While I enjoy playing driving games at the arcade as much as the next guy, I generally do not like them for the console. Probably the main reason is because I stink at them, and the only reason I did as good as I did on Project Gotham Racing was because the nice people at Radica were kind enough to send me their Gamester Pro Racer Wheel, which pretty much saved this game for me.
From the title you would assume, as I did when I ordered it with my Xbox, that Project Gotham Racing is a pure racing game, and you would be wrong. The game is based more on earning style points called Kudos, which act as both a measure of your skill at each course you race on and as a kind of monetary system within the game. Kudos are actually more important than winning races.
Please don’t get me wrong, there are times within the game that you do race against other cars to win. However, the majority of the time your goal is to earn a certain number of Kudos or style points to take a bronze, silver, or gold in the race. By achieving at least a bronze in the race you are considered to have completed it and new races and cars become available to you. You earn Kudos by doing fancy driving moves like taking a corner at full speed while tapping the breaks so you power slide around, or by catching air and so forth.
You can also earn points for combining moves. Points stay in limbo for a few seconds after you earn them. You loose them if you do something stupid like hit a cone or a guardrail, but once they make it into your score, you can’t loose them.
There are three modes of play in PGR. The first is the Kudos challenge, where you compete in 12 events each with four to 12 objectives. There are nine types of challenges and they include style events where you have to drive with flair and precision through obstacle courses, or the top speed challenge where you have to race against the clock, and straight races against other cars. Each event has a number of points associated with earning a bronze, silver, or gold medal. You can even raise the difficulty level of earning a medal for a higher payoff. I honestly did not have the patience for some of the later challenges where knocking over even a single cone means you need to start the race over again.
Fortunately for me, and probably for you, there are two other modes: the quick race and the arcade race. The quick race is made up of 16 racing events, divided into four races in four difficulty categories. Be prepared for the other five cars in the race to bump into you as they rigidly follow a preprogrammed course. The arcade race is split up into 16 style challenges completely separate from the Kudos challenges. All three modes of play use the same Kudos system to unlock new cars and new tracks.
As if all that was not enough, a time attack mode lets you drive any of the 204, yes that is not a typo, tracks as you unlock them. The tracks are divided up among 17 tracks in three districts in four cities including, San Francisco, New York, London and Tokyo making a whopping total of 204.
Many of the tracks are very similar with only a turn or two difference among them, but it is still an impressive variance. With that number of tracks you would also expect a healthy number of cars, but GRP has less than 30 cars available. That number does include five Ferraris and three Porsches, which I am told, is a licensing first since Need for Speed: High Stakes.
Even if you absolutely hate driving games, when you see GRP, your are going to be impressed with the look and sound of the game. Each car has a different engine sound and each city has its own DJ. Though there is a poor selection of basic music, you will probably want to take advantage of the ability to load in your own songs, an Xbox first. Each city is laid out with all the trees, lampposts, manhole covers, subway entrances, and buildings you would expect to find in the city, all rendered in full real time 3D. When you hit the brakes the lights come on, and if you take a bad turn and hit a wall your car will show the damage, even if it does not affect your ability to operate the car. I saw only a few instances where the game dropped below its smooth 60 frames per second rate.
Overall I had a pretty good time checking out Project Gotham Racing for GiN. I just wish I was a little better at it. My girlfriend Alison repeatedly stomped me into the ground on this game. Fortunately, I was able to return the favor in Dead or Alive 3. I think overall I was most impressed with the visual aspects of Project Gotham Racing, as well as the whole Kudos challenge concept. PGR takes the checkered flag with an impressive 4 GiN Gems.