It may be a little tough for me to review this game, since the sequel is already
out on store shelves, and it is significantly better than this installment. But
I'll try my best to be fair on this one. In fact, I might end up comparing this
to Metropolis Street Racer from the Dreamcast since there are quite a few similarities
(actually, Project Gotham was built upon and from MSR). Have I confused you yet?
Project Gotham Racing is one of the first games made avaliable for the Xbox system
at it's launch. Basicaly being an overhauled port of MSR from the Dreamcast, it
does serve as one of the more unique, challenging and demanding racers available
for this or any other system. While it doesn't take full advantage of what the Xbox
can do, it's a game that racing enthusiasts will get into, especially if you're tired
of the same old "place 1st or rank highest" type of racing.
First, a bit of backstory. Metropolis Street Racer (MSR) was released about 10
or so months before Project Gotham (PGR) on the now-defunct Dreamcast system. It
was a very unique racing game at the time. It's motto was "It's not about how fast
you drive, but how you drive fast". What this means is that there's more emphasis
on how you drive rather than just getting the job done. You would earn points called
"Kudos" if you drove with style and care, as well as show a level of skill for
a challenge (such as pass X number of cars, or beat a time on a hot lap trial).
But you also lost Kudos if you smacked into walls or hit other cars. Challenges
would take place in different parts of 3 realistically modelled cities, San Francisco,
London and Tokyo. Even more unique in this racer was that it used the Dreamcast's
internal clock to provide a real-time experience while you drive. Being on the west
coast, the time of day in SF was almost exact as it were here (it didn't take Daylight
Savings into consideration, so in the winter, it would still be light at 6pm in SF),
which I found really cool and really innovative.
Project Gotham builds upon what made MSR great by giving us one more city, New
York to drive around, as well as a new set of cars. But trade-offs were made, with
one exclusion I wasn't so thrilled to find. I wasn't so happy to find that they took
out the real-time functionality of the first game, by using the systems internal clock.
Some may not miss that option, but I did. PGR is set up a lot more differently
than MSR. In MSR, the meat of the game was in "Street Racing", where you would
go through 25 chapters of events and challenges, and if you completed 10 stages of
a chapter, you would earn access to a car (which you would later have to win by
completing a time trial). Here, there's a similar mode called the "Kudos Challenge",
with 12 chapters rather than 25. But here, if you complete the chapter, you don't win
a car. You'll gain access to new cars by one-on-one races. But there are a couple
of added modes to help you earn more cars, a standard racing mode, and a style challenge
mode (which they call "arcade"). Get four gold medals within the difficulty level
of one of those challenges, and you can win a car.
In PGR, you acquire cars differently than you did in MSR. Perhaps it's a change
for the better, but it also defeats strategy presented in the first game. In MSR,
when you completed a chapter, you had the chance to unlock that car to drive by completing
a time trial. Win the race, win the car. But you only had so many spaces in your
garage to keep cars, so it took some strategy and planning to see which cars
you need for certain challenges. Here, when you unlock a car, it's added to your
garage. There's no limit to how many car you get in this game, so there's not much
strategy in which cars to keep or dump. Also, the CPF numbers of MSR for cars are
gone. The CPF number was pretty much a skill level for the car. The lower the number,
the more kudos you would get.
Let's get into the race modes. Here's a breakdown of the types of challenges
you'll face in PGR:
- Hot Lap - Beat the time you've alloted yourself to win the race. Basically
a time trial with a goal. There are single lap trials and average time Hot Lap
trials, which you set the goal on the average of the time it takes you to finish
the time trial.
- Timed Run - It's a type of time trial in which you need to complete the course
with the given number of laps in a given time. Beat the time it takes you to complete
the challenge to win.
- Syle Challenge - New in PGR, the style challenge is kind of like the stunt
mode in Waverace 64, except there's no flips and such. You will race within a given
time on a coruse lined with cones and cone gates that yield points. Look for Speed
Gates that give more points depending on how fast you go. Success in winning these
challenges rely on connecting cone gate passes, slides, jumps, two wheel turns
and clean section clearings.
