Project Gotham Racing Review (Original XBOX)

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Poll: Project Gotham Racing: Chequered Flag or Oily Rag?

1. Spirit Of Speed
2
17%
2. An insult of the memory of MSR
0
No votes
3. I prefer Opel Astra's to Ferraris
0
No votes
4. It's not on the Dreamcast.
2
17%
5. I-scream Cones
0
No votes
6. Pretty Good Racing
2
17%
7. The Dream Lives On
1
8%
8. Microsoft does what Sega-didn't
1
8%
9. Bill Gates ate my DC!
2
17%
10. Duh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh, BATMAN!!
2
17%
Total votes: 12

rjay63
Dead House
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Project Gotham Racing Review (Original XBOX)

Post#1 » Wed Oct 07, 2020 7:01 pm

I know what you are thinking: "rjay63 hasn't posted for a while and he breaks his DC-Talk silence with a review of an OG Xbox game?!" However, being a fan of Metropolis Street Racer (MSR), it made sense to research and complete a playthrough of that game's much more successful offspring: Project Gotham Racing (PGR1). And I'm glad I did because I learned more about MSR itself and the transition period between the two games. I can also state the following with conviction: PGR1 IS NOT A REHASH OF MSR! Rather, it's a worthy successor that, unlike MSR, made good on Bizarre Creation's vision of a kudos-based racer.

Before you read this review, please take a look at my old Metropolis Street Racer review topic from way back when: https://www.dreamcast-talk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=3880

First things first: the only thing MSR and PGR1 have in common is that they share some of the same London, San Francisco and Tokyo courses. That's it....that is where the similarity ends! PGR is a very different game from MSR in terms of kudos scoring and car handling. Not surprising as PGR1 was more or less reprogrammed from scratch.


BACKGROUND

Just weeks after MSR has been released in PAL territories, Bizarre Creations announced they were working on something new under the tentative title of "Project Swingers"! As that particular name brings to mind visions of "car keys in glass bowls", they decided to change it to something a little less controversial, "Project Gotham". PGR1 was officially announced on 13 March 2001, at the XBOX "Gamestock 2001" event as an exclusive launch title for that console.

Also in March 2001, we received the sad news that Sega had officially discontinued the Dreamcast console and then later on, the Japanese release of MSR was cancelled. The latter, while unfortunate, made business sense going by MSR's poor sales in Europe/US and the fact Bizarre Creations were devoting their efforts to PGR1.


PRESENTATION / MENUS

The presentation of PGR1 is done well. Menu options are better laid out and much more user-friendly compared to MSR's cumbersome screens. The only big criticism here is that we are lacking a "view records" option; you can only see your best results at the end of each event. I miss this feature from MSR and I see no reason why it couldn't have been implemented here.


GRAPHICS

While the majority of the course assets have been brought over from MSR, there is a definite upgrade in graphical quality. Car models are much more detailed (due to higher polygon counts) and show reflections as you race. There are sunlight, water, and wind effects (leaves blowing) on each course. The new stage, New York, even has water vapour rising from its manholes! Finally the frame rate has been doubled, now running at a smooth 60fps. However, not everything is perfect. Night racing can still be too dark even though cars have more powerful headlights (compared to MSR). Also, MSR's night lighting is better when compared side by side! All in all though, PGR1 is an excellent showcase for the original XBOX's capabilities.

Incidentally this would be the only title in the MSR/PGR series to run at 60fps; all the other games were 30fps.


SOUND

The biggest sound upgrade in PGR1 is in the music and radio department. PGR1 contains "real life" radio stations (Hot 97, Capital Radio, Live 105, InterFM) with proper DJs presenting from well written scripts. We also have a licensed music soundtrack featuring hits from the 2000-2001 time period. Tracks include Gorillaz ("19-2000"), Iggy Pop ("Beat Em Up"), Timbaland & Magoo ("Roll Out") and Chemical Brothers ("Galaxy Bounce"). It's also good to hear Japanese language tracks in Tokyo! As a result the overall presentation in this area is much more professional and realistic compared to MSR; you can really feel Microsoft's influence here.

