XBOX 360 REVIEW: PROJECT GOTHAM RACING 3

The vehicle physics can be intimidating especially if you're accustomed to Ridge Racer 6 or Need For Speed: Most Wanted, but once you commit yourself to learning the nuances of the control you'll begin to appreciate why people love this series so much. The sense of urgency to drive a perfect lap is immediately apparent because the AI isn't going to coddle you on the harder difficulties. Once you take PGR3 online it gets even more white knuckled as the competition is not only better than you and better than the AI, but they're talking trash to you while leaving your sorry ass in the dust. Gamers without spines need not apply; you're going to take a whuppin' and that's that.

As in previous PGRs, you'll start the game with a stock amount of credits which you'll use towards purchasing your first vehicle. Unlike PGR and PGR2 however, you won't be starting the game with a lame duck of a ride. Every car in PGR3 meets a minimum standard of 170 MPH, with most rides in the game averaging almost 200 MPH. What this means to the PGR novice is a higher level of challenge right out of the starting gate. Certainly this will play havoc with the egos and self esteems of scores of PGR neophytes but they can always strive for Steel or Bronze medals for the first play through while they cut their teeth.

Bizarre Creation has slimmed down the car shopping process from PGR2's virtual showrooms to a scrolling menu which shows cars in the various price ranges. The showrooms were glitzy but really nothing more than useless busy work and I do prefer the quicker pace of PGR3's vehicle selection. Once you purchase a car, you'll select your color (make sure you really like the color because unlike PGR2, you're stuck with it unless you sell the car and buy a new model in a different color, which is ridiculous x a million + bogus - fun = bull****). From there you can place the car in your starter garage. The garage features a disembodied first person perspective where you can roam about the area and check out your collection of rides. You can also play a couple of arcade versions of Geometry Wars 1 & 2. You can test out any of the cars on the Nurburgring F1 track but I found this a tad tedious due to the 10 second load time. However it's completely necessary to locate the car that feels just right for your tastes. Your starter garage only holds 4 cars which means that you'll need to find a new garage to hold more of your collection. There are a total of 9 garages in the game all designed with the games various locales in mind - Tokyo, Nurburgring, Las Vegas, New York & London. All garages except the starter garage holds up to 10 vehicles. Make sure you explore every nook and cranny of your garage as you never know what you'll find.

Speaking of load times, I was under the impression that this $500 system I just purchased which comes with 512 MB RAM, 12X Dual Layer DVD drive and 20 GB HD might take a bite out of loading screens, but it doesn't. In fact, compared to PGR2, PGR3 is really sluggish when it comes to loading. I don't mind waiting 20 seconds for a new track to load that I haven't played yet, but if I stop the race and want to restart, I expect this next gen game to function equally as well as the previous game designed for technically inferior hardware, but it doesn't. You will sometimes have to endure a load time varying in length depending on when you've stopped the race, to play the same race again, with the same vehicle. In PGR2 restarting is almost instant. I find this highly vexxing and perplexing at the same time.

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