Review: Runnin' with the devil?
The Project Gotham series has served Microsoft well as its premier racing title. Beginning with the first entry which launched with the original Xbox in 2001, PGR has distinguished itself with stellar graphics, real city tracks and great gameplay which relied heavily on ?Kudos?, a system that rewards the player with points for pulling off cool maneuvers like powerslides and other stylish moves. PGR2 took the racing online and upped the ante with real, live competition via the Internet, and now Project Gotham Racing 3 combines the best elements of both of the initial entries into an astonishingly gorgeous, fully-featured single and multiplayer next gen shred-fest with an incredible amount of cool, top-of-the-line speed machines to collect and race.
The goal of PGR3 (both online and off) is pretty elementary: be the #1 driver in the world. Of course, that's easier said than done, but a good place to start is the single player career mode, which features a series of different events set in London, Tokyo, New York and Las Vegas. The game also features Germany's famous Nurburgring (considered by many world class race car drivers to be the ultimate driving experience - 13 miles and somewhere in the area of 73 bends and turns, which affords some of the best racing on the planet) in a pitch perfect rendition that will absolutely blow your mind. All of the cities are spot-on exact, as Bizarre Creations utilized extensive digital photography to recreate the terrain of some of the most expensive real estate in the world. The graphics are quite simply incredible, and every street corner, building face and street sign is lovingly rendered in gorgeous hi-def. The cars look beyond fantastic, with stunning reflections and lighting, as well as highly detailed modeling that results in unprecedented realism. The vehicles look wonderful from the default 3rd person view, but the in-cockpit cam is also seriously impressive as it highlights everything from the grime on the windshield to the shine of the interior leather.
The game controls well, but you'll need to take some time to gather the nuances of racing PGR style if you're unfamiliar with the series. Essentially, this means you'll need to master all manner of emergency brake maneuvers, slides, powerbraking, as well as drifts and feints to be successful and earn the necessary kudos and placing to advance. You'll earn credits when your racing performance exceeds expectations (so trying to drive as cleanly and stylishly as possible is always recommended) and you can use these to purchase new cars to store in your virtual garages (since the cars look so good, just walking around checking out your rides is breathtaking). As you make your way through the career mode you'll unlock new races and events as you earn trophies. It's great fun to race through various world class competitions on incredible stretches of city streets, tearing around corners and sliding into the groove so you can accelerate cleanly into the upcoming straightaway. Blazing across the Brooklyn Bridge with the Manhattan skyline in the background is intense and Tokyo, London and Vegas offer just as much eye candy during their respective 180 mph tours. Once you get the hang of drifting and sliding you'll really start to appreciate and enjoy PGR 3's various events. Wheel to wheel races against multiple - as well as single - opponents, cone gate challenges and elimination style racing are the order of the day here, and the meticulous track design makes for some interesting scenarios. It's very satisfying to figure out a track's quirks and nuances as you begin to master it, and the amazing variety of high performance vehicles available keep the gameplay fresh and exciting. You'll need to get a handle on each ride as you purchase them since they all have different handling and speed properties, and learning what the various cars can (and cannot
) do is paramount in gaining control and winning races. Know your car, and know your course ? keys to success in PGR 3.
Besides the core racing component and the amazing graphics, Project Gotham Racing 3 is packed to the brim with features, both online and off. You can choose to try out cars on the test track before you buy and also pick which color you prefer (for most of the fleet) and you'll unlock concept cars for purchase as you progress. You can race at multiple difficulties, create your own routes with the included track editor and either join a series of ranked, online career matches or set up your own room where you control the parameters of the race. Other cool extras include things like the real time updates of your achievements (and those of your friends) via a news ticker and Gotham TV, where you can sit back and watch the best players on Live go at it ? entertaining, and perhaps a valuable learning tool for aspiring racers looking to better their technique.
In a racing game the focus is, of course, squarely on the cars. In this respect PGR 3 doesn't disappoint and basically hands you the keys to machines the likes of which grace the cover of Road and Track
on a regular basis. Everything from the Corvette ZR-1 to the Shelby mustang is represented here, and the A class vehicles are hardcore dream machines. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, a Lotus, Jaguars?.the list goes on. In total some 75 cars with an estimated combined value of more than 22 million dollars and over 400,000 ccs and 41,000 horsepower. Collecting, racing, collecting some more ? and near limitless challenges between the extensive single player and the online circuit, PGR 3 has tremendous replay value for die-hard racing geeks.
The sound in PGR 3 is pure bliss, with the various engines producing distinct voices for each vehicle. The screaming whine of a high-end Ferrari or Lotus sounds precisely as it should, and the throaty rumble of the Mustang is completely authentic as well. The music is eclectic and interesting, and features Alternative Rock, Industrial, Classical, Hip Hop and even Japanese Pop. Of course, you can stream your own music into the game from your HDD if you like, but the included tracks actually have some enticing gems to offer if you give them a chance. Overall, the aural component of PGR 3 performs as well as the visual and then some.