Project Gotham Racing 3ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer – Bizarre Creations Publisher – Microsoft Games Features 1-2 players (split-screen) 2-8 players (system link) 2-8 players (online) HDTV – 720p Content Download Leaderboards Spectators There is no doubt that with any launch of a new console there are a few must own games, and with the Xbox 360's launch a few of these games have definitely became prevalent. One of those games is Project Gotham Racing 3 (PGR3). Yes, it is a sequel to the PGR 2 on the ‘old' Xbox, and some say that it doesn't look next-gen enough, however after some long term gameplay I have to say that PGR3 is a game that one should give a serious look towards when purchasing Microsoft's entry into the next-gen console wars. Graphics Upon first playing PGR3 some will no doubt find that this game doesn't scream next-gen graphics and this is definitely the case for people playing on a Standard Definition TV. However, once some serious playtime has been logged with PGR3 the nuances of this game's visuals become very apparent and anyone with an HDTV will appreciate what visual upgrades have been done to this game. What is very noticeable is that there a lot of polygons being thrown around in this game. During the development of PGR3 Bizarre Creations proudly announced that this game would use a lot of polygons. They touted that anywhere from 90,000 to 130,000 polygons a car would be used and I have to say that the power really shows. Cars are very lifelike and I can't count the number of times that I had to look closely during replays to really see a difference between real and videogame footage. Of course the developers have been really focusing a new view to the PGR series, the cockpit view, and I have to say that they really pulled it off. Each vehicle's dashboard, gauges, steering wheels, seats, rear-view mirror, etc. are beautifully recreated. Granted I have never driven a real Ferrari, but all the dashes in every vehicle look amazing, right down to the working Tachometers and Speedometers. Even if you don't like to race in this kind of view you at least have to give it a try just to see how much work really went into the cockpit views. I will have to say though that for those wishing to use this view on a 4:3 TV will have some difficulty as it really isn't suited for such. There are five main locales to race in at this current time, Las Vegas, New York, Tokyo and London are the four cities and Nurburgring also makes an appearance in PGR3 to up the final total of areas to five. Each location is meticulously done too. Again, Bizarre Creations touted the power of the 360 it was using as they noted that one of the bridges used in the various forms of New York courses was comprised of more polygons then any of the levels in PGR2. Trust me; once you race over the bridges in New York it is not hard to believe that this is the case. The gorgeousness of the tracks cannot be translated in mere words here, as well as the realism involved in them. I have shown this game to many people who have been to Las Vegas. As I raced down various tracks these individuals were taken back by not only the accuracy of the sights (e.g. hotels, tourist attractions, etc.) but by the beauty of it too. Once you race Las Vegas at night you will realize what I am talking about. In terms of special effects, the developers definitely put the early power of the 360 to use. Lighting is something that really caught my eye in this game as shadows are very lifelike as they realistically correspond to the time of day or streetlights on the course you are racing on. One of the first things to really strike this message home was during a race in New York. The race conditions were during the day and I was using the cockpit view. As I was racing I really couldn't see the gauges of my car that well, however as I rounded a corner, and the direction of the sunlight changed, my gauges became much more visible as the light was reflecting onto them and the whole interior of my car. Should anyone race the game in the behind the car view, visuals are not wasted here either. The reflections on the whole car look quite realistic, even relecting the lights of cars behind you. Trees, building lights and what ever else can reflect off the body of the car usually do. I think the only major complaint I have with the outside view of the cars is that at they can seem overly shiny, but I guess the developers just wanted to give the cars that ‘just waxed' look. Overall I would say that I am very pleased with the visual package. Some say that jaggies rear their ugly head, but out of all honesty I didn't really notice them as much as other people have spoken about. This game truly looks good, especially on an HDTV. Sound Sound is another area that Bizarre Creations really excelled in PGR3. Now as I have stated previously, I have never driven a real Ferrari before so I cannot comment on the authenticity of the sound. However, all the Ferrari's in the game sound quite different, as they should as they are not the exact same car. As a matter of fact, none of the wide selection of cars sounds the same at all, which is quite a positive thing. The power of Dolby Digital is really put to use here and for those with a full surround sound set-up you will get maximum effect. You will hear when a car comes up from behind and then goes to pass you on the left or right side. The speakers are full of directional sound when this happens and it quite cool to hear a Lamborghini Murcielago 6.2 sneak up on you and the pass you on the inside. I should also note that the sound of the engine also differs depending on what view you choose to use. Being inside of the car, using the cockpit view, sounds distinctly different then using any of the outside views (e.g. bumper or behind the car). The rest of the sound effects package (e.g. skids, bangs and crashes) all add to the overall audio experience that PGR3 presents and really make this game sound good. Music is a big thing for many videogame racers. Hell, even real life driving on the highway during rush hour calls for good tunes in the car. Bizarre Creations have once again added quite a variety of music for one's driving pleasure. Everything from Rock, Hip Hop to Classical makes an appearance. Some of the music is quite recognizable while other songs seem