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Hindsight : Project Gotham Racing 2

Cart: Project Gotham Racing 2
Cab: Xbox
Coin: Bizzare Creations

Assuming that you’ve been in love with someone (discounting yourself) at least once or twice before, I’d like you to cast your mind back to that first romance…

Hold that thought.

Now if you’re as old as I am, you’re probably in the wholesome position of being able to relive that memory with fondness, not bitterness or regret. If it’s a more recent affair you’re probably still fooling yourself that you’re better off alone. Wake-up, punk: there’s only two ways to grow old and they’re a) ‘tolerant’ or b) ‘lonely’. Either way, time can be a wonderful healer but the thing with this particular situation is that I’m reliving something that was so consuming, so pervasive, so much a part of my DNA that even today it’s a memory tainted. But I’m a man. And one that’s willing to face his fears. The biggest fear being that there won’t be any more thrills out there. That there won’t be another game that ever rams my heart in my throat like Project Gotham Racing 2 once did.

This is the bit where I remind you about the game, yes? This is the part where I lay down calmly on your expensive, leather couch and discuss my father and friends and pretend that your stupid Rorschach tests don’t remind me of darkest sins? Well to hell with that: IT’S A DRIVING GAME, ALL RIGHT!? YOU STOP, GO AND STEER. WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW GOD DAMN YOU!?

I’m Sorry. I’m feeling much better now. Let’s resume.

The thing is that I got too close to something that can’t love me back. After hundreds of hours of emotional investment you eventually become consumed by what were once seemingly minor faults. You fall out of love. In years to come, I’ll be in the wholesome position of being able to look back with fondness, not bitterness or regret.

Or even, anger?

If driving at speed is the original sin and video games are the devil incarnate, why is it that almost every single virtual driving experience out there misses the point of this perfect marriage like two industrial magnets being forced together? Simplistic mechanics are an insult to the driving experience. Over complicated ones fall flat on their lifeless faces because they try too hard to base themselves on a world that is defined by gravity, friction and inertia, which are (the last time I checked) things my rumble pack and couch simply can’t mimic.

Sitting perfectly between these two paradigms is PGR2: the most ‘realistic-fun’ you’re ever going to have within the currently accepted wisdom of what a console is and of how it should be interacted with. Yes, PGR3&4 offered more of the same and were criticised as such, but so what? Just like dwelling on that love that you once lost, you’ll be more than happy to slip back into something that feels like a home amidst a world of hostile inconsistencies.

PGR2 allows you (still, to this very day) to do the things that you’ve always longed to do in a car. A real car on real roads. You’re not going to jump gaps, pimp your ride, fire rockets, adjust your gear ratio or do anything else for that matter that’s superfluous to the pure exhilaration of speed. On the subject of which: if you’re not driving on the lowest bumper-cam then you’re stuck in neutral, kiddo. Feel the road: you know it wants it.

In PGR2 you’re going to take a car that you truly admire for being what it was when it left the production line. You’re going to race it on tracks that feel beautifully imperfect. You’re going to fly through cities that feel gritty and alive. You’re going to have to feather the throttle and brake like a madman possessed. You’re going to have to learn the increasingly complex courses to the point where you don’t THINK about what’s coming next, you just feel it. You’re going to have to handle a fishtail at over 100mph whilst fighting off opponents that scream bitterly down your headset at the quality of your defensive driving. You’re going to feel as exhilarated as any driver ever has done in the history of mankind and you’ll have enough adrenaline pumping through your system to stop a charging Veyron dead in its tracks.

And I’m still better off without it.

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Husband. Parent. Gamer. Go figure.

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  1. I absolutely loved Metropolis Street Racer on the Dreamcast, the Project Gotham games were great sequels

  2. I really liked MSR on the Dreamcast, but I didn’t play PGR until I got PGR 4. (I did own 3 but it would only display as squashed on the 4:3 monitor I was using at the time!)
    PGR 4 was great fun though.

  3. PGR3&4 were good but neither captured the heart of 2 IMHO. The biggest flaw in 3&4 was track design. There were (later in the game) some remarkable courses in PGR2. Many were variants of previous tracks which may sound lazy but in reality it meant that by that point you’d unlocked insanely fast cars and were flying round courses half on instinct and half on experience. A complete joy. And to beat every challenge on Platinum difficulty was a challenge from the gods. Stunning game.

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