XBOX 360 REVIEW: PROJECT GOTHAM RACING 3

New for PGR3 is the added dashboard perspective which allows players to see inside an authentically recreated cockpit of their favorite vehicles. All of the gauges work which adds to the overall realism in this visual mode and you'll also be able to use the R analog stick to see to either side of you. I usually prefer to play racing games with a behind the car perspective, but I must admit that I found myself switching between the "superman" view and the first person headlight view depending on the track. I didn't care for the dashboard view as it placed too many distractions in front of me as well as blocked my open view of the track. My only complaint in terms of visuals is the music HUD which materializes onscreen when switching tracks at the most inopportune times. I've checked and I can't seem to turn it off. It's a minor annoyance but it's still bothersome.

"PGR3 isn't perfect and it doesn't feel quite as on top of it's game when compared to PGR2 but we'll chalk that up to rushing to meet the launch deadline."

Much has been written about the physics engine used in the PGR games - it's not quite arcade and it's not quite realistic, but if you compare it to Forza Motorsport, Gran Turismo or Yu Suzuki's insane Ferrari 355, PGR3 definitely falls within the arcade template. The control and handling of each vehicle is based on four factors - Speed, Acceleration, Grip and Drifting - and needless to say you'll have to choose wisely depending on the track. If you don't have the right car for the job it's time to do some test driving. Astute observers of the obvious will notice that smashing into other cars or walls never creates realistic percussions such as devastating realtime vehicle damage. I did notice however that some cars feature damage while other cars do not. Unlike the obvious cosmetic damage in PGR2, you may notice your trunk or hood lifting, fenders and bumpers crunched but you won't see huge dents in the side of your car. Unfortunately this time out you can't create your own personalized license plate. Boo Hiss!

Any racing series worth its weight has awesome track design and I have to say that I find PGR3's tracks to be some of the best I've raced. Where I felt the first two games in the series featured far too many tight areas, Bizarre Creations has allowed their track design team to open things up a lot more on the curves which makes for some excellent drifting action as well as allows for more variety in the techniques used to getting around them. Equally as welcome are the straight-aways which finally allow players to experience the speed of the vehicles - to hell with the price of gas!

Since I cannot profess to have even come near some of the real vehicles in the game aside from the Nissan Skyline, I couldn't tell you how accurately they sound to their realworld counterparts. I understand that there is something like 30 different sound samples comprised for each engine to recreate it as faithfully as possible.

For those always on the cutting edge of the music scene, you'll love the variety of tracks and musical genres featured. Everything from Alternive rockers The Presidents of the United States of America (haven't heard of these guys in years! Peaches anyone?) to Classical, Industrial, Hip Hop, J-Pop, Electronica and even Bhangra. I wasn't familiar with Bhangra music before this game and I must say that I don't particularly care for it. I bet you thought I was going to say that I loved it. Ha, you don't know me very well. If you'd rather race to the serene musical stylings of Barry Manilow or the cuddly pillow talk violence of Korn, then simply choose the Custom Soundtrack option from the dashboard and play your ripped tunes or stream them from your iPod.

On the one hand PGR3 is a slight disappointment due to the reduced challenge of the difficulties, load times and 30 FPS, but there are so many other improvements that these are fairly easy to overlook. As I said PGR3 feels like more of an expansion of 2003's PGR2, than an entirely revolutionary product, but it's still brimming with quality. I can't imagine any PGR2 players snubbing this new one because of some minor imperfections simply because the game has so much to offer in terms of play value with its online play, PlayTime mode, Route Creator and of course the Gotham Career mode. Since there are three above average racers at the Xbox 360 launch, it may be hard pressed to find the racer you want to invest your hard-earned dough into.

Personally while I enjoyed Most Wanted and I've always dug the Ridge Racer vibe (not counting R Racing Revolution), PGR3 will keep you challenged for quite awhile on both sides of the internet. If you're a stickler for 100% completion those Platinum awards will keep you coming back for months, while less enthusiastic racing fans who don't want to race online will only get 50% of what PGR3 is offering. PGR3 isn't perfect and it doesn't feel quite as on top of it's game when compared to PGR2 but we'll chalk that up to rushing to meet the launch deadline. Project Gotham Racing 3 is still a gorgeous looking engrossing racer which will have you coming back for 'just one more try' and that's what's important.

