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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Bizarre Creations
GENRE: Racing
PLAYERS:   1-8
November 17, 2003
Project Gotham Racing 4

Project Gotham Racing 3

Project Gotham Racing

 Written by Alex Fitzgerald  on January 13, 2004

Full Review: For those of us who think speed limits are mere suggestions?

Racing games have always been an interesting genre, if for nothing more than the fans of the genre's specific tastes. While many enjoy the Gran Turismo series and the countless rip-offs of the game's formula of harsh realism, many (including myself) find spending hours racing pointless races only to trick out your ride to increase its power the slightest bit more boring than golf cart drag races. For those of us out there who desire a few arcade ingredients in our simulation soup, Bizarre Creations has always been there for us.

Bizarre's first attempt to integrate pure racing simulation with the best that arcade racing games had to offer came back during the Dreamcast era, through a title known as Metropolis Street Racer. Though the game had many flaws, it did introduce Bizarre Creations greatest contribution to racing games known as the Kudos system. Essentially, the Kudos system is a way to display how stylishly you race by rewarding points for risky maneuvers (power sliding, driving on two wheels, drafting) and punishing you for driving errors (smacking into walls, plowing through cones).

Though MSR left much to be desired, the game did display a lot of promise, enough promise in fact to have Microsoft recruit the development house to make a racing title for the Xbox that would compete with Sony's Gran Turismo. The result was an Xbox launch title, Project Gotham Racing. The game, which took MSR's formula and refined it to an umpteenth degree, was a big success both with consumers and critics. Now, Microsoft has put out the game's sequel Project Gotham Racing 2.

On the surface the game appears to be a lot like the last edition of the title. You still race in different cities around the world, competing in different races which have you doing a variety of things, from trying to reach certain speeds to collecting a certain amount of kudos (and of course, you get simple street races as well). You still have the same tight control present in the earlier games. You still have a running score of how many Kudos you have earned, and you still get to unlock certain things when your Kudos totals gets to certain points.

If you look further though PGR2 reveals itself to be a much deeper affair than the first title. In this second installment, gamers compete to get five different types of medals (steel, bronze, silver, gold and platinum) as opposed to the first games three. Also, instead of just doing the race and getting whatever you got, in PGR2 you have to choose what medal you are going for before you start the race. This allows the game to alternate the severity of your opponent's AI and what place you start in, something that wasn't done in the first Gotham.

The Kudos system has also been tweaked to be more user-friendly. Just like in the first game Kudos are not taken away anymore for stupid driving (ala Metropolis Street Racer). The big addition this time around is that when you hit walls you don't lose all of your Kudos, you just lose the multiplier. Also, when you just barely scrape a wall, no longer will you be docked all your points. In fact, you'll be docked nothing.

Project Gotham 2 also sports a wealth of new cars that fans will love. To make things even sweeter all the cars feel even closer to reality now than ever before, making the driving experiences far more distinctive. You can also make your rides more powerful now with some aftermarket parts and tuning, which is always a welcome addition in any racing game.

The greatest part about PGR2 though is that the game's cars look as good as they drive. Each car sports a ton of polys, giving them great detail. Bizarre Creations continues to push manufacturers again, as the cars in PGR2 are even more destructible, as gamers can shatter windows, make huge dents, and knock off license plates. The cities you race in also look awesome, coming complete with several landmarks for each location. Finally, the effects in the game look splendidly cool, as many a gamer will be pleased by how good the game's burnt rubber-scented smoke and real-time reflections look.

Audio for Project Gotham is also a shining example of good development. Each tire squeals and engine noise sounds authentic and fitting, allowing you to immerse yourself even further into the game. The music in the game is awesome as well, with Bizarre Creations giving gamers around a 100 tracks from all sorts of artists to choose from. If that's not enough for you though, you can still listen to CDs you've copied to your Xbox hard drive.

Bottom Line
Project Gotham Racing 2 is a fine example of what a sequel should be. In a rather limited development time, Bizarre Creations has added a considerable amount of depth to its racing title while still keeping what makes the game so great (and fixing what makes the game not so great). If you're even slightly interested in the racing genre you should pick this game up. Trust me, you won't regret it.

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