- Challenge - What you need to do veries by chapter. One challenge may ask you
to pas a certain number of cars, complete a certain number of laps, hit a certain
speed or beat an average speed.
- Street Race - Place 3rd, 2nd or 1st to win. Depending on how you set the difficulty,
you may NEED to place 2nd or higher, or 1st place.
- One On One - Go against another car in a one on one race. Win the race, win the
These challenges get progressivley harder as you move along in the chapters of the
game, where completing the challenge is just not enough. To really move on, you
need to acquire a medal, and you do this by hitting a number of kudos shown before
you start the race. Increasing the difficulty will give you more kudos, but just remember
that you need to finish the race in order to get the points.
Getting Kudos is tougher here than it was in MSR. In MSR, there was a way that
you could get kudos easily by just sliding around in a hot lap challenge. Here, hot lap challenges
have limits on how long you can be there. You won't lose kudos by hitting cars anymore,
but you won't recive any clean section bonuses if you do hit a car or wall. Getting
kudos is quite a challenge, especially in the style challenges. You pretty much need
to drive like you're drunk in order to score big. What I mean is that you need to
learn how to swerve around and rack up kudos to increase your combo score. Once
you've been on a course a few times, and have the right car, getting kudos on style
challenges seem to be prety easy. If you're wondering, you earn kudos by sliding/drifiting,
driving on two wheels, getting air from jumps (happens more often in San Francisco)
and pulling a 360 spin (I still haven't figured out how to do that one). Link those up
one after the other to get a big combo score. Clean sections and extra time on
the clock (certain races) will also yield kudos.
The control/handling in PGR is more arcade than sim. Cars handle pretty well,
and are respective to the handling displayed on the graph during car selection.
I should note that sliding does occur quite a bit in this game, and a lot of sliding
reuslts in spinning out. The AI opponents don't help by trying to make you fishtail,
either. On a whole, the game controls pretty well. You just need to watch out for
the cars that might give you trouble.
Now, on to the graphics. Being on the Xbox, there's some pretty high expectations
on how an Xbox game should look. PGR doesn't really look like an Xbox game, maybe
Gamecube, but not much of an Xbox title. This is due in part to the texturing.
It was impressive on the Dreamcast, but not so much here. It looks like a lot of the
MSR textures are used here in PGR. Some have been cleaned up, but others look
almost like they did on the DC. But PGR doesn't look like a Dreamcast game. I went
back and played MSR on the DC, then I went to the same location in the Xbox "version"
and there was a difference. Obviously, the framerate is much better and smoother.
The car models look better and have better reflection effects. The fogging seems
to be done a bit better. There's some shine to the roads when the sun hits it a
certain way. The lighting is also better and more realistic. It's not a terrible
looking game, but when you see what's done in PGR 2, the difference is very noticeable.
The sound is pretty good. The cars sound decent, there's a good number of ambiebent
effects on the courses and the radio is back. This time, they've licensed some
music than do it themselves. But, if you get sick of what they provide, you
can always bring in your own music. You can even have the radio DJ introductions
for your music. Problem with that is, the DJ may not match the genre of music you
have. The station ID will come on as an alternative station, but a Janet Jackson
song plays. Not a big quibble.
This was one of the games I really wanted to get whenever I was able to get an
Xbox, and lo and behold, it was one of my first. I pretty much knew what to expect
out of this game, since I've played the hell out of MSR. But there were new elements
that made the game a lot harder that it was before, which is good if you thought
the first was too easy (and it was once you figured out how to exploit the kudos flaw).
Here, it's nothing but hard work that will get you your prize. Some things, such as
the style challenge, can give you a great sense of satisfaction when you finally
get that gold medal, because it does take a lot of skill to win in this game. However,
I'm disappointed that they took out the real-time functionallity of MSR. It was one
of the things that really impressed me in that game, was that the time of day matches
the actual time. Of course, it only matched if you lived in the time zones where
San Francisco, London or Tokyo were located. Still, this is a very worthwhile game
to play through. It may not be for everyone, since it's not just about ranking
in the top place. It takes skill and style to win this game, and if you've got that,
then you're set.