I am not an expert on car sounds (engine sounds, break, skid effects) but they do their job accordingly. They do sound more different compared to MSR though; somewhat more high pitched and "hoovery". One thing I must point out are the excellent sound effects that play when you gain kudos. There is a nice "clicky" sound when you accumulate kudos and a "swoosh" sound when they are added to your total score.

If there are criticisms to be had here, then it would down to the music selection itself. While there is a nice variety of of music genres, the majority of them do not really suit the gameplay. Granted, you could also apply this to the majority of MSR's soundtrack but at least there we had some uptempo numbers (Club Paris, Passion & Heartlands) that made you want to race and do well. Perhaps the licensing bods at Microsoft were more interested in compiling a "cool and credible" soundtrack rather than suitable driving music. However if you don't like the soundtrack, you always have the ability to rip your own tracks to the XBOX hardrive and have the DJ's "present" them before they play, which is a very nice touch.


DRIVING PHYSICS

Car handling has also been drastically overhauled and while certainly not realistic, it's a lot more complex and nuanced than the physics found in MSR. The biggest change is that cars now leave the ground on sloped sections. In MSR, certain car manufacturers had insisted their vehicles remained "grounded" but in PGR1 they relented on this, probably thanks to Microsoft's muscle. The cars also now have significant weight transfer, resulting in a lot of skidding/drifting during a turn, and this works extremely well with PGR1's overhauled kudos system. Another very important change is the way you take corners in PGR1 when compared to MSR. In MSR, you could get away with holding the break while accelerating into the turning and using the kerb to bounce off from the sides when you understeer. If you try that in PGR1, you will lock the car wheels and spin out (similar to most other racing games).

For me, car handling is the most important difference between MSR and PGR1. I personally miss MSR's unique control. Incidentally, the handling in the "DreamOn Demo" version of MSR had more in common with PGR1 than it did with the released version of MSR itself!




GAMEPLAY

A lot of reviewers at the time compared PGR1's kudos system to the scoring/combo system found in Tony Hawk titles and I can see why. Basically, PGR1 improves on MSR's kudos system in every conceivable way! The original system in MSR was flawed due to its reliance on hard powerslides to gain the best scores, plus the lack of time limits. Now you can now see how many kudos you are awarded in realtime and what feats you are awarded kudos for (powersliding, overtaking, riding on two wheels etc). You can also perform combos by pulling off feats in quick succession: expert players can even keep them going from the very start of an event to the very finish, racking up some crazy scores! Put simply, comparing the kudos system between MSR and PGR1 is likely comparing Street Fighter 1 to Street Fighter 2; it's that big an upgrade!

The main mode is, of course, the Kudos Challenge, with over 100 events to complete (divided in 13 chapters). While the same event types make their way over from MSR (Street Racer, Hot Laps, Overtake Challenge), there is a new event in the form of Style Challenges. Basically these are "slalom" events that involve driving through cone gates while racing . Cone events in racing games may not be new (I remember the Gymkhana section on Racing Jam, an old Konami coin-op from the late 90s) however they are probably the highlight of PGR1 and really compliment the new kudos system. We also have "quick race" mode that's basically a succession of street races (finish in the highest position while driving stylishly) and "arcade" mode which involve a series of Style Challenge cone events. There is also Medal Pursuit, a gloried time attack mode that awards new car colours for beating set lap times.

