Project Gotham Racing
And so we look at our second Xbox title and you can rest easy because this is a screamer. The console racing scene has long been dominated by an elite few. If you're a PSone person then Gran Turismo 2 is your game of choice; if your machines a PS2 then it's Gran Turismo 3 and if you have a Dreamcast then Metropolis Street Racer will be your choice. Now all of these titles are brilliant but what do you pick if you've just got a spangley new Xbox next to the TV? Well as a launch title Project Gotham Racing is a hell of a good place to start.
Designed by Bizarre Creations, who were responsible for Metropolis Street Racer (MSR), Project Gotham Racing (PGR) is very easy to get into and very difficult to put down. Owners of MSR will be right at home with PGR. In fact to be completely honest PGR could be described as a refined MSR and the core gameplay is very similar with slight improvements being made here and there.
The difference between PGR and other driving games is that it emphasises driving style as well as speed. Unlike Gran Turismo for instance which is solely concerned with finishing first, PGR rewards driving skill through the means of Kudos points. Kudos points are awarded for slides, 360s, overtaking, navigating cone gates, completing clean sections of the track where you don't crash or bump, going on two wheels, taking off over a jump and finally for performing combos of any of the above. In many ways the approach is similar in idea to the Tony Hawk's Pro skater style of gameplay. Like in THPS though if you bump into something immediately after you earn the points then you will lose them. In a race you may be require a target of 500 Kudos points where the winner of the race will receive 300 Kudos points. In order to supplement the prize Kudos points for finishing first you're going to have to show a bit of style in order to rack up the additional 200 Kudos points. In addition there are Jokers that can be obtained and when played can double your Kudos score for a particular challenge. This may sound a bit strange but believe me it is actually very entertaining and very addictive.
There are a variety of game types on offer. There is quick race mode, arcade race mode, time attack mode and multiplayer mode but the heart of the game is Kudos challenge mode. The quick race mode sees you completing a series of races against five opponents. To begin with you'll only have access to the easy circuits but if you take a bronze medal in all of the races on offer you will unlock the next level. Third place in a race gets the bronze, silver is for second and gold is for finishing first. Arcade race mode sees you manoeuvring through cone gates around a circuit with the clock ticking down all the while. The idea in Arcade mode is to earn enough Kudos points to earn at least a bronze medal whilst being careful that you don't run out of time. After completing the challenges you will unlock a higher difficulty setting for arcade mode. Time attack mode is the usual setup where you race around a circuit of your choice and attempt to improve on your quickest lap. A ghost car of your best lap remains so you can see how you're doing without having to glance at the clock all the time.
Kudos challenge mode is where you will spend most of your time. Here there are 12 different difficulty levels for you to battle through and a staggering 9 different variations of challenges ranging from setting you a task of overtaking a set number of cars with a small time frame to achieving a speedy hot lap of a particular circuit. Prepare to lose weeks and months in this mode.
There are over 200 circuits in the game. The circuits are set in New York, San Francisco, London and Tokyo and they range from the mini loop to the hair pin hell raiser. The difficult circuits are not available to begin with and become unlocked as you work your way up through the levels. There are about 30+ cars in the game and they all handle differently. At the beginning of the game you only have access to three and of these I personally prefer the Mini Cooper as it has superb handling and is quite nippy to boot. The cars are unlocked as you progress through the game. The game is one of a rare few that gives you access to both Porsche and Ferrari cars so there will be something for everyone in here.
Graphically the game is top notch. To be honest with you most of the launch Xbox titles are looking staggering and PGR is no exception. Unlike GT3 the cars can take damage although it has no bearing on their handling. The light and scenery reflections on the car are also superb and watching a replay of yourself after a race is like watching the real thing.
The AI is also upto to scratch and even early on, it is obvious that this isn't going to be a walk in the park for anyone. That said though it is far more accessible than GT3 and many will prefer PGR because of this. The superb use of the controller is also responsible for the enjoyable experience. Just as Bizarre made great use of the Dreamcast controller with MSR they have made the Xbox pad feel great with PGR. The vibrations are also satisfying and well defined and give alarming feedback, particularly when driving over gravel.
The great thing about driving games though is that as a deaf gamer you don't need to worry so much about speech. In any case every piece of information is provided in text so it's maximum enjoyment for everyone which is great.
Overall Game Rating: 9.1/10 In a word Excellent. Superb handling, masses of challenges, enthralling graphics and pure addictive gameplay mean that you'll be glued to this title for months to come. Although console games do seem expensive this title is well worth the money and will guarantee you stay chuffed with your Xbox.
Deaf Gamers comment: There was never going to be anything to worry about with a driving game but what makes it so special is that it is just such a great game. You'd be crazy to miss out on this special title.