By Vaughn Smith
CCC Site Director

Rating out of 5
Project Gotham Racing 3 (Xbox 360)
4.8
Graphics
The detailed cityscapes and the vehicles are unparalleled. Go ahead, take an ingame pic of them and marvel at the realism.
4.4
Control
Not quite Sim, Not quite Arcade. Once you get used to the nuances of each vehicle you'll be flying down the highway.
4.5
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great selection of songs in a variety of genres or play your own tunes. Engine rumble, whine and roar is excellent but whadda we know?
5.0
Online
Online career is implemented extremely well. TrueSkills matching system makes online play less frustrating. You could play this forever.
5.0
Play Value
Online and Route Creator adds unlimited replay value. Going for Platinum might also take you forever.
4.6
Overall Rating - Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
4
Preview by Sohail
The popular and stylish racing series Project Gotham Racing series will make its next appearance on the xbox 360 in the aptly titled Project Gotham Racing 3 (PGR3). This next game aims to improve upon its popular predecessor through new modes, more realistic gameplay, and, of course, much-better visuals.

CARS:

The game will contain 180 cars. The class based racing from the previous game is history and this time around all of the 180 licensed cars will be of 1 class- The beautiful and desirable sports cars all of which will be able to go over 170 MPH. All the cars in the game will be highly detailed since each car took Bizarre Creations almost 7 weeks to complete and each car is made up of around 80,000 polygons. Even the interiors of the cars will be detailed and accurate because they will be made up of around 40,000 polygons. The level of detail of the cars is such that you can actually make out individual nuts and bolts.

Also the cars in the game will feature realistic but only cosmetic damage. Damages will include busted wing mirrors, cracked headlights, dented rear bumpers, and a lopsided rear spoiler among many others. Plus each will cost around the same as they do in real life. At the beginning of the game you will be given cash so you can buy your 1st ride and start racing.

RACES:

In PGR3 old time favorites from PGR2 like kudos challenge, drift challenge and cone challenge will make a return. There will also be "breakthrough" races that are checkpoint-based and will give the game an arcade feel at times. Another race type in the game will be "time vs. kudos” events. In these events you have to finish races within a time limit but the only way you will be able to do that is by sliding your car and earning kudos points as often as possible and thus pause the timer. There will be a total of 23 championships in the game spanning over 4 cities like London and Tokyo. Winning these races will earn you trophies, badges of honor, and of course cash.

CITIES:

It is quality and not quantity that this game is aiming for. That is why areas of the cities have been accurately re-created and are around 3 times larger than those in PGR2. The level of detail in the game is awesome with every single building being modeled individually with textures based on photographs

Apart from the buildings even the crowds watching the races are highly detailed. Every spectator has been modeled in full 3D and boasts motion-captured animations. In fact along some stretches of the roads no 2 spectators would be alike. Plus spectators would resemble real life people that are found in that particular city. For example majority of the people watching races in Tokyo will be Japanese and so on.

Besides looking great the crowd will also react vibrantly to your performance. If you are performing well they will cheer you on. If you slow down alongside a crowd some of them will take photos and if you crash into a barrier that has people behind it, they'll jump backward in fright.

NEW TEAM-BASED MODES:

New team-based modes will make their appearance in the “Playtime” menu. Playtime events don’t progress your career but they have instead been designed to please fans who enjoyed PGR2's Xbox Live play, especially to those who took part in player-created online race modes. In team games there will be 2 teams- Red and Blue. Team based events will include eliminator events, street races and an exciting ‘Capture The Track’ mode. In Capture The Track mode you will have to capture segments of the track by recording the quickest split times during a race.

The Playtime menu will also contain the “track creation” mode. It is reported that there will be more than 2 MILLION different circuit configurations on which you will be able to race against your friends or the AI.

TRACK CREATION:

Track creation thankfully will be a simple task in the game. On an overhead map of your chosen city there will be nodes and all you will have to do is simply join the nodes together in the order that you would like to race through them. You will be able to create both circuit and point-to-point tracks. But if you don’t want to do that also there will be a random course generator to help you out.

