Project Gotham Racing 3 Review

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Project Gotham Racing is a unique series because of its focus on driving well. It all started with Metropolis Street Racer and just expanded from there. As the game puts it, “It’s not about how fast you drive. It’s about how you drive fast.” That what’s conveyed to the player in Metropolis and it can apply to each Project Gotham Racing title as well. Developed by Bizarre Creations and published by Microsoft Game Studios, Project Gotham Racing 3 was a launch title released for Xbox 360 in November, 2005. I have read some articles that stated the developers rushed the game. Apparently, they ran out of time getting it ready for the Xbox 360 launch.

Like its predecessors, Project Gotham Racing 3 is a racing game that encourages you to drive fast, carefully, and with style. You accumulate Kudos by driving well and not crashing into walls or barriers. Kudos is the game’s way of measuring your performance or style. You can rack up combos and a combo is lost when you crash. PGR 3 continues the series tradition of blending arcade with simulation style racing to make for a unique and addictive driving gameplay experience. The game comes with a roster of eighty licensed vehicles and each one handles differently and they are split up into different classes.

Right off the bat I want to say PGR 3 looks better, sounds better, and plays better than its predecessors. Each car feels different and during gameplay, you can switch the camera to a behind-the-wheel perspective which makes for quite an immersive experience. However, the game is lacking certain things that were either present in the previous titles or are just simply odd omissions which may or may not be the result of the game being rushed out the door. Most of my gripes didn’t hinder the experience but did leave me wondering why. Why can’t I customize my license plate? Why can I see basic car stats like acceleration, grip, drifting, and braking when buying a car but not when viewing the cars in my garages?

Another thing I think is odd is the selection of vehicles. There isn’t as many vehicles to drive as there was in Project Gotham Racing 2. It’s kind of disappointing but that’s not the odd thing. What I think is odd is that there’s no vehicle in this game that reaches a top speed under 170 MPH. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I was a little curious. The previous titles gave players a range of vehicles to drive. 2, specifically, featured everything from Compact Sports cars to Ultimate cars. PGR 3 only features super cars and special models. That said, almost every car is sex on wheels. You’ll get to fill all your Garages with sexy looking cars.

Project Gotham Racing 3 features several single player and multiplayer modes. I wasn’t able to get any online games going so I was only able to check out the single player portion of the game. The Gotham Career is where I started. The solo career contains numerous Championships, each with their own events. You participate in events for Kudos and credits. Like the previous games, each event requires you to meet a target which can change depending on the difficulty. And the difficulty determines the medal you will win for completing it. The higher the difficulty, more Kudos and credits you will earn. You need to earn a medal in each event to complete a Championship and win a trophy and earning trophies is how you unlock more Championships.

Unlike the last game, events do not limit your vehicle selection. You can use any vehicle in any event. You can purchase almost any vehicle at any time as long as you have the credits to do so. Some vehicles are unlocked by accumulating enough Kudos and all owned vehicles can be found in your Garages. When I had to place my first vehicle in my Garage, I admit I got a little nervous. It got me thinking of the Garage system in Metropolis Street Racer which could only hold a handful of vehicles and that’s what you were limited to driving. Luckily, in PGR 3, once a Garage is full, you’ll unlock a new Garage. Each one is set in a different location and lets you view all of your vehicles, move them around, take photos, and you can walk around them freely. Plus, the Garages is where you can access and play the fun and addictive minigames Geometry Wars and Geometry Wars 2, otherwise known as Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved.

Veterans of the series should feel right at home when it comes to earning Kudos. They are earned for driving well and performing stylish maneuvers. Power sliding, driving on two wheels, getting air, drafting, and overtaking opponents are just some of the ways to earn Kudos. Nothing new there but PGR 3 does introduce some new ways to earn them like e-brake sliding, feint drifting, pulling off 360s, and braking power over. These are neat and all but didn’t really affect how I played and pulling off 360s isn’t really useful in most event types.

The solo career won’t take you long to get through, at least compared to the Kudos World Series mode in the last game, but going for all Platinum medals should take you some time. All of the event types from the previous games are present in 3. From Cone Challenges to Street Races, the game offers plenty of ways to test your driving skills. PGR 3 also introduces some new event types, at least when it comes to the single player experience. You’ll participate in good old fashioned Eliminator events along with Breakthrough and Time vs Kudos events. In Breakthrough, the goal is to race through a series of checkpoints within the time limit and the checkpoints add more time. In Time vs Kudos, you need to complete the circuit before time runs out and earning Kudos stops the clock.

