Project Gotham Racer 2 (PGR2) was the first games console game to feature the Nordschleife.

PGR2 works over Xbox Live, so you can drive with other Ringers - and, using a headset, speak with them too.

As I say, I'm no gamer, but I was quite astonished by the realism of the graphics. These images are just photos of my TV screen, but they give some idea:


Hocheichen


Aremburg


Metzgesfeld


Breidscheid


Karussell (the least realistic bend)


Wippermann


Pflanzgarten 1

You can choose different viewpoints, including drivers eye view and bumper-cam. These shots are of the behind-the-car view.

Although not much like the real thing, the driving experience is still pretty impressive. For example, you get things like lift-off oversteer, and although a vibration unit in the wheel isn't the same as true force-feedback, you can at least feel when the car is sliding or you're getting wheelspin. You can definitely feel the difference in handling between the different cars, and the ones I have driven in real life at least have broadly the right characteristics.

The braking is far less impressive! Or, rather, far too impressive. You can brake down from 180mph to 60mph in the blink of an eye, and you can steer and brake at the same time without drama.

The actual steering method is also very unrealistic, even with a decent steering-wheel. You can't steer smoothly, but have to essentially leave the wheel centred and then do little nudges to steer. This is my single biggest disappointment with the game.

The track itself is very faithfully reproduced, with only a few sections which seem a bit wrong to me. For example, the bend at T13 seems too gentle, and the short section between the left and right-hand flat kerbs in Wippermann seems too short.

The bend speeds are also highly unrealistic, so I was surprised not to see lots of Xbox Heroes coming a cropper at Easter last year!

There is a good selection of cars. To whet your appetite, the 'Track specials' category:

And the 'Classics' category:

If you are a gamehead, and want to win races, I suspect the standard controller is actually the best thing to use. However, if you want something that feels a little more natural, you'll want to add a steering wheel and pedal set. The one that seemed to get the best reviews is the Madcatz MC2. However, as I say, don't expect to be able to steer in a realistic fashion.

If you're a Ringer, you will also want an Xbox Live Starter Kit. This comprises a headset and 12-month subscription to Xbox Live - and is perhaps the best bit of the whole game. Armed with this, and a broadband net connection, you can race with other Ringers - and chat with them while you do!

There is some bad news. PGR2 is one of those games where you have to work your way up through the levels. So you start off with basic cars (Mini Cooper, etc) and a few tracks, and have to win races and earn 'Kudos' points to unlock better cars and tracks. The Ring is the top-level track.

The good news is that you can cheat. :-) First, if you just want to unlock the Ring, you can do so via Xbox Live. Ask a Ringer to invite you to a Live game on the Ring, and you get access for that one race. Ask them to let you win, and you get to keep the track when playing offline.

If you want to unlock all cars and tracks, you can buy a memory card and a USB reader/writer called Action Replay. Download a profile off the net, copy it onto the cartridge, stick the card in your Xbox and copy it across. Then use that profile.

Even easier, turn up at a mate's place with a card and copy their profile directly.

To access Xbox Live, you need an Ethernet broadband connection. However, you can connect wirelessly using a Wifi Bridge (also sold as a Wireless Game Adapter). This is essentially a wifi card in a box with a short Ethernet cable attached. Plug the cable into the Xbox and the bridge then talks to your wireless router.

Not all routers are compatible, and you may have to do some messing around to make it work. If you have a Netgear MR314, you can get full instructions here.

There's a smartgroup for PGR2 Ringers here. Despite the name, this list is actually for discussion of all games which feature the Nordschleife - notably also GT4 on the PS2.

 
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