Project Gotham Racing is like a slick version of Dreamcast's Metropolis Street Racer - and that's probably because that's exactly what it is. Bizarre Creations have taken the mould from MSR, and refined it to make a much more enjoyable Xbox offering.
It might seem at first that there's not much new for gamers who owned MSR on the Dreamcast, other than a host of new cars, including the new Mini, and VW Beetle, along with more souped up power horses like Porches and the Ferrari F50. Bizarre Creations have included a whole new city, in the form of New York, with it's towering skyscrapers, bumpy roads with steam coming out of the vents, and Central Park providing new and exciting driving experiences.
Unlike MSR, it seems much easier to get further in to Project Gotham, although it does get tough very quickly, and it seems likely that you'll either need to practice lots to get better, or simply give up saying it's too difficult. There are, though, aspects which make the game easier and much more enjoyable, such as the arcade mode which allows you to start scoring kudos points fairly quickly, and you can earn extra features from simply driving certain distances in the game, the amount of time you've been playing for, and a number of other milestones that you reach as you progress further.
The idea of racing in Project Gotham is to drive with style, and each time you do so you get rewarded Kudos points - linking a number of stylish driving manoeuvres together, such as a slide around a corner, overtaking a car, and then taking a corner on two wheels, will reward you with huge Kudos points. Except of course, they go to waste if on the next sharp bend you slam in to the crash barrier, and you will, all too often.
It's after these metal buckling crunches that you'll notice the damage system which the cars have. It's meant to show crumples caused by hitting in to other vehicles and track side objects, including such things as wing mirrors getting knocked off, lights getting broken, and body panels bent in. Trouble is, it's all too un-realistic, with the car still gleaming as though it was in a showroom, with the radiator grill and light clusters not falling off - they just squash in, taking the shape of the deformation.
PGR features real radio stations, including Capital FM and XFM in London, and this is one of the most impressive features of the game, meaning that you can race around London with Capital FM blaring out of the speakers - it's just a shame that the volume is very quiet by default, and to hear it you'll have to change the audio levels in the options.
Artists including Stero MC's, Gorillaz and The Chemical Brothers have all provided tracks to make the music more enjoyable, and if they're not your taste you can include tracks from the Xbox's hard drive that have been ripped from your CD collection. Despite the real radio stations, and use of real groups for the music, radio commercials seem to have been dropped, so unlike in MSR which had commercials for The Sports Cafe, and Diet Tango. In Project Gotham, you're living in an strangely advert free world.
Gameplay seems to suffer from slowdown when viewed from behind the car, and with three or more people playing in multiplayer mode, it all gets positively pedestrian. The multiplayer racing is also quite disappointing as your viewpoint is pretty much restricted to bumper-cam, as the behind car view is like driving close up to the back of a lorry, and not being able to see what's approaching.
Road surfaces are well represented, with the bumps of tram tracks in San Francisco, patched up roads of New York, and the gravel roadways through St James's park in London all standing out as being particularly good. However all this realism isn't much good if there's no people, and no non-racing cars driving around, and sadly PGR's lacking both - if you're going to have street racing, you should have other vehicles going about their normal business, much as you have in Burnout.
Project Gotham Racing is a fantastic racer, and much more accessible than MSR was on the Dreamcast, but still lacking in a few very important features and a certain special touch that would have made the whole game more special - possibly if there were people, non-racing vehicles on the roads, and commercials on the radio, along with a number of tweaks made, it'd be nearly perfect. Until then though, it's not.
Not as good as the stunning RalliSport Challenge, although PGR provides hours of thrilling gameplay, and slick presentation mixed with realistic scenery makes driving around PGR's four lifelike cities a real pleasure - if you can put up with the difficulty.Overall score: 8 out of 10
Recommended Price: £44.99
Available: NowBuy Project Gotham Racing from Amazon