First Impressions: Kudos, curves, and cars are making their return for a third installment...
It seems fitting that the launch of the Xbox 360 will be accompanied by a Project Gotham Racing title, as the Xbox featured the first PGR game for its launch back in 2001. Halo was obviously the reason the launch worked, but key titles, like PGR, helped compliment the launch window and provided the Xbox with a great attach rate (game-to-console ratio) in the first year of the system's life. While Halo was the main reason the system sold well, there needed to be supporting games that filled the genres for MS's target demographics. The first two PGR games have enjoyed quite a bit of international success because of their good visuals, strong gameplay, and somewhat unconventional locations and car choices. Project Gotham Racing 3 is aiming to continue this trend in the next generation of console racing games.
The visuals of the PGR games have always been one of the strongest elements, with varied track locations, striking environmental lighting (especially at night), and sleek car designs. That being said, the attention to detail of the first two games looks to be blown out of the water by the striking amount of visual muscle being flexed for PGR3. Cars in the game will support a jaw dropping 40,000 polygons inside the car, and 40,000 more polygons on the outside ? this is more detail in one car than in some entire cities in PGR2. The environments also appear to be getting a major overhaul, with excruciating detail on city streets, stores, buildings, and just about everything else ? it truly is eerie to be able to see menus in restaurant windows and vacancy signs in hotels. From the screens and footage released, the visuals look almost too good to be true, but Bizarre Creations is quite confident that it can deliver this graphical quality without any framerate or performance issues.
The core gameplay established in previous PGR games looks to be intact, with plenty of opposing cars to fend off, tight turns to navigate, and ?Kudos? to be had. In the previous PGR games, a skilled driver would earn substantial Kudos (points) by executing perfect powerslides on tight turns, passing opponents closely, and by generally having a quick race time on the track. This system worked quite well for the first two games so only some slight refinements are expected for the third iteration. Additionally, plenty of unlockable cars and tracks can be expected since the previous PGR games made rewards a big deal, not only from the aforementioned Kudos, but also with extra content for winning races and tournaments.
As for where you'll race and what you'll drive, PGR3 will deliver a familiar list of options. Tracks will be located in London, Tokyo, and New York, and each one will have unique challenges to navigate. The list of cars will also be quite similar, but with obvious upgrades for contemporary models and such. In any event, expect the usual array of Jaguars, Porsches, Mercedes and Ferraris to be playable.
One of the biggest changes for this PGR title will be in the online component, where there will be tournaments that can be played and watched by tens of thousands of people. The new Gotham TV will take advantage of the Xbox 360's ?spectator? mode, in which non-participating Live users can watch others compete in races and events. The possibilities for this type of scenario seem limitless, as companies could potentially sponsor tournaments for big prizes and prestige. The general idea is that tournaments will have qualifying and time trial stages at the beginning of a month, and then knockout rounds will take place later in the month to whittle down the field. If implemented correctly, this tournament structure and ?spectator? mode could provide the type of advanced competition that Xbox Live users wanted in this generation. The standard array of online racing options will also be available, with support for somewhere between eight and sixteen players.
Project Gotham Racing 3 is being heavily marketed alongside Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo: Elements of Power as flagship launch titles. Additionally, it is a title that will be included in the bundles offered by retailers, in particular from Electronics Boutique. Whether or not PGR3 comes out in time for the November launch of the Xbox 360 remains to be seen, but it is target for the ?launch window.? It may be another sequel, but the visuals and additional features may put this game into ?killer app? status.