Project Gotham Racing 2 is, obviously, the sequel to the 2001 Xbox hit. With
almost two years of development time, PGR returns as something of a whole new game.
The graphics are better, the handling is tighter, the Kudos system is more refined
and the progression is a lot more balanced, plus there's online support. To put it
bluntly, PGR2 is better, and probably one of the best games on the Xbox, as
well as one of the better racing games to come along since Burnout 2.
Gotham 2 is set-up a bit more differently than the first PGR. For starters, rather
than having four different cities to race in with three different areas to drive in,
there's just 10 cities from across the world with one area to drive in (if you've played the first
PGR, then you probably understand what I'm talking about). But that could be a good thing,
since each city is different. This time around you'll tackle the streets of Chicago (US),
Washington DC (US), Edinburgh (Scotland), Barcelona (Spain), Florence(Italy), Stockholm (Sweden), Moscow (Russia),
Hong Kong (China), Yokahama (Japan), Sydney (Australia), and the Nurburgring Nordschleife Track (Germany).
The second thing that's different is how you earn cars. Bizarre Creations seems
to experiment with what works in terms of earning cars in each game starting with Metropolis
Street Racer. In MSR, you had to complete all stages in a chapter to have the privledge
to race that paticular car in a time trial to get the keys of that car. In the first
PGR, you earned cars by either getting four gold medals in a specific arcade stage,
earned a car by beating it in a one-on-one trial (which was pretty easy to do,
since you could give yourself a huge head start and beat your opponent with ease)
or just by hitting a total number of Kudos. Now, you need to earn "Kudos Tokens",
which can be acquired by reaching a Kudos Rank when you accrue a specific number
This brings strategy to the table, since for one, you can unlock at least
6 or 7 cars within a stage. Sure, you get two off the bat for each stage you
start, but they are not the best cars. So, you then decide which car is better
for the job. You could unlock all cars in a stage if you had the tokens, or you
can save them for later stages in the game. Speaking of cars, the way you can
select them has changed. This kind of goes along on how differently the game progresses
as well. No longer is each chapter based upon a city or the un-aptly named "championship"
like the first PGR. Each chapter/stage is now based upon a car class. This means
you can no longer take your most powerful vehicles to earlier stages and complete the
challenges with a better ranking medal. Each stage has cars that only relate to
that car type, such as Compact Sports, Pacific Muscle or Sport Utility.
I guess now would be the best time to bring up the selection of cars in the game.
Project Gotham Racing 2 has one of the best assortment of vehicles of any game to date.
In the previous PGR, we pretty much see super cars or powerful sedans. Here, there's
an assortment of comapcts, sedans, SUV's, roadsters, classics, sports cars and super cars.
I haven't seen a diverse group of cars like this (that were licensed) since the
frustrating as hell Vanashing Point by Acclaim. If I had to gripe about the selection
of cars, I would say that it could have used a seperate stage for trucks, rather
than sticking them in the SUVs; and that the game could have used more Japanese cars.
It's still a great assortment, and a wide range of auto manufacturers that include
Subaru, Audi, Dodge, Chevrolet, Porsche, Ferarri, Saleen, BMW and so much more.
There's also plans for cars to made available for download via Xbox Live.
There's so much to talk about this game, and I'm glaring over important things
that need to be said about it. Before I do forget, I would like to talk about the
Kudos point system. I'm sure those who have played PGR or Metropolis Street Racer
know what this system is all about. You earn points for stylish driving, and those points
accrue to your point total, which when you earn a specific number of points, you
get Kudos tokens. How you earn Kudos this time around is better than your options in the
past, plus it's a lot more fair. You can earn Kudos by powersliding/drifting, driving
on two wheels, catching air from jumps, mainitaining a good driving line, drafting,
overtaking opponents, clearing a clean section, having the fastest lap and having
an overall clean race (nice that they brought that last one back). You also earn bonus
Kudos if you meet the criteria/goal of the race. Not only are Kudos easier to earn
this time around, but they're easier to keep as well. Before (well, in the first
Gotham), if you had a certain number of Kudos that hasn't been banked (you were
in the process of a combo), and you hit a wall, you lose them all. Now, if you were in
a combo, and you hit a wall, you just lose the combo bonus, but keep the Kudos you
earned from driving. It's better than nothing.
Challenging a race has changed as well. In the first game, you pretty much
had to set your own criteria on completing a race, such as what place you will
rank or how many cars you pass. Depending on what you "wager", you will earn a
certain number of Kudos. Unfortunatley, what you couldn't adjust was the difficulty.
You could go bare-minimum on certain events, or go as low as you can possibly earn
a medal, but the race was still pretty difficult. That has now changed. You can
now challenge five different difficulty levels that correspond to a paticular
medal. You can play it safe through the entire game by challenging only the Steel-medal
difficulty, add a little more challenge by going for Bronze or Silver medals, make things
difficult by going for a Gold medal, or really give it your all for a Platinum medal.
The higher the difficulty, the bigger the bonus, but you HAVE to meet the criteria
to win. It seems a lot more balanced, though (except for the return of the a-hole AI),
since you're given an idea what is possible and what you can achieve.
If I had a broadband connection, I would tell you about the online play, but
since I don't, we'll have to go into this another day.
The visuals this time around are so much more realistic than the first PGR.
Textures are cleaner and sharper, the lighting is a lot more effective, the bump-mapping
is much more defined, the reflections are improved and the car models are a little
better. Some stages just look astoundingly beautiful, and at certain points, it
looks like a real-life environment. The framerate rarely ever chops up, which is
pretty amazing seeing how much is being pumped out into this game. I do wish there
were other weather conditions other than rain. For some reason, they left out foggy
days, which was done in PGR. Also, it would have been nice if Bizarre Creations
brought back the real-time time-of-day change that was done in Metropolis Street
Racer. It would have been cool to see the time of day change right in front of you,
and this probably could have lent itself to some really awesome lighting effects.
But what was done here is just incredible. The definition of how an Xbox game should look.
The sound hasn't changed much since the last game. The engine noises are better
and a little more varied, but that is about it for sound effects. The same "tick"
noise that is made when you get Kudos from the first game has returned, as well
as some other noises. The radio is back, with DJs for each station and languages that
match the country (I have no idea in hell how better I could have put that exact phrase).
There's 200 songs that cross a few genres such as rock, R&B and dance, but if
you don't like that, use your own music. The radio function does something a bit
annoying this time around. Sometimes, when you begin a new race, a song will play
right in the middle or towards the end. I would rather have each song start from the
beginning than be cut off at some point. You can change that by sticking to CD mode,
but you'll lose the station IDs.
Well, we finally make it to the end of the review. Sorry it seems a bit long,
but there was so much to talk about in this game, and I really didn't want
to leave out anything that has been improved or changed. In some ways, PGR is
still the same game as it was in 2001. It's not about how fast you drive, but about
how you drive fast. But there were a handful of improvements and changes that really
do make this game better than the first installment. It's by no means perfect.
There could have been a few more stages in the Kudos World series mode such as
a Truck category, a Wagon category and a category that makes use of all the cars you've unlocked at
the very end. They could have also tossed in some one-make series races to
force you to buy a certain car with your tokens that you probably wouldn't have
considered getting before. Then there's the courses that seem not to have much life
in them. If this was an actual sanctioned racing event, you would think there would
have been screaming fans or spectators on the sidelines. Nope. The most we get are flying
birds or trash blowing in the street. But this is just saying what can make a great
game even better. I wonder how much harder Bizarre Creations can push the Xbox for
the third installment. This is very much well worth getting, especially if you're
a racing fan.