April 17, 2003)

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