STAFF REVIEW of Project Gotham Racing (Xbox)

Friday, January 18, 2002.
by VAN

Project Gotham Racing Box art Project Gotham is not your average racing title. I remember when I first heard the name, I assumed it would be a comic racer featuring the Batmobile and other vehicles from the Batman film and TV series. Well, luckily I was mistaken.

Those of you who played "Metropolis Street Racer" on the Dreamcast (which has nothing to do with Superman) will be familiar with the "Kudos" points system utilized in this game. Kudos points are awarded to those drivers who flawlessly execute risky powerslides and other insane maneuvers while
at the same time jockeying for a first place finish.

The game features several gameplay modes, including your standard "get to the finish line first" mode, but at the heart of the game is the Kudos Challenge Mode, where only the best drivers will succeed--and only if they drive fast, as well as stylishly.

Project Gotham Racing is simply breathtaking. Enormous replayability, stunning visuals and and killer sound innovations combine to make this one of the best titles currently available for the Xbox console.

A tight, solid control scheme is probably the most important factor in any driving/racing title developed today. Who cares how many jillions of polygons's a particular map contains, or how many spiffy cars there are to choose from
if I start my race only to discover that the vehicle I have chosen handles about as nicely as a manure-laden rickshaw?

Fortunately, it has become decidedly difficult to develop a racing game today with a bad control scheme. Afterall, there are only 3 basic operations that need to be performed while playing--Stop. Go. Turn. Simple, eh?

The folks over at Bizarre Creations have really nailed the control scheme in PGR, and have assigned common game functions
to the most appropriate controller buttons--and yes, you can modify the default controller settings if they are not to your liking.

Turning corners in the game is nice and smooth, and can be accomplished using either the analog thumbstick, or the standard directional pad.

Undoubtedly the most important button you'll be using
is that which controls the hand brake. The ability to pull off
perfect corner-hugging powerslides is imperative to progress in this game, and I recommend acclaimating yourself to this procedure as early as possible.

Since the controls are so solid, learning to pull off the risky powerslides is quite easy. However, the 360 slides take a bit more practice--as would be expected.

The only negative comments I have regarding the controls are in reference to how they are applied to each vehicle. Take the SS Camaro for example. This car is easily one of the poorest handling vehicles in the game, yet in the real world, this car handles extremely well. This is a minor complaint, and in no way detracts from the fun factor of the game. If you don't like the way a particular car drives, simply choose another. To be quite honest, I have spent most of my game time behind the wheel of the Volkswagen Beetle, solely because it is an absolute blast to drive.

Project Gotham Racing is easily one of the most graphically stunning titles currently available for the Xbox console--regardless of genre. It seems that every detail, no matter how small, has not
been overlooked.

At the heart of the game is of course the vehicles....and they are gorgeous! This is a case of quality over quantity, where each of the 20+
vehicles has been represented in startling detail. Thanks to an outstanding vehicle damage engine, you can be assured that hitting a guardrail at over 100 MPH will NOT be forgiving to your beautiful new paint job. Vehicle lamps can be broken out if you are not careful, and when driving at night this is especially hazardous. I have raced a few night circuits, and once you bust out both headlights, you may as well call it quits.

There are over 200 highly detailed racing circuits in PGR, divided into 4 distinct locales. New York, Tokyo, San Francisco, and London. You can literally play this game for weeks--even months--and still come across
a track you have not yet raced. This affords tremendous replayability.

The lighting and weather effects in the game are truly amazing. The real-time reflections in the shimmering paint of each car as you drive under trees, lights, and other objects are amazing to say the least.

A truly gorgeous game.

For the most part, racing games typically rate about average when it comes to sound and music. Afterall, all you really need is engine noise, the screech of brakes, and the occasional sound associated with bumping other vehicles, or even worse, stationary objects.

PGR's developers obviously realized that sounds in racing games past were a bit lacking, and they pulled out all the stops for their latest offering. Along with the typical sounds of driving (mentioned above) PGR features 12 actual radio stations that you can listen to while driving. If you happen to be cruising the streets of San Francisco, you can choose one of 3 radio stations that actually
exist there...including the actual disc jockeys. You can coose anything from R&B, to Electronic, to Hip Hop, to good old fashioned Rock and Roll.

One real innovation in PGR is made possible by the built-in hard drive housed inside the Xbox console. Utilizing the hard drive, you can rip tracks from your favorite CD's directly to the hard drive and play them back during the game. With this feature, it is literally impossible to find fault with the sounds
in the game, since you are given carte blanche to design your own in-game soundtrack for playback during gampeplay.

I would like to see the inclusion of a few more vehicles, as well as additional cities. The 200+ racing circuits are amazing, but at times it becomes difficult to discern one track from another.

I want a sequel!

Overall: 10.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 10.0 / 10
Sound: 10.0 / 10


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