Project Gotham Racing 2 is the sequel to the outstanding Xbox racing title released at the console's launch two years ago. Featuring more than 100 cars, an increased number of track locales, and a tweaked Kudos system, PGR 2 builds on the success of the first game. The biggest change this time is the addition of online play which allows you to challenge other racers and view your ranking against players worldwide. There are dozens of challenges to beat making for an incredibly deep racing experience. The amazingly life-like graphics and smooth frame rate adds to the visceral thrills. Join us as we put the pedal to the metal and find out why PGR screams past the competition.
Starting life as a cult Dreamcast racer called Metropolis Street Racer, this popular racing series evolved into Project Gotham Racing a few years later and burst onto the Xbox at the console's launch two years ago. This Bizarre Creations developed title made quite an impact amongst gamers thanks to its unique Kudos system and dazzling graphics. The new installment builds on the success of the first game and takes things a step further with more cars, options and a streamlined Kudos system. There are more than 20 different track locations from Washington DC to Barcelona, Sydney and Tokyo. These are all stunningly realistic and each location has multiple paths. Additionally, there are more than 100 vehicles ranging from humble compact vehicles, to sports, muscle, high-performance convertibles, sports cars and more. There are also Extreme, Ultimate and Super Cars included - these high-performance vehicles are incredible, and hard to unlock, but definitely worth the effort. As you'd expect, the vehicles come from a variety of mass-market manufacturers including Chevy, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Mazda and, Lexus. There's also a range of super cars from the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari, Lexus, Lotus Elise and Vauxhall that you'd rarely see on the road. There's an excellent variety to choose from, and unlocking additional cars is one of the main motivations to keep playing. There's a good selection at the beginning and you can drive a few of the fastest and best cars in the arcade mode, but many of the most-desirable cars have to be earned by progressing up the rankings and earning enough medals to purchase them. This definitely makes for a challenging and involving game.
One of the things that sets the game apart from the many other racing titles on the market is its unique Kudos system that rewards style as well as skill. These are an important part of the game and the main indicator of your progression. Players can earn Kudos in a variety of ways. They are rewarded for sliding successfully, going through a section cleanly without an impact, and overtaking other vehicles. Once a player earns enough Kudos, their Kudos ranking increases, and they are given Kudos Medals that they can then use to purchase additional vehicles. However, you don't have to use these as soon as you get them, and can save them to unlock better vehicles later on. The system is slightly easier now, since the game doesn't penalize players. Chaining moves together is also simpler and this makes the system seem a lot less quirky than in the first game. In addition to the Kudos you win be performing stylish driving maneuvers, you earn more by successfully completing the race or challenge objectives, coming in before. One cool thing about the system is that once you have completed a course, you can go back to it again and try to earn more Kudos by improving your score or trying to compete for a higher medal. However, the last PGR, you aren't penalized by losing your best time if you want to try again, which makes progression much easier than in the past. When you race the same course again, you'll be able to race against a ghost image of your previous race, allowing you to make a direct comparison to your previous run.
As you'd expect, the controls in PGR2 are superb, with each vehicle's performance and handling attributes fairly accurately reproducing their real-world counterparts. Each car is ranked in a variety of attributes ranging from top speed to acceleration. Driving the vehicles is incredibly challenging and the key is to master the art of sliding around corners without bumping other vehicles or roadside railings. In order to truly succeed, you'll have to find the best lines around each course as well in order to shave those precious seconds off your time. The cars are fluid and responsive and perform just as you'd expect, though mastering the handling of the more advanced vehicles is harder, requiring you to anticipate curves and brake ahead of time. This is trickier than it sounds, especially with tight turns. That said, each vehicle's control and handling feels incredibly realistic and makes you feel like you're in the driver's seat. The Xbox controller's default configuration is excellent, and works well using either the D-pad or the analog stick to steer.
PGR2 includes two main modes of play including Arcade, Kudos World Series modes where players compete in a variety of challenges against other vehicles. Each competition is divided into car classes. You race against other cars in the same class and can unlock vehicles, but these vehicles don't follow you up to other classes, so be careful to save your Kudos tokens. Some challenges require you to race as a predetermined vehicle, while others allow you to choose from vehicles in the same class. There are also car-class challenges where vehicles of the same type compete against each other. In the Kudos Series mode, players can compete in many different challenges including street races where you battle for position against up to 8 other cars, Hot Lap, where you have to beat the fastest lap time and One-on-One where it's just you and a rival driver. The most innovative idea in the Kudos series is the Speed Camera challenge where you have to achieve a designated to top speed before you pass the camera position. Another addition to the series this time are the Overtake missions, where you have to pass other cars. Don't get complacent in these, since you have to maintain your position throughout the race to win. There's definitely a lot of variety in these missions and challenges. While the first level or two in the Grand Kudos Challenges sticks you with average vehicles, the faster and more exotic cars become available quickly. Thankfully, PGR2 skips the tedious licensing levels other games use to torture players so you won't get frustrated and bored.