to come from left field (hello, East Indian music?). Regardless, the music is ok when you first play the game however you will most likely find yourself playing custom soundtracks of your own making when racing with this game. Gameplay Bizarre Creations has taken a different route this year around as PGR3 is all about the speediest cars on the planet. Gone are the slow cars of previous games as those included this latest version are mostly those of super car status. This game sticks to one thing, all out racing, with no need to tinker with your car as there is no need to ‘tune' any of these beasts. Go through the line up of cars available and you will find all types and styles from Ferrari's, Porsches (under the name RUF), Mercedes, Lamborghini's, Nissan's, Toyota's, Shelby's, TVR's and more. The selection is wide and quite impressive this time around. PGR3 has always been known to lean on the arcadey side of racing games and this latest edition is no different as it strikes a perfect mix between arcade and simulation. Although there is a lot of forgiveness in terms of racing and overall reckless driving, those who really wish to succeed still have learn to brake at the right time and find the "perfect line" when cornering. Should you decide to take that extra chance you may find yourself crashing smack-dab bumper first into the wall. Kudos are also back in PGR3 too. There is really no use for them as they are just points. At least in PGR2 you were able to earn a lot of rewards for those hard earned points. This time around you really don't do anything with them but improve your ranking and open up the odd concept car. Career mode is the meat of PGR for single player. Here the game has you competing in various challenges to open trophies. These trophies allow you to open new trophies leading to the final challenge. Each trophy has specific events that you have to complete. These events are taken from an overall list of 11 types of challenges and the include timed events like hot lap or timed run, racing events like street race or one-on-one, and style events like cone challenges or drift challenges. Each trophy has a mix of these events and the can range from two to eight challenges for a trophy. What I enjoyed about PGR2 was the accessibility for any skilled driver and PGR3 continues this legacy. There are five different skill levels ranging from steel, bronze, silver, gold and platinum. These five levels are accessible right from the start and allow any skill of gamer to enjoy this game. The hardcore racer will no doubt enjoy the challenge of platinum where as the casual racer will enjoy anywhere between steel and bronze. You can also go back to any challenge in any trophy you have completed in an effort to beat a higher skill level. Multiplayer comes in a few forms including split screen, system link and online. Each mode allows you to play specific types of racing modes which range street race, eliminator and capture the track. Of course online is where the multiplayer really is at as it allows you to hook up with seven other people and race any of the tracks available. All cars are available from the get-go in multiplayer giving everyone who races an equal opportunity for victory. It is great fun to race with up to seven fellow racers all in similar cars as it can make for some pretty close finishes. Should you get bored with regular racing the eliminator and capture the track races are a really nice change of pace. I should also note that there is an online career mode as well. Here you race specific scenarios against random online racers earning points and badges for your career. Bizarre Creations states that you will be placed with people of similar skill level based on TruSkill ratings which take into consideration your previous race performances and achievements. My limited racing in this mode provided mixed results. You will sometimes get into rooms with respectful people who race clean. However, there are times where you will get into a room with people who are ‘all about the stats' and will race dirty and cheap in order to win. Should you have the patience to race amongst such mixed crowds you may enjoy the online career mode. Online also provides the opportunity for racers to watch other racers play online, and in real time too. Utilizing the power of XBL, and broadband internet, gamers can watch top racers battle it out with other gamers for PGR supremacy. During these racers you are free to go inside the cars of the people racing too and watch from their view as they race against others. This was pretty cool as I would enter the cockpit of the first and second place racers to see how they actually raced particular tracks. This is something that I can see other developers doing in the future. For those wondering my online experiences have been pretty much trouble free with smooth and lag free races. There have been random drops now and then, including the odd one by me, but overall PGR3 is a pretty solid online experience. Now, I am sure everything sounds just peachy with this latest instalment. Although a solid game indeed, there are some minor areas of concern for me at this time. There are only 5 main areas to race, and although they can be done in reverse, and during the night or day, the tracks can get repetitive. That being said there is the feature of downloadable content, however you can bet dollars to dimes that there will be a small fee for this as the new XBL Marketplace has been quite successful to date. As well, although the online is pretty solid, I was amazed to see that it again was only eight players in total. I was hoping that with the power of the 360, and the improved XBL, that online races would be at least 10 players at the minimum. I sure am hoping that PGR4 ramps up the online player number for even more racing madness. Conclusion I would have to say that PGR3 is definitely a buyer for those picking up a spankin' brand new 360. Even with the minor shortcomings they don't really outweigh the great graphics, great sound and overall great gameplay that this title provides. Add to all of this an online mode that provides an excellent racing experience and you have a launch title that should be added to your 360 gaming library. The future really does look bright for Microsoft's new console, as does the future of the PGR series.