When the Xbox launched around the world in the early 2000s it had a tough prospect ahead of itself – it had to take on the all powerful PS2 and beat Nintendo, who were still a dominant force at the time. There was only one way to head into battle with these two powers and that came via exclusive games. Project Gotham Racing was about to help the Xbox gain some valuable ground.
Quick History Lesson
Though Project Gotham Racing was the first game in the series, it was actually in reality the third game. Metropolis Street Racer, which originally launched on the SEGA Dreamcast, was where the series really gave birth to the various concepts that shined in the Project Gotham games. After the failure of the SEGA Dreamcast Bizarre Creations went looking for a new home for their racer and found it exclusively on the Xbox.
The Kudos system was something new to gamers. Instead of just coming first in a race or beating a time trial you had to match a certain amount of kudos in any event. What are kudos you might ask? Think of it as “windgat” points. Every time you pass a car, powerslide around a corner, get the car airborne or do anything that takes some sort of risk while driving around a track you’ll be awarded points. As a result of this you’re not just racing from point A to B, but you’re doing it in style. You’ll know very well where your handbrake button is as it’s required to push the score to the limit.
How much kudos should you give it?
By standards set today, and kudos being old news, it’s not quite the pretty picture today that it was back in 2002. The number of cars and tracks are very limited with there only being 29 cars on offer, and even less tracks. The tracks are very uninspired and you’ll find yourself racing in real cities around the world made up of fictional tracks. New York has long straights with hairpin corners, while San Francisco has 90 degree corners and serious hills to navigate. It’s really just a little boring and uninteresting when compared to anything that’s out on the market today.
There are enough modes to keep you going for a while that include quick races (normal race against rivals), arcade races (you against the clock in a time trial) and Kudos Challenge. Kudos Challenge is basically the career mode, but before entering this you’ll want to play the race and arcade modes to earn some faster cars. Complete 4 events by earning gold for each event and you’ll be rewarded with a car. It’s these bonus cars that make the Kudos Challenge mode that much more tolerable.
Once you enter the Kudos Mode you’ll have some serious challenges heading you way. It involves races, time trials, head-to-head, cone challenges and overtake challenges. The cone challenges, at first, feels like something fresh and interesting, but after two or three completed challenges it gets a bit long in the tooth and you’ll wish it was excluded. Unfortunately you have to achieve a bronze medal, at the very least, if you wish to open up the next challenge and earn yourself a new vehicle. This brings me to the vehicles – it’s not aged well at all.
This is where it powerslides out of control
Graphically it’s not all that bad, it’s definitely not great, but the vehicles handling feels very, very outdated. It’s got a mixture between simulation and arcade, which was still in its infancy at the time. Brake into a corner and you’ll hit the perfect corner… do it the next lap and you’ll spin out. It feels like the handling is honestly all over the show. You also can’t, for whatever reason, work on the setup of any car – so you have to drive the stock cars you are given. Once you earn the more powerful cars you’ll feel like it’s all a little more manageable, but it’s really a struggle early on to squeeze the fun out of this metal-shaped rock. Te good news is that the multiplayer supports offline multiplayer as there was no online console gaming at the time it launched, and it’s here where it’s still actually quite good as it’ll allow up to 4 players to play at the same time and the frame rate is actually quite good thanks the power under the hood of the Xbox.
Project Gotham Racing was once the pinnacle of racing games on the Xbox. It launched in a pre-Forza era where arcade racers ruled the earth. It was a good time, but times have moved on and the rust is starting to show. It’s still an enjoyable racer if you have patience, but don’t expect this old classic to score all the kudos it once did when you fire it up today.