Project Gotham Racing Review
Anyone who considers themselves a car fan should seriously consider adding Project Gotham Racing to their library of Xbox games.
Unless you've played Metropolis Street Racer for the Dreamcast, you probably don't know what Project Gotham Racing is about. That is, you probably think it's about racing--as its title clearly indicates--and you'd be correct...but you'd also be wrong. Project Gotham is less a racing game than it is a Tony Hawk's Pro Skater with cars instead of skateboards. While you do compete against other opponents in a number of straightforward races, the majority of Project Gotham's gameplay is based around the Kudos system, a unique feature that rewards you for pulling off combos and driving with flair--and not simply for driving fast. The Kudos system was first introduced by developer Bizarre Creations in Metropolis Street Racer, but it's been significantly revised to be more robust and more user-friendly in Project Gotham. That reason alone is enough to make this game noteworthy, but Project Gotham Racing is also notable for its generally impressive visuals, breadth of gameplay options, and sheer number of tracks and circuits.
Project Gotham Racing has three main modes of gameplay, the most important of which is the Kudos challenge. This mode is made up of 12 events, each of which includes anywhere between four and 12 objective-based challenges that are somewhat similar to Gran Turismo 3's license tests. There are nine types of these challenges, and they include style events, which require you to drive with as much flair and precision at the same time as possible; top speed challenges, wherein you try to best a posted speed record; events where you try to run as many laps around a given track as possible; and straightforward races against either a single competitor or a group of cars. Each of these challenges has a minimum number of Kudos points that are required for bronze, silver, and gold awards, and you won't be able to move on to the next set of challenges until you earn at least a bronze medal in each of the events in your current challenge. What's more, you can raise or lower the difficulty of each event before you actually jump in it to compete. For example, a high-speed challenge might award you with 750 points and the bronze for hitting 60mph, but it might require 1,000 points for a gold medal. You can raise the minimum required top speed before competing in this event, and in doing so, you'll be given a small amount of bonus points for each mph increment that you ratchet upward until you're awarded with enough bonus points to crack the 1,000 mark. Naturally, there is the risk of setting the difficulty too high, but with increased risk comes increased reward, as Kudos points are more or less the currency of Project Gotham Racing--the more Kudos points you acquire, the more cars you'll be able to unlock.
This same type of risk vs. reward setup is available before every event in this mode, including the style challenges, which are probably the heart and soul of this game. Style challenges are basically obstacle courses that require you to drive with a level of perfection that no game has forced on you before. You're given Kudos points for successfully navigating cone slaloms, powersliding, catching air, performing 360-degree spins, hopping up on two wheels, and overtaking other cars. After accomplishing any of these feats, you're awarded with a set number of Kudos points that hang in limbo for a few seconds before they get counted toward your total tally for that challenge. However, if you hit anything--a cone, a wall, or a guardrail--you'll automatically lose all the points you had in limbo. Additionally, in a design cue taken straight from extreme sports and fighting games, you can even combo several tricks together for an extra Kudos bonus.
This system of points certainly makes for an interesting driving game, and while the developers have done a good job in making it more appealing than in Metropolis Street Racer (that game actually took points away from you), it still seems more frustrating than challenging. Some of the later style challenges, for example, will force you to drive a perfect line and string as many tricks together as possible if you hope to finish with enough points to earn a gold medal. If you miss a single cone gate, or fail to string a combination of tricks together, you might as well restart the entire event. It's only logical to expect later levels to be tough, but no game should contain this level of frustration. Ultimately, none of the events in Project Gotham Racing are impossible, but they do require that you invest a good deal of time and patience.