Each event in PGR has a kudos/lap time target for either a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal. While you must complete each event with at least a Bronze medal to succeed, more rewards can be gained if you go for a Silver or Gold medal. Unlike MSR though, you need to complete ALL the events in a chapter in order to progress to the next stage. Although I understand the reasoning behind this, it does make completing PGR1 very time consuming! Just like MSR, it's unlikely the majority of XBOX owners who bought PGR1 played it to the very end. PGR1 also seriously ramps up the difficulty in the later levels; getting a Gold (or even sometimes a Silver) medal on these sections is VERY TOUGH! Thankfully PGR1 has a quick restart option and believe me, you will need it!! Also, a much welcome addition in PGR1 is the ability to save and watch replays of your completed events. Unfortunately though, said replays are not available in Medal Pursuit or Time Attack mode.

Now let's talk about the cars themselves and it's clear that Microsoft/Bizarre Creations wanted to shift the emphasis away from conventional vehicles and towards the world of luxury sportcars. Gone are the everyday European models from Fiat, Peugeot and Renault that were found in MSR. In PGR1, we now have exotic vehicles from the likes of Ferrari, Porsche, Dodge Viper, Aston Martin and Lotus. MSR's once mighty Nissan Skyline and that game's headline car, the Opel Speedster/VX220, make a return but are now relegated to a lower tier when compared to the supercars. My only big criticisms here are the lack of fast 4WD cars (more on this later) and that the Ferrari F50 resounding trounces all the other cars in PGR1, however at least that car's not available until the latter part of the game. I should point out the cars in PGR1 can take damage, showing broken tail-lights and bent bodywork if you crash or collide with other vehicle, however damage is purely aesthetic and does not affect the driving physics.

Onto the courses now and it's safe to say that all of the London, Tokyo and San Francisco courses in PGR1 originated from MSR. Not all 262 tracks from MSR are present though; only around 150 made the journey across. The biggest change is the addition of a new city, New York. The Time Square courses are very narrow and filled with numerous sharp turns, Central Park has a long gravel surface section that makes using high speed RWD cars very challenging and Wall Street is a faster course with a mixture of chicanes, tunnels and tight corners. It wouldn't surprise me if Microsoft had a hand in choosing another American city for PGR1!

Finally I should point out that PGR1 has NO online functionality. Being a launch title, it was a little too early to be part of the XBOX LIVE collection (although this would be rectified later on with the subsequent sequels). Besides, very few people used MSR's online functions so PGR1 being completely "offline" is no big surprise.


TIME ATTACK

Unfortunately PGR1's Time Attack mode is very underwhelming compared to MSR's Time Attack/Time Trials options. For starters, they is only one record board for each course and nothing to differentiate if the best lap time was set in wet or dry conditions. There is also only one car in PGR1 you can use for the best times: the Ferrari F50. This car is just too dominant and once you unlock it in PGR1, there's no point using any other vehicle. There is also distinct lack of fast 4WD cars to offset the wild RWD handling of the F50.

However PGR's is really about the kudos system and therefore high speed racing is an afterthought! While time attacking in PGR1 can still be fun, it doesn't have the "close to the code" feel that makes MSR so special in this area.


CONCLUSION

So what are my final thoughts? Well, Project Gotham Racing 1 basically succeeded where it should have succeeded: providing a great kudos driving experience, atoning for MSR's poor sales and becoming a smash hit launch title on the XBOX's selling well over 1m copies. While MSR was the first game, Project Gotham is the name that will be remembered by most people. It was after all a huge success for Microsoft and Bizarre Creations, spawned 3 more sequels and its legacy can be seen in Microsoft's own Forza games and various other modern racers.

It's very difficult to discuss PGR1 without comparing the game to MSR, even though in reality they are two very different titles. People often state that "PGR1 was the game MSR should have been in the first place", but this is wrong: MSR was a necessary step on the road to the Project Gotham games. In an IGN Xbox interview, Bizarre Creations Martyn & Sarah Chudley confirmed why PGR1 could not have existed with MSR:

IGN Xbox: What was the number one thing you wanted to accomplish with Project Gotham that you feel didn't come through in MSR?