PHOTO MODE:

PGR3 will also feature a photo mode just like Gran Turismo 4 on the PS2. In this mode you will be able to take a photo of your car during any single-player race simply by pausing the game and entering photo mode. You will be able to position the camera anywhere you like and other photo mode options will include tilt, zoom, shutter speed, manual or automatic focusing, aperture, contrast, color, brightness, a sepia effect and exposure. Like Gran Tursimo 4 cars in photo mode look better than they do in-game. The photos that you take can be stored on the hard drive just like any uploadable media and you will also be able share your car photos with online friends via a photo-sharing application planned to be released sometimes after the Xbox 360 launch.

PGR3 ONLINE:

An awesome online feature of PGR3 will be GOTHAM TV. This feature will let you switch between TV-style channels committed to friends or top racers of the world and watch them racing live. The developers claim that up to 30,000 players will be able to tune into Gotham TV at the SAME time and if you happen to be one of the players whose race is being broadcast a message will flash up on your screen to let you know that your performance is on the air. Plus there will also be a news ticker running on Gotham TV that will keep you up to date on record lap times, performances and car purchases of your friends etc. Besides Gotham TV there will also be leaderboards and other essentials online. Online modes will support up to eight players and will take advantage of Xbox Live's new matchmaking features on the 360 that will automatically pit you against players with the same driving skills as yours. Sadly not all of these features will be available online from day one.

Besides Xbox Live the game will also support split screen and system link

With the sensation of speed that this game creates with motion blur effects this game is definitely not trying to be a simulator by implementing grueling physics or touchy handling. The goal of this game is to make every player feel as though they are an professional racecar driver. Whether this goal will be achieved or not? Check out review in November to find out.

Preview By Vaughn

Updated Features List below & new screens added: Bizarre Creations has been working towards building the perfect racer since they launched into the coding of Metropolis Street Racer on the Sega Dreamcast a few years back. The franchise became Project Gotham Racing when it appeared on the Xbox and while the Xbox 360 game will boast the number 3 on its box, we all know it's really the big 4.

Anyone who has spent time with PGR2 online will tell you that it doesn't get much better than that, aside from perhaps Forza Motorsport, but that's really just splitting hairs. Project Gotham has always been about driving the perfect race, both offline and online and PGR3 will continue that tradition. The game can be punishingly difficult, leaving smashed controllers in its wake, streaming obscenities heard online, wails of "Nooooooo!" echoing through the house, but when you pull it together and cross that finish line in first place, the absolute destruction of your emotional psyche and the inevitable crumbling relationships with loved ones, you'll realize that it was all worth it.

PGR3 was built with the next generation Xbox in mind and work began almost immediately once PGR 2 shipped. Martyn Chudley, Bizarre Creations' managing director and designer, revealed some secrets to Xbox online.

"Looking at the specs, we realized we could push PGR 3 into new directions and add loads more realism," Chudley said. "...with the power of Xenon [Xbox 360], it's all about everything - including the damage - being bigger, better, more realistic, and in your face!"

There's nothing I like to hear more than an overused "in your face" reference, but in this case, we're thinking that Bizarre Creations just might pull it off.

One area of cosmetic enhancement focuses on eradicating the dead city streets which were present in the first couple of games. The development team promises the streets in PGR3 will be alive with activity and even went so far as to motion capture crowds to give the game a distinct realistic look, rather than settling for the cardboard cutout style of NPCs that so many racing games utilize. Yeah, but can I crash into the poser wearing the jazz tam sipping his cafe latte delicately at the street side patio? I promise I'll just nick him. Right in the soul patch.

Having spent more than a few hours with every incarnation of PGR over the years, I was relieved to hear that Bizarre Creations is finally going to allow players to race with the vehicle they prefer, rather than being forced to learn the nuances of a new vehicle everytime a new challenge appears. That's worth the price of admission alone right there.

Another wonderful bout of good news was the revelation that PGR3 will be an Xbox 360 launch title, much like PGR was back in 2001 when the Xbox debuted. Well, there goes my hard earned money....Damn.

As time goes by, we'll fill in the holes. Stay tuned!

Features:

  • 80 cars - taking nearly 6 weeks each to create
  • 5 Cities which include London, New York, Tokyo
  • Each car in the game will have a minumum Max speed of 170 miles per hour
  • Each car will be incredibly detailed - with up to 40,000 polygons just for the cars interior
  • Race Creator mode - take tracks from the 5 cities and alter them
  • Improved damage model
  • Screenshots can be taken from any angle
  • 3D spectators in the crowd
  • Licensed soundtrack
  • 12 racers per race onXBL
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Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best