Beyond all that, though, this is just a great-looking game. Then again, even when the game was at its most punishing and frustrating, I always picked the pad up from where I'd hurled it, safe in the knowledge that I could still make progress, and fuelled by a desire to play with the next series of vehicles. The actual challenges include Street Race, a straightforward race against a handful of opponents; Speed Camera, where you must reach a certain speed by finding the perfect line around a corner then accelerating away; Overtake and One on One, both self explanatory, and the superbly deep Cone challenge. And frankly, more people will be impressed with this photo-realistic level of detail than will notice any relatively nerdy frame rate bullshit. Even the Japanese should love it. Every surface, landmark and detail is completely authentic. The 102 cars have been faithfully recreated, and whilst we have yet to get behind the wheel of a real Enzo Ferrari or Koenigsegg, every vehicle handles convincingly.
And in terms of the single-player modes, Kudos is the key to progression. So, essentially, you can pretty easily unlock all of the events though it'll still take you a while on the novice setting. In our numerous online sessions, we experienced smooth gameplay regardless of how many racers we were up against. It's hard to resist the perspectives from which you can see the beautiful car model for the vehicle you happen to be driving, but you do get a better sensation of speed from the first-person view, and the mirrors give you a competitive advantage. Of course, new techniques will have to mastered to earn additional Kudos, and the ranking system has been redesigned to better reflect a player's true racing ability.
Two years after Project Gotham Racing set the standard for Xbox driving games, Microsoft and Bizarre Creations present Project Gotham Racing 2, an impressive overhaul of the original that adds more cars, features more racing venues, and offers the ability to play online against up to seven other players. Furthermore, if you can do several stylish things in a row without more than a couple of seconds elapsing between them, then the game strings your points totals together in combo - accumulating multipliers and ringing up bonuses for your efforts. One thing we didn't see much of in the preview build we had since September was different weather effects and times of day, and let me tell you, this final code makes the preview version look relatively bland. You'll still have to handle the car like a pro if you want to even think about competing in the Hard and Expert level challenges - which means hardcore, brake-pumping, gas-teasing, powersliding, slip-streaming, counter-steering, wheel-wrestling, top-speed-reaching, eye-bleeding focus of justice. Not much happens when you collide with a rail or with another car, anyhow. Instead, you'll be awarded kudos exclusively based on your best run on a given track. The total Kudos you earn is totalled up as you progress from series to series, and every ten thousand points or so you'll receive some kudos tokens to purchase locked cars in each series.
By going down this route, the game actually loses some of its finely poised balance. Oddly enough, it happened during a single-player game of Project Gotham Racing 2. Having spent countless hours in the company of Project Gotham Racing 2, I'm hardly surprised. Live integration runs right throughout the game. Although before the game was roundly accused of being too hard on occasion, this time it doesn't block progress quite so angrily when you skip over the tougher tasks. As mentioned, the cars themselves are uniformly beautiful. In practice, the powerslide is how you'll earn most of your points in a race, and the kudos system is a tried-and-true and fun way of rewarding you for pulling off the types of moves that would be entertaining no matter what--though they could possibly be detrimental to your race position.
Barcelona is beautiful and radiant with lots of palm trees and a hazy sunset. Earning lots of kudos tokens is a gradual process, so it's fortunate that you can test-drive that new car you have your eye on prior to spending the tokens to unlock it. For the most part, they race along the ideal line through each circuit and will run into you if you attempt to bar them from that line. Although the damage model is still largely superficial - though much crinklier on the bodywork than the first game - even the fastest car off the blocks is going to surrender a lead behaving like that. Although I've only been to Edinburgh of all the locations in the game, driving along Prince's Street and down some of the old alleys, then up into the hills was just amazingly lifelike - in fact I'd swear one of the routes is pretty close to the tour bus I went on last summer. Not that it matters particularly, as you can easily put your own music on instead by copying it to your Xbox hard disk.
Another cool bonus is that you can download ghosts of the top racers on Xbox Live to see if you can compete against their best times. It's a wonder why the music defaults to being relatively quiet. After three seconds pass with no new points, the combo ends. Nevertheless, there's definitely some real depth to the racing. Some feature numerous hairpin turns, thus requiring continuous skillful cornering, while others sport long straightaways where top speed rules. Now there's a brand-new set of venues spread across more than 10 cities, including Stockholm, Moscow, Hong Kong, Barcelona, Sydney, and Yokohama. Version Xbox Developer Bizarre Creations Publisher Microsoft Genre Racing By Microsoft wasted little time in signing up developer Bizarre Creations for an Xbox version of Dreamcast's Metropolis Street Racer.
The basic structure of its predecessor remains intact, meaning players will compete for Kudos points by demonstrating a number of skills while racing. The Cone challenges offer an astonishing level of depth. Though you have a separate kudos ranking when you're playing offline versus online, fortunately, regardless of whether you rank up online or off, the kudos tokens you earn go into the same pool, thus providing you access to more cars. The Japanese should love it. Your Kudos ranking increases at a fair enough rate on the strength of just Silver medals, meaning enough Kudos tokens to unlock the best car in any class pretty much as soon as you get there.
The lighting is incredible, and when the sun is low and in front of you, the shadows of the car's own seats can be seen on the back of the car, looking completely perfect. Wait, isn't that an oxymoron? This system rewards you for racing with style and grants you an increased number of points the more often and the better you slide around corners and perform other such maneuvers. It's an interesting dynamic, which reeled us in with the original Gotham and continues to do so here. This staggeringly difficulty Expert level - although pretty inconsistent some challenges are easier to complete on Expert than a Cone challenge - is testament to the game's depth and the resultant single player replay value. Bear in mind, however, that you'll be scoring a minimum number of kudos as you do so, thus limiting your ability to unlock new cars. Kudos for trying Ah yes, Kudos. Sitting there at the bottom of my friends list was a request from Kristan to join him in a race - and all I had to do to switch from the cosy perfectionist pursuits of the single-player game to the heat of a six-player race over broadband was hit the A button.