Project Gotham Racing 2: The Good And The Bad.
First at all, I'm a hardcore fan of the series (setting my alarm so that I could play in daylight in Tokyo or getting back home early to catch the last rays of sunlight in San Francisco when playing Metropolis Street Racer was a daily affair), so my expectations from this title were really high.
If you're not familiar with PGR series, then you've missed two excellent games. PGR2 is a street racing game where driving fast is not the most important thing - you must do it with style. As Metropolis Street Racer said: "it's not about how fast you drive, it's about how you drive fast". Your style is measured in 'kudos’, and you get them by doing things like powersliding, getting a good line in a corner, driving through cone gates, taking over opponents, doing clean races (not hitting anything), and so on - and yes, you can do combos to link all these 'moves’ together. Making combos gives you a combo bonus, and if you manage to link many 'moves’ then you will see your kudos meter hit the thousands. Needless to say, if you hit hard a wall or some other obstacle, you will lose your combo bonus or your kudos if you are not in a combo. Your car can also be damaged, but you don’t lose performance (it's an arcade racer). This is what makes MSR and PGR so fun to play. It’s all about scoring kudos to unlock tracks and cars.
There are three modes in single player: Kudos World Series, Arcade Racing and Time Attack. The first is the core of any game in the series; you race through 14 chapters unlocking cars and tracks (and different styles of races around the tracks), scoring kudos to earn kudos tokens which you exchange for new cars. Each chapter has a group of cars that you can select (some of these have to be unlocked with the aforementioned kudos tokens). Races include: 'one on one’, 'street racing’, 'hot lap’, 'speed camera’ and 'cone challenge’. Difficulty has been split into five medals, from iron to platinum. Obviously getting a precious medal is more difficult, but it does reward you with more kudos. In addition, almost useless but fun, we have another two sections when selecting cars in Kudos World Series: Show Room and Garage. In Show Room you go in first person view and can walk around, seeing all the cars in the game and taking a test drive on a special test track. You can even test unlocked, but not bonus cars. In the garage you see every unlocked car in the group of the chapter you are on. Ah, a little advice, go into walk mode a take a look at the arcade cabinet that’s there.....
Arcade racing has three sections: 'Street Race’, 'Cone challenge’ and 'Timed Run’. Each of them consists of 20 events, and you have to do the job with a fixed car.
In 'Time Attack’ you can race any unlocked circuit. You can also use any unlocked car in 'Circuit Challenge’ or drive in a specific circuit with any unlocked car. No kudos here, only You Vs Time. There are 102 cars you can drive trough 10 cities including Edinburgh, Moscow, Barcelona, Washington DC, Chicago, Florence (This is my home!), Stockholm, Hong Kong, Yokohama, Sydney, plus Nurburgring track.
Seems to be varied enough? Then comes the multiplayer part. You can play with split screen for up to 4 players or link up to 8 consoles and you can race on Xbox Live. Playing on Xbox Live not only gives you the chance to race against 7 other players, but you can see how good your performances are in single player mode against others players’ times all over the world. Plus you can download their ghost car and try to beat them.
Well, the game looks damn good. The cars look great, even when you get them damaged by raw driving. The cities are very well modeled and look like very realistic. The roads are fantastic. They have nice reflections, good light effects, and no slowdown (like PGR1 in some circumstances with PAL60 mode on). The rain effects are good, as is night. There's nothing to complain about the graphics apart from the fact that your girlfriend doesn't look bumpmapped and your mirror doesn't seem to reflect anything as nice as in this game. No, really, the one fault I can pick out is on the night courses - light effects are cool but sometimes there's a few lights and you don't see the track; you must drive behind someone to be able to see properly and sometimes there are so many lights that if you get rid of your headlights you can see a lot better. And in two or three day tracks you have to put your sunglasses on to get the better of the sun. Bizzare Creations should have included them in the game. One minor "graphics bug" is: why do all the cars share the same speedometer? There are only two variations; with, or without the boostmeter.
However overall, I've never seen console racing games look so good.
Ok, I really don't know if the cars' engine sounds are accurate or not. Most of them I have seen only in magazines and really don't know what they sound like. There are a lot of audio tracks to listen to when driving. The selection ranges from HipHop to Alternative Rock to Electronic – 3 audio CDs of music in total! And of course you can create your custom playlist using the songs from the game’s soundtrack, or your own cds that you have ripped to the Xbox’s hard drive. In other words you can listen to whatever you want.
Oh guys, it's GOTHAM. I repeat: IT'S GOTHAM! Need I say any more? Actually the only complaint I have about gameplay is the CPU opponents in Street Race or One on One type challenge. They drive Schumacher style: "If you are in my line, expect to get spun round or to be crunched between me and the guardrail (and then get spun)". At least when you do the same to them, they no more seem to be chasing you looking for vengeance like in PGR, and don't cheat anymore by doing a lap 2 seconds faster than you, whatever your laptime was like in the later levels of MSR (Metropolis Street Racer).
"What is this section?" No, don't stop reading now, I'm not going crazy. PGR2 is actually the best racing game on the market, a MUST buy game, but now I'm speaking as a fan of the series. PGR2 is third of the series and it *scores* third in the series. Bizzarre Creations have turned "a unique driving experience" into "a racing game". Remember "it's not about how fast you drive, it's about how you drive fast"? Well, it's no more, or at least became less predominant in this installment of the series.
PGR2 is a lot easier than MSR or PGR. You can gain kudos by basically doing anything! You don't lose them if you hit your opponent, so you can win street racing doing some demolition derby action because being first gives you more kudos than driving while powersliding constantly. If you hit a wall really hard, you lose only the combo bonus (hitting a flyer two meters before you cross the finish line doing a full lap combo in San Francisco doesn't make you cry anymore), so you can really do airbag tests while driving. Cone gates are really close to each other so "style challenges" are only about running through cones as fast as you can to make the combo grow. You don't need to go crazy figuring out how to remain in combo between two cone gates. PGR (and even MSR) were hard. Very hard.
You need to get the right car for the next challenge. You have to go back to the previous races to improve your results, and get the kudos you need to unlock better cars or the next set of races and tracks. When selecting the difficulty of the challenges you can raise/lower speed by 1 MPH, time by .1 second, kudos needed by 5 kudos. This is so you can balance your own difficulty level and decide if you will focus on fast or style driving to beat the challenge. In PGR2 you have only five predefined difficulty levels; if you'll take the best car of the group you can go over the chapter smoothly without any real problems at medium/silver. And what the hell is this car group mode? It was so nice to unlock a powerful car and come back bigger & tougher on past levels to kick some ass. It's street racing after all, no cheating will be welcome, but who knows about fair play? Even in arcade races you cannot choose your car, but you're limited to the one they chose
for you. Ok, this makes it easy to keep online charts and make them more organized, but if you cannot drive in one track with a powerful car because you can't unlock them, it's not a problem. For the same reason I think the challenges have minor variety, no more
Total Lap, Hot Lap Average, Average Speed, Medal Pursuit, Multiround Timed Run, No Championship, no Jokers..... And I'd have liked very very much to see re-implementation of the time zone / time of the day function.
IN conclusion, cutting down the "solo mode", story mode, kudos challenge or whatever you want to call it, and adding the huge multiplayer section, BC have made the game wider. Still, MSR and PGR are deeper in gameplay.
One final personal word: "I absolutely hate the AUTOSTART function!".