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Bizarre Creations



E (Everyone)



Q4 2001



- Cars look and perform amazingly great
- Plenty of replay value
- Nicely uses custom soundtrack feature



- Environment visuals not quite level of car graphics
- Kudos control system takes time to master
- Fewer customizable features than GT3: A-Spec



Review: Rallisport Challenge (XBox)

Review: Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec (Playstation 2)

Review: Burnout (Gamecube)



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Project Gotham Racing

Score: 9.0 / 10


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XBox drivers start your engines! From the pole position of the XBox's launch, Microsoft has provided a worthy adversary to rival Sony and its PlayStation's Gran Turismo series with Project Gotham Racing (PGR). The only question left to answer is if PGR has enough gameplay fuel to take the checkered flag from GT3: A-Spec.

PGR initially may sound like a Batman racing game, but really is a sequel to the solid, if somewhat unappreciated Dreamcast game Metro Street Racer. As in its predecessor, PGR's gameplay is established by the kudos scoring system. Kudos are given and accumulated throughout the game based on the driving skills you display on each raced course. You basically get points for being a speed racer by sliding,




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360ing, two-wheel driving, deftly maneuvering through cone-filled routes and overtaking any cars in front of you en route to the finish line. The control scheme of PGR is well-devised in regards to the XBox controller's layout, which is important because learning to drive through the game's multitude of roadways while at the same time collecting enough kudos to move


on to the next challenge takes quite a bit of getting used to. While tighter than its predecessor, PGR's control is the hardest game element to master. Each car handles differently, especially the Ferraris and Porsches that make up the upper echelon of the game's available automobiles. Try and find a good car with a decent balance of handling, speed and acceleration and stick with it until you unlock the game's best vehicle, the Ferrari F50. Once you have access to it, use it and learn its nuances, because the best way to cruise up the medals and kudos charts is with the F50 under your guidance.

Over 200 courses ranging through the four worldwide cities of San Francisco, Tokyo, London and New York are in the game, but that impressive total is slightly misleading. While its true that there is an abundant supply of courses, most are a variation in one shape or another of previous ones throughout the four metropolitan areas. Still, although there's a déjà vu sense to your surroundings as you travel deeper into the game, it's impressive that there are that many variations of courses to race. There's a huge amount of replay value in the PGR package. All the different challenges combine to fill up a cornucopia full of racing goodness. You won't get bored racing around particularly on the later, harder stages of the game, which are downright serious challenges, even with the supernaturally quick Ferrari F50.

Different tasks and races await your motoring skills but the heart of the game is the Kudos Challenge mode, which is where you can earn new cars, tracks, and driver models with each successful challenge completion. This is accomplished by earning kudos points which are of vital necessity to completing each challenge, as you need a specific kudos total in addition to completing a specific task in order to place on the medal board and continue your quest to become a major speed demon. Speaking of speed, the element of velocity is present in PGR at a fast and furious clip. Feel the rush of adrenaline pumped through your veins that can only be accomplished swooshing 140 miles per hour through large city streets.

What makes PGR a well-oiled title is the attention given to its visual and sound features to go along with the improved game control (over Metro Street Racer) and the better-defined kudos scoring system. The visuals of the game are a somewhat mixed bag. When it comes to the rendered car graphics, PGR is simply amazing. The cars are so realistically detailed, it's scary. Everything down to the placement of the car company's emblems and logos is exactly as it appears on the actual cars themselves. What's also cool is watching the animations of the drivers. You can actually see the individual drivers shifting the gears and turning the steering wheel. Another high-quality detail is the damage inflicted on your car through reckless and rough driving. If you hit another car or one hits you, your car will show the damage. Some high volume crashing will inflict major ugliness on your car in the shape of crumpled hoods, doors, fenders, side mirrors, license plates and large amounts of scraped-off paintjobs, although you'll never be able to completely destroy either your or your opponent's cars through multiple collisions. After the unbelievable quality and gorgeousness of PGR's cars, the look of its courses is a little bit of a letdown. Don't get me wrong, they are handsome in their own right, but come nowhere near appearing as polished as the car models. Imagine how you would feel getting dumped by Janet Jackson and having to settle for one of her backup female dancers as your prom date. It's that kind of feeling. You're okay with it because you still have something good-looking to show off, but somehow it's just not the same. From a distance, the courses are very nicely rendered. But as you get closer, it doesn't hit the same level of artistry that the cars have. There are no interactive environments, and they come off as made-up fake facades of the true buildings and structures they represent, almost something you would expect to see if you were touring the created versions of each city on the backlots of Hollywood. Clipping and pop-up on the horizon is non-existent, which is really impressive considering the amount of detail contained on each level.


