Project Gotham Racing on the Xbox as a launch title quickly became one of the systems must have games in the first few weeks of its lifespan. Two years later we have its sequel, one of the most anticipated games of 2003 and Microsoft have left no stone unturned, this truly is one of the greatest racing games to ever be released for a console.
Project Gotham Racing 2 consists of three primary game modes; Kudos World Championship, Arcade and Time Trial. These modes are all quite different and offer varied challenges to the player. In the Arcade mode you are given a car, a track and a task. You have no control over what is allotted to you and from there you must complete the task. Time trial is self explanatory and the aim is to beat your best time on the track.
The area where you will spend most of your racing time with Project Gotham Racing 2 is the Kudos World Championship. This takes you to every corner of the globe as you try to become the worlds best kudos racer. Some of the tasks include racing through cones to build up points, winning street races and completing laps in a set amount of time. Each task has various difficulty levels to select. The harder the task, the more Kudos you are rewarded after successfully completing it. This Kudos helps you buy new cars. The Kudos world championship is made up of fourteen championships and for those of you who aren't huge racing game fans, it can become repetitive after a while.
Kudos, for those who haven't played the original game, is points rewarded to you for skillful driving. It has changed since the original game and is now more forgiving. You receive Kudos for overtaking, power slides and much more. As your Kudos builds up in the single player game you will reach milestones and your Kudos rank will rise. When this happens you are given Kudos tokens, the number of which depends on your new rank. These tokens are used to buy new cars.
In Project Gotham Racing 2 you can access twenty nine different cars at first from a variety of categories. The categories range from sports coupe, to grand touring right through to ultimate. Obviously the more powerful cars cost more tokens. You can't use the locked cars on Xbox Live until you have bought them in the single player which should encourage players to play through the single player to build up their garage full of cars. To see if you like a car, you can try before you buy and take it for a spin on the test track. The cars range from Mini's to Skyline GTR's up to Saleens and Ford GT40s.
Each of the cars featured has unique physics, handling and damage. The physics of the game feel much more of a simulation style then the first one but still keeps the pick up and play arcade gameplay. The damage has also been completely overhauled since Project Gotham Racing and you can put some serious dents into these exotic machines. Dents will appear in cars after a big collision, lights will smash and various other damage. The damage model is quite accurate, hit a wall at speed and expect quite a bit of damage, hit a wall slowly and expect little. Between races you don't have to repair this damage it is automatically performed and the damage is cosmetic and does not affect the handling or power of the car. The cars come from manufacturers such as Mitsubishi, Subaru, Porsche etc.
One great thing about Project Gotham Racing 2 is you can choose which cars you want to buy. This can have you playing for hours wanting to get enough tokens just for that next car. There is no forced progression and if you want to save up all your tokens and buy one of the most powerful cars in the game first off then you can. Racing against the AI can be challenging at times as they will take risky moves and sometimes cause some crashes amongst themselves.
As not everyone buys the same cars this creates some interesting variables online. Some cars are more powerful in a straight line speed then others whilst many handle better. The racing in Project Gotham Racing 2 is close and can sometimes end up in some massive pile ups around tight corners. The tracks featured have a wide variety of styles. Some feature really wide tracks, whilst others feature thin roads with tight turns. The sense of speed is also great with the faster cars much harder to control at first.
Project Gotham Racing 2 features a number of real world cities such as Moscow, Washington D.C. and Sydney. Each has been painstakingly recreated from their actual locations. Sydney has the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and The Rocks. Washington has Capitol Hill and Moscow has the Kremlin. This is just a small selection of the cities, others include Stockholm, Barcelona and Florence. The draw distance featured with these cities is astonishing. You can be driving around and see the entire track, including environmental objects ahead of you.
Project Gotham Racing 2 is one of the most aesthetically pleasing games on the Xbox. The car models are accurate to the nth degree, the cities are huge and look accurate and the frame rate remains rock solid even with numerous cars on the screen. Weather can also play havoc with the race and racing in rain does cause cars to slip and slide much more. You can also race in both day and night. Soundwise the game features a great soundtrack with some licensed music and each city features real world radio stations just like the original game.
Project Gotham Racing 2 features a major live component, so much so it has its own kudos section. When racing online you have a Kudos rank as well and gaining Kudos by playing the game online helps you improve this rank. The racing is smooth and this should be one of the most popular games on Xbox Live.
Project Gotham Racing 2 is everything you would want in a sequel to the original. More cars, more tracks and more cities plus online play. If you loved the original go out and buy this now, if you have Xbox Live you really should have this near the top of your buy list and if you're just a casual gamer you should still be able to find something to like about Project Gotham Racing 2.