Martin and Sarah Chudley: I think it's probably the whole idea of the Kudos system. In our previous game (MSR), we had the idea for Kudos, but to get something like that 100% right, it needs a lot of tuning and usability testing, which just wasn't available to us then. We hoped we'd come up with something that was going to be playable, but until it got on the shelves, we'd got no idea to what extent and that's when the flaws were found. Luckily, Microsoft have an excellent and extensive playtest and usability group, which we're making the most of in order to get the Kudos system and game balance just right in Gotham [PGR1].


To the masses, MSR is probably considered nothing more than a glorified PGR tech demo. And in some ways it is. However MSR will always be special to both Dreamcast & Bizarre Creations fans (the latter closing down for good in 2011). They take pride in the game's legacy and revel in the knowledge that the MSR/PGR story started here, on Sega's magical white box!

FINAL SCORE FOR PROJECT GOTHAM RACING: 8 OUT OF 10.

8/10/2020: grammar and spelling edits, video added
Last edited by rjay63 on Thu Oct 08, 2020 4:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
My Metropolis Street Racer Blog: http://www.msrdreamcast.blogspot.co.uk
MSR ghosts/time trials and official DLC: http://www.dreamcastlive.net/metropolis ... r-dlc.html

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mistamontiel
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Re: Project Gotham Racing Review (Original XBOX)

Post#2 » Thu Oct 08, 2020 9:26 am

L0L @ P0LL

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louis012345678
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Re: Project Gotham Racing Review (Original XBOX)

Post#3 » Thu Oct 08, 2020 3:16 pm

I still can't believe PGR1 was the only game in the entire series to run at 60fps. It gave the game an entirely different feel and one that I definitely enjoyed.
I make video game remixes for original hardware using Deflemask:
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mistamontiel
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Re: Project Gotham Racing Review (Original XBOX)

Post#4 » Thu Oct 08, 2020 3:57 pm

..I thought PGR4 which I cherish most is laying down 60

PGR3 a launch title I believe? But I hate that one, they made PGR4 dead simple to kick ass n rocking effects me usually Hood+Bumper camera n shifts manually, I'd even got up to the top of the chart 1st place! n then it still throwing events+tourneys @ me lol what!?

rjay63
Dead House
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Re: Project Gotham Racing Review (Original XBOX)

Post#5 » Thu Oct 08, 2020 4:40 pm

Thanks for your replies. I've added a YT video to the above review to highlight the difference in driving physics between MSR & PGR.

Only PGR1 ran at 60fps. PGR4 was only 30fps (https://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_ ... tory=14678) I am guessing here but PGR2-PGR4 were likely scaled back to 30FPS as they were concentrating more on graphics and the online modes.

I did to speak to one of the staff involved in MSR/PGR back in the early 2010's. This was their comment on the DC/OG XBOX/XBOX360 hardware:

DC was just 200mhz with CPU moving every polygon so only a tiny fraction of that cpu is left for physics.. then 700mhz xbox with hardware TnL - much easier. then 3ghz xbox 360 'steamroller'. pgr 4 even moved physics onto spare cores. spoilt compared to the early days.
My Metropolis Street Racer Blog: http://www.msrdreamcast.blogspot.co.uk
MSR ghosts/time trials and official DLC: http://www.dreamcastlive.net/metropolis ... r-dlc.html

Dreamcastnews
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Re: Project Gotham Racing Review (Original XBOX)

Post#6 » Mon Nov 23, 2020 6:26 am

I really couldn't stand MSR, I found the tight roads and corners with an almost standstill crash system a real bine. I did absolutely love PGR (mainly the second one for XBL). Something about it just really stood head and shoulders above any other racer at the time.

The pinnacle for me was the 3rd one on the 360, having that at launch blew my mind, it looked amazing and the handling was dead on.

