STAFF REVIEW of Project Gotham Racing 2 (Xbox)
Thursday, November 13, 2003.
Project Gotham was our first racing goodness on the Xbox, as it was available at launch and purchased by everyone that wanted a great racing game and one that showed the power of the Xbox at the same time. This series has been a favorite amongst everyone and will undoubtedly begin to flaunt another power that Microsoft has given us: XboxLive. Not only does PGR2 have what it takes in the graphic department like the original, but to be able to challenge your friends and the best in the world using the XboxLive service is something that no game has done so far. When preparing for a race, there is now a window in the corner that will show the top time of all gamers on XboxLive and you can even download the ghost car to race that top time. Never before have you been able to challenge someone on Live in this way and Microsoft is on to something with this.
To stray away from the Live aspect of this game for a moment, lets just take a look at what has changed in the two years since the original. Of course the original thought of Kudos comes right to mind when you think of this game, some saw it as frustrating, while others thought it was a novel concept to avoid the simplicity of just the start / finish lines. Kudos hasnt been totally revamped, but it sure did get much better with new categories that are viewable after each race to see what you did right and what you missed so you can try to get it accomplished on the next go-around. Combo bonuses are now included, so you can now earn Kudos for linking moves together before your Kudos Stash moves to your Kudos Bank (total points for the round). You also can collect Kudos for your position, clean race, overtake, air, two wheels and race line amongst other tricks that can be used to grab some Kudos. Once your bank reaches a certain goal point, you get Kudos Tokens, which in turn, helps you upgrade to a better car in that circuit or save them to get a speed demon later on.
There is so many cars this time around, youll be wishing that you could take a bus at the end of the game after all this driving. Bizarre Creations went out of their way and put in over 100 cars for you to play with and more 225+ songs to jam to while youre cruising around in the gorgeous maps of Hong Kong, Chicago, Sydney, or Stockholm. Music by Accidental Superhero, American Hi-Fi, Bif Naked, Erik Sermon, Sir Mix-A-lot, Tyrese, Uncle Kracker are just some of the names that you will recognize in PGR2s radio stations. Oh, and did I mention that in addition to all that music you can have your own custom tunes to jam to, a feature that is almost required for all Xbox fans when seeking a multiplayer game. Maps were gorgeous and beautifully laid out. The shading off of the road in between bridges or other overheads was flawless, in sync with your cars shading also. Flocks of birds were seen flying over head in formation, but no droppings were found on my Pagani Zonda S thankfully, since I just took all morning waxing it.
The AI was finally improved in the game. My main problem with the AI in the original was that they would just go in the exact same race line each time, being predictable after awhile so it was easy to know where you were going to pass them. They seemed to add a bit of aggression to the drivers this time, as after I would bump into one more than once, they would carry out a vengeance and take me out on the next corner. You can go from getting a steel medal to a gold medal and the differences between them are like night and day. If you want to take it easy and earn some Kudos to get cars sooner, then take the steel medal challenge, as its easy as pie. The gold requirements almost force you to run a perfect lap and have one of the fastest cars in the circuit in order to finish it.
The challenges have returned from the original, but have been adjusted in single player a tad. The timed run lets you race against a total race time while earning Kudos. The Street Race is you versus four to eight AI cars, trying to place what you selected prior to the race. In the speed camera challenge, you have to race through a bendy track to get to a certain speed. Gold is usually over 100 mph, but the rest are doable early on in the game (Silver = 93-98 mph). One-on-One is a balls-to-the-wall race against the AI just like in the original. Cone challenges got trickier this time, having a good chunk of the course cut off with cones so that you have to be very careful to not go out of the path to lose Kudos. Overtake is also back, but make sure you have a fast car if you expect to catch up and pass 7 cars in 3 minutes.
The series have been adjusted to fit certain car categories and add more vehicles on the table. Compact Sports, SUV, Pacific Muscle, Roadster, Sports Coupe, American Muscle; Grand Touring; Track Specials, and Ultimate are just some of the series that you will be able to race in. Once you get the main handle on the game, youll be able to view around and check out your cars in the garage or the showroom. In the Garage Mode, you get to walk around and take a look around at what cars are available for that circuit. While looking around in first person mode, youll notice the cars that have yet to be unlocked under cloths, fans on the ceiling and yellow paint on the floor. I didnt notice any toolboxes, so I guess this was more of a paint shop then a mechanical shop. The Showroom is astounding. You can tour through all the cars in game in a huge building. There are still sheets over the ones that are still locked, but you can test drive them when you get farther in the game, even before buying them with Kudos. You can go up hallways that lead you to other showrooms showing off different styles of cars from various parts of the globe. I was rolling out of the showroom with a Jaguar XJ220 that you'll only own if you win the Powerball or get struck by lightening while playing your Xbox and make a TV movie out of it. You then get to run a few laps around the test track and compare each cars time to your previous runs, testing out the handling, braking, and acceleration on what car youre planning on purchasing.
The Live experience is what will not only show exactly what makes the Xbox the best console out there, but why Xbox has now made the best online gaming network to date. You will now be able to download Ghosts of the XboxLive subscribers whether theyre online or not. Being able to race the Ghost of the top players on Live should be motivation enough, if its not, then how does having a new challenge every week fit you? Well, thats what Microsofts plans are heading into this, as it will provide an even long term effect on playability. Not only will you be able to do this while on Live, but you can access the Ghosts while playing single player as long as youre connected to XboxLive. This was unheard of before this as no game has let you compare your scores or race against past leaders like this, while still being able to play on Live after that. Im very impressed with this game and Microsofts lean on XboxLive, its where its at.
Work on more realistic dynamics for the car, as they don't all spin that easy on turns. As far as anything else, you guys turned this around nicely, great job!!
Overall: 9.8 / 10
Gameplay: 9.8 / 10
Visuals: 10.0 / 10
Sound: 9.8 / 10