Even though I couldn’t check out the multiplayer, the game does offer a healthy does of single player and/or offline content. In addition to the Career is the Playtime mode which features both single player and multiplayer sub-modes. You can race against the clock and set record times, create your own routes, and set up your own events and races. You can set up Street Race and Eliminator events along with team variants and you can also try the Capture the Track and Cone Capture events. In Capture the Track, you want to capture as many sections of the track as you can for your team and in Cone Capture, you can freely drive around an open city and hit cones for points.

As far as the Project Gotham Racing titles go, I feel like 3 is the easiest game so far. That’s not to say I earned Platinum or even Gold medals for every event but many of the later events give up their medals fairly easily which, from what I read, is a result of the game’s rushed development. The developers just didn’t have the time to balance them. Excluding the last few solo Championships, I found that most events put up a decent fight and will make you work for those Gold and Platinum medals. Mistakes can result in failure and the car you select is important. If you don’t have the right car or are bumping and crashing into everything, AI opponents can gain a big lead, leaving you in the dust.

When it comes to the cities and tracks, I’m a little conflicted. Mostly impressed but a little conflicted. You’ll race in New York City, London, Tokyo, Vegas, and on the Nurburgring tracks. Vegas is the only real new location here. If the environments didn’t look as good as they do, I think it would be a bigger problem because I often felt a sense of deja vu which was also the case in the first Project Gotham Racing. Not only will you race in the same cities but also some of the same areas except now they look a hell of a lot better. I’ve actually been to New York City and Vegas and because of how good and accurate the environments look in PGR 3, I really felt like I was driving in these locations. These are excellent recreations. PGR 3 features a good variety of circuits or routes across all cities and even lets you create your own. You choose a city and can create your own routes with a simple and easy to use interface. It’s actually pretty cool and according to the game, you can create over 100 million routes.

Visually, the newer hardware results in a phenomenal looking racing game. Compared to its predecessors, that is. In today’s world, all the jaggies and the pop-in will undoubtedly be eyesores but it still doesn’t look too bad. The environments are extremely detailed and I would even go as far as saying they border on looking photorealistic. But only when you’re in motion. The motion blur hides some of the flaws. As soon as an event starts, you’ll get to see your vehicle at different angles and can often see textures loading in the background. You will see this happen frequently if you actually take the time to stop and look around. But, for the time this released, the lighting and texture work were phenomenal. You’ll see storefronts, actual buildings and landmarks, real brands and advertisements, and spectators on the sides of the roads. Believe it or not the spectators or people add some life to the environments. As small of a thing as it is, I no longer felt like I was racing in desolate cities. Even the behind-the-wheel perspective is impressive thanks to the detailed car interiors along with the visual feedback.

I would say the vehicle models have also aged well in terms of visuals. They look sexy and show deformities when they take damage. You can watch replays and the game comes with a photo mode so there’s plenty of ways to look at sexy cars as they zoom around the cities. The gameplay is accompanied by a soundtrack consisting of licensed music and phenomenal audio work. Apparently, the developers used genuine engine sounds which helps add to the realism of the game. The cars sound as good as they look. On the technical side, the frame rate was consistent throughout my entire experience. When playing off the disk, I found the load times before starting events to be a little on the long side. After installing the game, they were reduced significantly.

I’m definitely conflicted when it comes to how I feel about Project Gotham Racing 3. On the one hand, it’s a fantastic racing game. The racing is fun, the Kudos system is still addictive, as is earning enough credits to buy all the cars. And the roster is filled with beauties. On the other hand, despite the environments and cities being gorgeous, PGR 3 takes you to many of the same locations we’ve already been to so it’s like a “been there, done that” kind of thing. The game loses its balance towards the end of the single player career but for the most part, it’s challenging and puts you to work. Overall, even though I’m conflicted, I still think it’s a good racing game. I had fun. The gameplay is what carries it and the audiovisual presentation makes it a feast for the eyes and ears. I think how things are presented was done a little better in PGR 2 but the look and feel of everything is better in 3.

I would recommend Project Gotham Racing 3 to fans of the series and racing genre. Despite some of its shortcomings, it’s still fun to play. It might feel like more of the same but it also proves that the series remains unique in the genre.

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