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Project Gotham Racing

Review By:  Nick Arvites

Developer:   Bizarre Creations
Publisher:   Microsoft
# of Players:   1-4
Genre:   Racing
ESRB:   Everyone
Online:   No
Accessories:   Memory Card
Date Posted:  

1-17-02

Since the release of the original Gran Turismo on the Playstation, the racing genre has seen both an increase in titles and an increase in popularity. The PS2ís installment in the Gran Turismo series gave lifelike graphics and a great soundtrack. Many have hailed this as the greatest racing game of all time. However, this may all change now that Microsoft has entered the scene. The Xbox launched with a racing game named Project Gotham Racing. This title had been shown off at several trade shows to show the raw graphical power of the Xbox. So, is Project Gotham Racing all looks or can it actually challenge Gran Turismo for the crown of the racing games?

Graphically, Project Gotham Racing is right on par, if not slightly better than GT3. The cars match their real-life counterparts down to every detail, including a showroom fresh coat of wax. The courses themselves take place in real life locations in places like London, NYC, San Francisco, and London. Youíll notice some famous landmarks from each of the cities, including Wall Street, the Parliament area of London, and the Financial District of San Francisco. Apparently, the designers spent a lot of attentions into making the stages look close to their real life counterparts (minus the heavy traffic) and the effort really shows. It is a nice departure from boring standard tracks in generic cities, though I personally would have liked to see more cities (like Chicago, Sidney, Berlin, Moscow, Paris, etc.). Another feature is damage to cars. If you slam into a wall, youíll see some damage to your car in the form of a crumpled hood or broken lights. Granted, its nowhere near realistic, since common sense tells us it wonít be a pretty site if an exotic sports car slams into a wall at 120 MPH. However, the damage feature is another example to how much attention was given to the graphics of this game.

One of the coolest features of this game is its soundtrack. Like Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding, Project Gotham Racing gives the gamer a huge soundtrack. Unlike Ampedís soundtrack, Project Gothamís soundtrack contains songs from real artists. Each city has three different radio stations, each with a unique play list for a different style. If the radio stations donít fit your tastes, you can always rip some tracks off of a CD onto the Xbox hard drive and set up a custom play list. The actual car sounds vary from car to car, so the Volkswagen Beetle sounds much different than a Ferrari. You hear the standard racing game sounds, like screeching tires and the hum of various engines. Outside of the killer soundtrack, the sound of the game is standard as far as racing games go.

The controls of this game take about 5 minutes to get used to. You steer with the left analog stick and use either the right stick as a gas/break or use the L/R triggers as your break. The gearshifts and the handbrake are on the normal buttons, though if youíre not too big on manual transmission, you can always select automatic transmissions at the car select screen. So how does it handle? It varies from car to car since the cars are designed around their real life counterparts. The analog stick provides extremely precise steering, though I found that it took me a few tries with each car to figure out how much I had to push it to make certain turns.

The actual game is the standard racing game with a twist. Instead of just winning races, you have to earn Kudos points to receive extras like cars and courses. Its not enough that you place 1st, as you need to win with style. You gain Kudos points from sliding through turns without crashing, gaining air, passing opponents, two-wheeled turns, and other stunts. You can increase the amount of Kudos points youíre going for at the beginning of the race by setting a higher or lower goal, or setting a higher or lower handicap. You can also play Jokers (once per level) that double your Kudos points gained in that particular race.

While the selection of cars in Project Gotham Racing may be put to shame by those in Gran Turismo on the PS2, I think the number of cars present seem to be adequate. The 29 cars included in the game give a selection between cars like the Volkswagen Beetle or BMWís to more exotic selections like Ferraris and Porsches. My problem is the selection of cars is geared more towards exotic cars. The selection of cars that most of us could own is fairly low, and the muscle cars are sadly under-represented. In fact, the closest thing to a muscle car in the game is a Camaro SS or the Corvette. However, though the car selection is low, I actually used all of the cars unlike Gran Turismo. Each car has different strengths and weaknesses, and in order to succeed and unlock new items, you need to exploit them all (or just master one car).

The game is about as fun as you let it to be. The multiplayer features are decent with the standard split screen. You can also choose the winners to be either whoever gains the most Kudos points or whoever wins the actual race. However, the replay value rests all on your tastes. Iím not really a huge racing fan, so I doubt Iíll be constantly going back to this game. However, a few of my friends wonít get off of the game when theyíre over here.

Highs:

  • Graphics
  • Soundtrack

Lows:

  • About as deep as a kiddy pool
  • Only racing fans will get extensive replay out of this one

Final Verdict: 

If youíre looking for a game to show off your systemís graphical power, or youíre a racing fan, get this game. The graphics are only behind the shining examples of power like Dead or Alive 3. This game is pure eye-candy. If youíre looking for plots or adventure, look elsewhere. This game is strictly eye-candy and racing fun. Even if you donít like racing games (like myself), I suggest you at least rent it so you can see what your investment in the Xbox can do. You never know, you may actually like it.

Overall Score: 8.6

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