X-Box’s first venture into the racing genre gave us Project Gotham. A great looking title with its own unique charms but also had a fair number of shortcomings. Would the sequel address these shortcomings and live up to the hype? In a word: YES.
The graphics are outstanding. The attention to detail is noticeable – it’s neat to watch the driver in the cars accurately turn the wheel and shift gears. It has been done before in other games but it is always a welcome inclusion. There is…damage modeling – side mirrors that nearly get torn off, trunks that pop open and various dents. A criticism here is that the performance of your car does not degrade with damage and that there is a limit to the damage that you car will experience and then no matter how horrendous a crash you get into there is no further damage. There also is limited weather and day variation – tracks are either dry or there is a little rain, but no snow or ice. In addition driving occurs during midday or night – no rising or setting sun which always adds a little graphic beauty. However, none of these concerns seriously draw from a stunning presentation.
Project Gotham 2 has some of the best sounds that a racing game has to offer. All of the cars have their own unique engine revving sound as well as unique tire squeals. The music is excellent. The soundtrack ranges from hip-hop to alternative to electronica. And if you don’t like the music – add your own! You can rip your own CD tunes to the X-Box and use them during the game. The only minor complaint here is that it is difficult to alter the playlist once it is in place. If you just start a tune at the end of a race and want to start the next race with that song – you can’t. Not a big deal – just fill your playlist with your favorites – so if you skip one you won’t be disappointed with the next song. The surround effects were excellent and there was great use of the bass. A truly immersive sound experience.
Project Gotham 2 at heart is a racing game but the added twist of the Kudos system adds an element of Tony Hawk to the mix. The Kudos system gives players points based on tricks that are pulled off successfully during racing – points are given for powerslides, airtime, driving flawless races and drifting behind other cars. Races are not won based on time alone, you also need a certain number of Kudos points. Drive fast, but also drive with style. And once again borrowing from Tony Hawk – after getting Kudos, you have the opportunity to chain moves together to perform combos. Combos in a driving game? Yep…and it works! The attempt to pull off multiple combos is a very addictive part of the game and will no doubt keep gamers playing for hours.
There are three different game play modes – Kudos World Series, Time Attack and Arcade Racing. The Kudos World Series is the main game play mode in which races are grouped according to car type. Finish all of the races in a certain category by achieving platinum status and one can move on to the next grouping. For those very difficult to win races, Kudos points can be used to buy better cars giving the player that extra edge. And there are some beautiful cars to choose from.
Project Gotham 2 has the elusive Ferrari license. While the selection of cars is not as great as previous Gran Turismos, there is a wide enough variety to keep racing enthusiasts happy. The only criticism here is that you cannot choose your own color, but that is a very minor complaint.
Races take place in diverse locations – Barcelona, Washington, Chicago, Hong Kong and Florence to name a few. The tracks are well designed although a little lifeless – there is little going on the background to indicate that there is anything else going on on these locations outside of the racing. But once again this is a minor criticism.
The AI lacks a little – AI opponents stick to the driving lines without any variation and in higher difficulty races, they drive on the line so perfectly that they are at times nearly impossible to beat.
The online play is very impressive. The framerate remained constant regardless of the number of players (up to 8 total). There is a leaderboard in which you can see where you rank amongst the world’s best.
There is so much to this game from various ways to race, cars to purchase, and hidden mini-games that this will keep even hard core gamers occupied for weeks. Being able to play your friends on X-Box Live alone gives this game excellent replay value.
While Gran Turismo remains the pinnacle of racing games for it’s beautiful graphics, excellent physics and almost unlimited customizability, Project Gotham 2 is hands down the best racing game for the X-Box. The major advantage that Project Gotham has over Gran Turismo is the online play which for those of us that tire of AI, that’s enough. Highly recommended.