Project Gotham Racing 2 Review (Xbox)
When Bizarre Creations released the original “Project Gotham Racing”, it was met with much acclaim. Xbox owners had a solid racing title with a lot of style, a great sense of speed, and polish to boot. Two years later, the sequel has been released to the same fanfare as the original, but now with even more style, speed, and polish. Oh yeah, and a little thing called 'Live Enabled'. Is the game good? Yep. Is the game fun? (Cliché warning) It's all that and a bag of chips, especially online - and this coming from a “Gran Turismo” fan.
MODES OF PLAY
The single player portion of the game is broken down into several modes: Arcade Racing (instant action), Kudos World Series, and Time Attack. Each mode is then divided into different car groups (Japanese, SUV's, muscle, etc). In each group, there are different types of races (one on one, race vs other cars, pass a certain number of cars, etc.). Each type of race is again broken down into different levels of difficulty represented by medals. “PGR2” allows you to select from five levels of difficulty - which will affect your score, the way the AI runs against you, and what other goodies you’ll be able to open up. From novice to expert, you’ll be able to find the level of comfort that best suits you. You are given a couple of cars to pick from the class that you’re racing, or you can purchase cars buy earning Kudos tokens (more on this later). Pick the color of your car and you’re off! The game also has split screen mode and the ability to link several Xboxes via System Link to play if your friends want don’t mind bringing their Xboxes over to your place. However, the mode that everyone will want to try out is Xbox Live. You can choose a race type, whether you want collisions on or off, how many laps, which city to race in, time of day, and a few other options. Gameplay is very smooth, even with a lot of racers going at it all at once. The controls stayed responsive and barely skipped a beat.
One of the more interesting features included in “PGR2” is the garage and showroom. You can now walk around in your garage and check out all the cars you have purchased. You also have the option of walking around a showroom, as well, and check out many different types of cars; all grouped by manufacturer. You can even take the cars for a test drive if you’re so inclined. This gives you a feel of how the car handles and ultimately gives you a better idea of which cars work best for you depending on your driving style. When it comes time to spend your tokens on a new vehicle, you’ll have a better idea of what you’d want. Tired of racing? Then go and play a few levels of "Geometry Wars", a “Robotron 2084”-like game (for you old school dinosaurs), which also saves it’s high scores to the Xbox Live servers. The content surrounding the game makes the experience that much more enjoyable. Along with the added depth to the racing, the little extras add up and make a great package even better.
As with all racing games, you have a spectrum of racers which fall either on the simulation side, the arcade side, or something in the middle. “PGR2” falls in that middle category. The game has just enough arcade elements to make it easy to pick up and play, yet there is a depth of sorts which keeps you coming back. I wish they would have allowed you to upgrade the vehicles, but the game doesn’t suffer any from the lack of this option. The AI is has its moments; they usually run the correct line and make less mistakes as you race in the higher difficulties. One strong point - there is no “catch-up” logic. The other AI competitors show no mercy, but they’ll occasionally crash and burn just as you would. You can pick different camera angles to race from, and you have the ability to select automatic or manual transmissions, as well. One word on the tracks; they feel a little too narrow at times, but they also have their wide open spaces in order to pass the leader. Each car drives and handles differently and it’s noticeable. The difference between taking a Ferrari for a spin and then taking a Civic Type-R is like night and day. I’m normally very wary of arcade racers, but “PGR2” is in a class of its own. The goal of the game is to acquire Kudos, and that’s what you’ll be racing for. At first, I wasn’t convinced that the Kudos system worked. It always felt like a novelty. After playing, however, I now see why the developers went with this system. In other racing games, you just want to get to the finish line first. There is no reason not to 'ride the rails' and simply crash your way into first place. The Kudos system rewards you for driving a clean race, not bumping into other cars, and simply being a good driver - er...racer. The Kudos system encourages you to drive a clean lap in order to rack up as many points as you can. Getting points for power-sliding, drafting behind an opponent, catching some air on a course's hills and at the same time trying to get to the finish line is challenging, but the system is easy enough that you will never feel like just giving up. Some complained about the level of difficulty in the first iteration. To that end, the difficulty in earning Kudos points has been reduced, and makes for a more enjoyable experience.
The graphics are about as pretty, if not more, than any other racer out there. There are over ten different cities and tons of tracks to race in. Each one is quite detailed and has the appropriate scenery for the location. From Moscow to Chicago, you will notice the distinct difference in locations. The shadows and lighting make the scenery come to life. The 100-plus cars are beautiful renderings of their real-life counterparts. Bizarre Creations went above and beyond what I was expecting as far as the level of detail and polish that each individual car has given. In game, you’re even able to see the driver – it’s a great addition that more developers should incorporate. You’ll see your driver shifting gears, or getting pulled when making sharp turns, and it’s just plain cool-looking.
The game has the basic engine noises, revving cars and squealing tires that you’d expect. Each city you race in has a commentator at the beginning of a race announcing location and the music being played. There is a stock selection of music, which is average at best. The ability to use custom soundtracks makes up for it, though. Dolby Digital is used well to hear the roaring of the engines all around you. Like most racing titles; the sound is there, but you are too busy playing to notice.
If you have Xbox Live, you’ll love this game. This is the best part of “PGR2”, by far. Whether racing for style or racing for time, there is never a shortage of people to race against. You’re able to race with up to eight people, with virtually no lag. Talk all the trash you want on your headset. The ability to race in the single player mode and have it seamlessly integrate with the multiplayer component is enough for the online component to stand on its own.
This is one of the best racers available this year. You won’t be buying parts to upgrade your car, and you won’t be modifying the engine and such, but “PGR2” isn’t trying to be a simulation. Aside from the quirky AI and their ability to drive near perfect lines at the highest levels, this game will keep you racing “just one more time” to beat your fastest time or your highest score. A huge selection of cars, custom soundtracks, and all the extras makes this title a contender for game of the year. Throw in Xbox Live functionality; and you’ll be playing this one for a long time.