Mira Levitan
Still cooler than “2 Fast 2 Furious” … and Paul Walker sucks. (Courtesy of Microsoft)

While ‘Mario Kart Double Dash’ might have been the best racing game to come out over the holiday season, ‘Project Gotham Racing 2’ ran a close second. The sequel to one of the games that made the XBox launch successful, ‘Gotham 2’ is a welcome addition to the series for fans of the original, supporters of the genre and especially car enthusiasts, as the game owes part of its success to its ultra life-like representations of real-world cars. From the Ford Focus to the Enzo Ferrari and everything in between, ‘Gotham 2’ gives its players a wide range of automotive selections.

Gameplay is fairly straight-forward: Go fast, race, win. However, with the unique ‘Kudos’ system, rewards are given to players for stylish driving, giving ‘Gotham 2’ more depth than the typical racing game. Fans of the first ‘Gotham’ will remember power sliding and other moves to earn ‘Kudos,’ but Microsoft has made some worthwhile additions to the trick list. Now players can also earn ‘Kudos’ by drafting, following closely to reduce wind resistance and using other realistic race strategies.

The wonderfully rendered vehicles would look out of place were it not for the spectacularly constructed environments. The ‘Gotham’ team scoured the globe in search of suitable areas, finally deciding on 10 cities including Sydney, Hong Kong and Moscow. Each of these locales was rendered in the utmost detail, including signature landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House. Gamers speed through these cities while listening to a soundtrack featuring current artists such as Trapt, Simple Plan and the Flaming Lips. One notable omission, however, is New York, featured prominently in the first game but left out of this sequel.

With the introduction of ‘Gotham 2,’ the series without a doubt the best racing games available on XBox. No other franchise of games affords the player as many lifelike cars in such a well-rendered environment. Of course, a couple of blue turtle shells wouldn”t be so bad either.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

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