Platform: XBox Original
I got Project Gotham Racing (PGR from here on out) when I got the XBox original on launch day. I loved this game from the second I put it in the drive (pun intended). The graphics are amazing and still hold up well today. It was the first game that I played that allowed you to integrate your own soundtrack from the XBox’s hard drive into the game. It handles that brilliantly – there’s a DJ on the radio and he talks between your songs, just like the radio.
I wasn’t much of a fan of racing games before this one. I played a few of them over the years including RC Pro Am, Super Cars and Need For Speed. But this game was/still is special. You don’t just drive to win in this game. Now, if you want to, there is a mode for that. However, that is a tiny fraction of what you can do. The game is divided into cities – New York, London, Tokyo, San Francisco, etc. In each city there are different tracks and challenges that you need to pass to get better cars and progress through the game. My favorite car was the Nissan GTR Skyline (superb handling). Those challenges include time trials, overtake challenges, total laps and more. But the heart of this game is kudos.
You get kudos by driving with style. Anyone can slam into other cars and walls to win. This game rewards you for finesse. You get points and combo streaks for things like clean sections, drifting around corners, getting air, driving on two wheels, passing cars (without hitting them) and a lot more! If you hit something, your streak is over and you don’t get the kudos. Let me repeat this – you are rewarded in this racing game for using your breaks once in a while. Once you get good at it, notice how your hands react to the course and how fluid you are with the game. I love this game so much that it regularly finds itself in my XBox 360 drive (thank goodness for backwards compatibility).
Even if you don’t typically like racing games, I would recommend trying this one. It’s very different from all other racers and I haven’t been able to find one like it since (except PGR 2, 3 and 4, which are all solid games).