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One area that PGR is unquestionably ahead of the pack is in the 29 exquisitely detailed cars that you can motor around the game in. While this number pales in comparison to GT3: A-Spec, I would rather have a smaller number of exotic machines to choose from instead of a large amount of rather pedestrian everyday vehicles that need to be upgraded to be worth racing. In fact, PGR has the licensing rights for both the Ferrari and Porsche line, something that GT3: A-Spec isn't able to claim. There are also BMWs and even the Volkswagen Beetle found among the cars in the game. But those players who like customizable cars as contained in GT3: A-Spec, from the paint job to the brakes and tires your vehicle sports, will be disappointed in PGR. There are additional colors for each car, but you have no direct control over that facet. Neither do you have a choice in your performance parts. You drive with the cars in their present form throughout the whole game without being able to tweak them to your liking. The only customizable piece of your vehicle is the license plate. The style is one of four, representing the four cities raced in the game. You can also create a vanity plate with any wording you want, provided it fits the space of the plate. One little neat feature is the car's odometer. It actually keeps track of the miles you have raced in your saved game.

For all their dazzling beauty, you have to see to truly appreciate the lighting effects and the reflective properties of the passing buildings on the high-performance cars. Reminiscent of Zack's limo riding through Las Vegas during his ending movie in Dead or Alive 3, you can actually see the course's buildings and environment reflected real-time on PGR's cars as you zip past them and it is exceptionally astounding. Nighttime racing shows off the lighting effects of the car's headlights. Racing through rain and fog is another visual treat for the eyes. It's the kind of great-looking details that are becoming second nature for inclusion in games by developers of Xbox software.

Sound throughout the game is generally average, from the revving of high-octane engines roaring around curvaceous urban thoroughfares to the crashing of fiberglass and steel to sound effects fit the gameplay but don't overwhelm your auditory senses. Music provided on the soundtrack that plays over your car's CD player includes famous artists like the Chemical Brothers and contains plenty of groovin' tunes for all types of musical tastes as you hit the road. You also can select the radio feature that plays music from real radio stations from each respective city with each station represented by a real station DJ. But even if you don't care for any of the music provided, it doesn't matter. PGR takes advantage of the Xbox's soundtrack feature by way of the game's music manager, letting you rip your own favorite songs to the game. This is a great goodie that all-to-few Xbox titles have taken advantage of so far. My ultimate recommendation for the all-time perfect fast-driving song to rip on the soundtrack if you have it or can find it is the classic Sammy Hagar rock rift "I Can't Drive 55".

Yes, PGR is another solid XBox launch title that car-racing fans will enjoy immensely. But although close it isn't the Gran Turismo killer that Microsoft hoped it would be as GT3: A-Spec gets to hold onto the top racing game mantle at least just a bit longer. Nevertheless, despite lacking some of the customizable features, sheer amount of cars and complexity of GT3: A-Spec, PGR is a well-balanced racer. With a few tweaks, the inevitable sequel could give the Gran Turismo series an earnest contest for the best racing title crown. That is if the excellent recently-released Rallisport Challenge for the XBox doesn't reach that finish line first.

- Lee Cieniawa

(March 24, 2002)


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