Moving back to MSR, I remember the statement that Bizarre tried to convince Sega to release MSR for the PS2 with some shite about limiting the audience by keeping it on the DC in perhaps a very unflattering nature, perhaps part funding it made them a little salty when Sega refused. Anyway, I had heard so many good things about MSR and when I played it, I really found myself having more fun out of things like Speed Devils and Vanishing Point. In my own view, I feel the Dreamcast didn't really do great looking racing games that well compared to the Xbox and even the PS2, I know there are power differences but even early era budget racers on PS2 seem to look and perform better than the DC's opus.
https://youtu.be/XcyBq8vZ3Yg <----- Dreamcast gameplay videos

rjay63
Dead House
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Re: Project Gotham Racing Review (Original XBOX)

Post#7 » Sat Nov 28, 2020 5:05 pm

Dreamcastnews:

In hindsight, it probably was a blessing in disguise that Sega declined to release MSR on the PS2. It would have been completely eclipsed by the forthcoming Gran Turismo 3 (released in April/July 2001) and would have struggled to make good sales. Having lots of other PS2 racers as competition wouldn't have helped either.

By teaming up with MS, Bizarre had a clear run on the original XBOX and as a result, PGR1 remained the best selling title out of all the MSR/PGR games! PGR1/2 also eclipsed Sega's own "Sega GT" franchise that they brought to the original XBOX (the original game was on the DC/PC).
My Metropolis Street Racer Blog: http://www.msrdreamcast.blogspot.co.uk
MSR ghosts/time trials and official DLC: http://www.dreamcastlive.net/metropolis ... r-dlc.html

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Greg2600
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Re: Project Gotham Racing Review (Original XBOX)

Post#8 » Sat Nov 28, 2020 10:16 pm

Dreamcastnews wrote:I really couldn't stand MSR, I found the tight roads and corners with an almost standstill crash system a real bine. I did absolutely love PGR (mainly the second one for XBL). Something about it just really stood head and shoulders above any other racer at the time.

The pinnacle for me was the 3rd one on the 360, having that at launch blew my mind, it looked amazing and the handling was dead on.

Moving back to MSR, I remember the statement that Bizarre tried to convince Sega to release MSR for the PS2 with some shite about limiting the audience by keeping it on the DC in perhaps a very unflattering nature, perhaps part funding it made them a little salty when Sega refused. Anyway, I had heard so many good things about MSR and when I played it, I really found myself having more fun out of things like Speed Devils and Vanishing Point. In my own view, I feel the Dreamcast didn't really do great looking racing games that well compared to the Xbox and even the PS2, I know there are power differences but even early era budget racers on PS2 seem to look and perform better than the DC's opus.


PGR legit sold the Xbox for me. That was an absolutely stunning game, and while it was difficult, the control was excellent. Best console racing game I'd played in years. PGR 2 was just a great, with online play that was a ton of fun. At the time I wasn't even aware of MSR, nor that it was the precursor to PGR. So I picked a copy up, and my gosh was it horrible!!! The Dreamcast in general is maybe the worst racing sim-style console of that and subsequent generations. The controller combined with putrid deadzones and bad steering on nearly ever game I've tried.

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louis012345678
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Re: Project Gotham Racing Review (Original XBOX)

Post#9 » Sun Nov 29, 2020 5:37 am

I'll be honest, I absolutely hated MSR when I first bought it. It was only after coming back to it a year later that I really understood that you couldn't play it like a normal game and you had to 'play by their rules' so to speak. After that I really enjoyed it and I still find myself ticking off events every now and then since there are A LOT to get through (250)...
I make video game remixes for original hardware using Deflemask:
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http://www.youtube.com/c/louistheseganerd

sunnshine
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Re: Project Gotham Racing Review (Original XBOX)

Post#10 » Mon Nov 30, 2020 3:42 am

Thanks for taking the time to write that review. I'm glad it's not just me that has issues with MSR (and DC racers in general- spoiled by 360 racers I suppose!). I'll give PGR1 a go now though.

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