Project Gotham Racing 3
Project Gotham Racing 3 is without a doubt one of the XBox360 launch games for which the expectations are tremendously high. The illustrious predecessor PGR2 brought a ton of racing fun but also showed what XBox Live! was capable of. Whether the successor is equally good and whether it launches a new generation of gaming, you can read below
What you immediately notice during the first laps on the circuits is that Bizarre Creations did some changes to some of the groundholders of the game. There’s no dividing into classes of the cars, you get a lot less vehicles and forget about driving with your own car. Or it would be that your garage contains a Ferrari, TVR, Lambor Murcielago, Saleen S7 or a Shelby GT-500. Let it be clear that the quality and exclusivity of the cars hasn’t suffered but you won’t find a Renault Clio anymore in your – beautifully looking – garages.
Also extraordinary is that all cars (except for a couple you need to unlock) can be bought from the beginning as long as you’ve got enough credits. These you can earn by racing in the career mode (solo and online) and just like in PGR2 you can change the difficulty setting in each race to earn more money and upgrade your medals from tin to platinum.
Before we go deeper into the gameplay, I first want to talk about the graphics. Whether we like it or not, a lot of gamers still find this the most important part of a game. The expectations for PGR3 and the Xbox360 were sky-high when it comes to visuals and although Bizarre Creations up to now hasn’t succeeded in making a huge leap forward compared to the best PC’s you will be shouting small cries of astonishment! The cars look extremely fine, the colors splash from your screen and the lighting effects reflect everything and more. Unfortunately, they do look a bit toy-ish, something we get to see more in racing games and which the makers also here didn’t manage to avoid.
But in the end it aren’t the impressive models that will make your jaws fall on the ground: the combination of the beautiful surroundings and the in-car view will take care of that. New York, Tokyo, Parijs, Londen, the Nürburgring (13 km long!)… everything gets put on your screen immensely detailed, with truly amasing lighting effects (drive out of a tunnel and the reflections of the sun on the road will blind you for a moment), audience in 3D that backs up when you crash against the walls, and a feeling of speed that is just unmatched!
And that feeling of speed comes to its rights when taking the view from inside the car. You are pushed into the seats of the car by the wonderful and perfectly recreated interiors, including speed meters, working mirrors, hands and feet that push the throttle and a front window like we’ve never seen one before. On top of that your head will be shaken from left to right when going into a curve at high speed, your car will shake like a can when you let the engine roar and the whole thing will start bouncing when the road isn’t flat. Fantastic is the fact that each car looks unique, the wheel is in the middle, left or right depending the real version, and the dirt will be stashing itself on your window. Breathtaking and only for the adrenaline-rising experience (and you may call this an experience) of this in-car view you should try this game already.
Do take into consideration that we tested this game on a widescreen HDTV and that what you get to see on a normal or smaller TV is also impressive, but does loose a bit of its glory.
To continue on the way how you get sucked into the car by the game; the sound (in Dolby 5.1) is of unheard quality. The soundtrack consists out of very diverse tracks (from hiphop to rock, techno and pop) but especially the addition of some classical pieces of music is a shot in the bullseye. Put one of those on and the racing will get an extra dimension. This you get, however, mostly due to the effects; each car roars like a monster or cries like a cat with rabies (is this possible?), your tires squeek when taking a corner too fast and you hear your engine pulling your chassis when you put your pedal to the metal. Put on your subwoofer and surround system, turn up the volume, your neighbours will immediately run out of their house. Without a doubt the most impressive and authentic roaring in a race game ever!
Now we know how the game looks and sounds we can return to the gameplay itself. In comparison with PGR2 little is changed. Normal races, speeding between cones, getting flashed at a certain speed, elimination races and time contests, they’re all back with here and there some nice additions. Also back is the Kudos point system, something I personally liked less about PGR2. It not only obliges you to drive faster, but also to show off along the way. This time, however, it’s a bit easier to get Kudos; hanging in the slipstream of your opponent, drifting, passing over and doing other cool stuff all get you points.
The controls are a bit tighter and more fun to play with than in PGR2. The cars look more realistic again, seem to get a real weight and more energy, which reminds me of Forza and GT. In comparison with those simulations, PGR3 of course remains a more arcade game with easy controls, geen real consequences to a crash (the damage model could have been improved) and a difficulty level that will also appeal to beginners. The makers have found a nice balance between realistic cars and physics and an accessible gameplay, combined with an A.I. that never bothers, but never surprises either.
Only with the challenges where Kudos is necessary; the highest medals are somethimes very hard or almost impossible to obtain. Also changed is the amount of races available in singleplayer: this is a lot shorter than I had expected and if your satisfied with bronze of silver medals you’ll finish it in about a day or two. Luckily, most gamers have an obsession where they want to get all Platinum medals, break records or just get all achievements to add to your brand new Xbox Live Gamertag.
But no need to worry, for those that still find that too little, there’s a lot of candy left. On Xbox Live you can start an online career where you get face to face with living opponents through an automatic system. The idea here is to constantly improve your ranking and for those who find this “macho-i-want-to-be-the-best” behaviour quite infantile there are of course a handful other possibilities to finish seperate races against online opponents (street race, elimination and some quite original team races). There wasn’t an overload of player yet but what I could try out went very smooth and with the new Gamerzones and feedback possibilities the renewed Xbox Live should offer even more fun to everyone’s likings.
Finally I have to add that there have been quite a number of ohter additions. There’s Gotham TV where you can check out replays of people all over the world or see what your friends or the best online players are doing. There’s also a photo-mode, you can adjust the tracks to your likings (by changing the track and alter start and finish), the many statistics and possibility to walk through your garages to check out the cars there or play Geometry Wars on an arcade.
Project Gotham Racing 3 for the Xbox360 is here and we will have known it. The feeling of speed and the level of empathy with the in-car view creates an adrenaline rush and is unseen, the visuals, surroundings and cars in high definition are to lick your fingers and the sound is simply realistically raw. Too bad the solo-mode is a bit too short – something people without Xbox Live will be disappointed about – and are the loading times just a bit too long to talk about a true racing revolution. Nonetheless this game is very promising for what will be possible in the future on the Xbox360 and a must-have if you like racing games and are planning to buy Microsoft’s next-gen console.