"This may come as a surprise to all of you, but my heart is that of a street racer. Yes, like all street racers, most of my waking moments are spent thinking up ways to quickly navigate tight corners with minimal braking, while my dreams at night are of having four wheels and a full tank of gas. Now, there are those out there who may question how this is appropriate or even really possible for someone with “no car” and “a license that’s been expired for years.” But it’s a simple explanation th..."
This may come as a surprise to all of you, but my heart is that of a street racer. Yes, like all street racers, most of my waking moments are spent thinking up ways to quickly navigate tight corners with minimal braking, while my dreams at night are of having four wheels and a full tank of gas. Now, there are those out there who may question how this is appropriate or even really possible for someone with “no car” and “a license that’s been expired for years.” But it’s a simple explanation that should clarify everything: I have an XBOX. And I’m always able to count on Project Gotham Racing 2 to help me pretend I can drive.
PGR 2, as a racing title, forgoes some of the usual realism to emphasize being able to drive with style. Rather than have you using conventional, boring techniques that would win the race most safely and efficiently, you’re encouraged to follow the 3 D’s of driving recklessness that I made up just now: drifting, drafting, and doing donuts. Much of the goal in the game is to perform said stunts on the way to the finish line, in order to earn “Kudos points”, which while sadly not referring to delicious bars of chocolate-dipped granola, are almost just as satisfying. Successfully stringing those D’s of driving recklessness together without missing a beat will also result in a Kudos combo, where your Kudos score potential--not to mention bragging rights--increases exponentially depending on the duration.
You can probably imagine, trying to slide two tons of metal and fiberglass through a narrow road is somewhat akin to walking a tightrope; a great deal of precision will be required to accomplish any of the feats of vehicular grandeur expected of you. The XBOX’s comically massive controller actually presents a strict advantage in this respect, as the use of triggers for gassing and braking makes driving very intuitive and also quite comfortable. And when the unique girth of both the system and its controller are reminiscent of an actual-sized automobile, it certainly adds a sense of atmosphere to the driving; sort of like a rumble pack.
If you’re a beginner and new to the genre, PGR 2 has accommodations to make the game more accessible. For one thing, pretty much every corner in the game has subtly placed tread marks to help guide you on where to brake and for how long. You can save and study replays of anything you do, although that function might just be for remembering all the times you were awesome. There are also five difficulty levels, which are separately chosen at the start of each event; these will inevitably act as a handicap, to prevent a deficit of skill from inhibiting your progress at the low, low cost of pride.
The main mode of PGR 2 is the Kudos World Series, spanning ten scenic cities (plus the obligatory finale at the Nürburgring) where you’ll compete in events such as races, time trials, as well as special “cone challenges” that will undoubtedly bring to mind your final week of driver’s education and the failure that ensued when you ran over each and every one of the cones. Before you can unlock access to fast, sporty cars like the naturally aspirated, 700 horsepower, Enzo Ferrari with V12 engine, however, you’ll have to get acquainted with cars in less powerful classes; the first class available isn’t much more than a selection of minivans, but you should quickly be able to work your way up in no time. Clearing the Kudos World Series essentially functions as a rite of passage, in effect both qualifying you as a true street racer and preparing you for future Project Gotham Racing games.
Despite the copious amounts of hot driving action that PGR 2 offers, there is one small complaint to be had. By design, it seems the World Series of Kudos does not permit you to stick with a favored vehicle, and any street racer will definitely have one. Since you’re only limited to cars of a single class for each round of events, they inevitably tend to end up feeling more like loaners when they ideally should feel more like your tiny, tiny baby. Quite often, one car in a given class is the obvious superior to others of its category, meaning that car will be the only viable option for a fair portion of the game. Naturally, this means you’ll end up driving cars you might not particularly like, leading to slight feelings of discord; for street racers like myself, it’s something that can irritate to no end.
Of course, the multiplayer modes aren’t going to be in any such way restricting of your choice of vehicle. You’re also free to pick the course, whether it’s night or day, and even weather conditions, making it the only real venue for veterans to test their skill and demonstrate their techniques. Playing in split-screen is kind of obnoxious, though, since it’s too distracting and you generally have to maintain a lot of focus when you drive. Online games are a bit hard to come by nowadays, but if you do find one, you should be prepared for the cursing and tailgating that will likely follow if you accidentally hit an opponent. Between all the talk of fancy maneuvering, you do have to remember to be fast in this game.
I’m still working on the ultimate achievement in Project Gotham Racing 2, which is the completion of the Kudos World Series in its entirety on Expert difficulty and acquiring platinum medals for every single event. The game is a bit old, but it hasn’t been outdated yet. Even now, I can recommend it to you as a street racer. After all, in this age of constantly increasing gas prices, a practical alternative to newer and more expensive racing games is more valuable than ever.
Community review by disco1960 (July 02, 2008)
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