In addition to the Kudos Challenge mode, players can select the Instant Action mode for a quick race, but the Kudos they earn here aren't applied to the rest of the game. If they want a faster game, players can choose to race in the Arcade mode that includes Street Racing, Timed Runs and Cone Challenges. Progression in arcade mode takes a similar path to the Kudos series, except that you can't choose the course or car and must race a preset vehicle and track. These challenges are grouped in three or four challenges, and players can only unlock additional events once they've won all the medals in their current level. You're medal standing depends on which level of difficulty you choose with the harder events offering higher medals and Kudos. There are five medal levels for each event, and they award medals from Tin to Gold. These range from incredibly easy challenges at the bottom to near impossible ones at the top. You can choose to compete the novice levels to build up Kudos, which you can then use to buy more powerful cars and then compete to win harder medals. If you find yourself stuck at a high level, you may want to try a lower level medal challenge. PGR includes several challenge events that include straight racing challenges, where you battle it out for position to cone challenges where you have to drive through cones without knocking any over. Finally, players can choose to play the Time Attack Modes, which includes Car and Circuit challenges where you compete against yourself to beat your own records. Playing the time attack mode is a fairly easy way to improve your skills while building up extra Kudos at the same time. All these different driving modes offer a great deal of diversity lend PGR2 a great deal of depth, making for a challenging and addictive game.
The single-player challenges are quite addictive and challenging, but PGR2 adds yet even more depth by implementing comprehensive multiplayer modes. You can play using either split-screen modes, LAN play and now, for the first time online using Microsoft's excellent Xbox Live Service. Once connected, you have a variety of options at your disposal. What's cool about this is that you can earn Kudos online as well, which is another strong motivation to keep playing. You can download ghosts of the best times and compete against these, check your rankings against players around the world on the leaderboard and even set up games with other players. Finding an online game to play is relatively easy thanks to the intuitive lobby interface, though you should be flexible about game modes and types. Playing online was a seamless experience, and the gameplay suffered little from the lag or glitches you'd expect from an action game. Microsoft is also promising that players will be able to download additional content in the game, but what exactly this entails, extra cars, courses or gameplay modes, is still a bit vague as if this writing. Still, the addition of online play is a huge asset to the series and definitely a big reason to purchase the game.
From a visual standpoint, PGR2's graphics remain unmatched on the Xbox, offering a level of realism and beauty few racing games can attempt. Everything looks photo-realistic, from buildings, to trees and even the road surfaces themselves. It's simply astonishing to see sunlight glistening off the courses, and the weather effects such as snow and rain are brilliantly designed and make you feel like you're actually racing. The different locales offer a lot of visual variety, with both day and night racing. The realistic environments are quite impressive and the draw-in distances are incredible. The frame rate is excellent, and delivers an exciting sense of speed. The courses themselves seem authentic down to rendering individual stones in cobble sidewalks, which isn't something you see everyday. The incredibly detailed car models' look amazingly lifelike with their bodies' shimmering paint-jobs creating dazzling reflections that make them look like they've come right out of the showroom. Unlike other realistic racing titles in this genre, the vehicles in PGR2 take and display damage with broken mirrors and headlights and body damage realistically portrayed. PGR's visuals are nearly flawless, suffering only from the fact that some of the levels look almost too good to be true, which is saying something. As is becoming standard practice for Xbox titles, there's an extensive soundtrack available to choose from. Each city has it's own unique sound and radio stations, which provide an excellent selection of tunes ranging from hard rock to dance beats. Players can also rip their own music into the game if they want to. Aesthetically, Project Gotham Racing remains perched at the pinnacle of console technology, and it doesn't seem likely to be knocked off soon. Every element of its production values shines, and the game's level of detail and realism will definitely give other titles like Gran Turismo 4 a run for their money. This is definitely the best-looking Xbox title to date, and the most-impressive looking racer on any console to date.
As you've probably guessed by now, Project
Gotham Racing 2 is definitely a must-have title for any Xbox racing fan. It's
wide selection of vehicles, startlingly realistic graphics, tight controls and
addictive gameplay make it easily the deepest and most satisfying racer on the
console. It's unique Kudos system makes for an addictive game that keeps the
motivation levels high, challenging you to beat your best times again and again.
The courses themselves look beautiful and offer plenty of variety with a mix of
speed and technical tracks that encompass many types of driving.The level of
detail is amazing, giving a realistic appearance throughout, though most players
will find the drool-inducing car-models PGR2's most impressive eye-candy. The
additional challenges are clever and keep break up the racing to keep things
fresh. However, it's the addition of online play that really sets the game
apart, giving players a much larger field of competition and showcasing the
excellence of the Xbox Live service effortlessly. PGR2 lacks the depth or
variety that Gran Turismo offers, but head-to-head comparisons aren't entirely
accurate because the two series have different goals. That said, players looking
for a realistic driving game with loads of depth and challenge probably won't
find a more eye-popping or smoother-playing title on the Xbox. Project Gotham
Racing 2 is without a doubt, the slickest racer we've ever seen and this
sterling sequel maintains the series' status one of the Xbox' crown jewels.