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Project Gotham Racing 3 Xbox 360

Published by Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by Bizarre Creations
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £44.99

Project Gotham Racing 3, an introduction.

When the launch titles were announced for the Xbox 360, the one game that stood out for me was Project Gotham Racing 3. Project Gotham Racing and Project Gotham Racing 2 were two of the greatest titles for the original Xbox and I thoroughly enjoyed them. PGR 2 managed to not only include a better single player game than PGR but also managed to include a superb online mode that gave the game endless replay value. Naturally with both of the first two PGR titles having thrilled me so much I couldn't wait to get my hands on the third title in the series, especially given the capabilities of the Xbox 360.

What's the game about?

PGR 3 gives you the opportunity to race some of the finest cars through cities such as Tokyo, London, New York and Las Vegas. You'll have a variety of challenges to undertake as you bid to become a number 1 ranked driver. Some of these challenges are ones that have been seen in the previous two PGR titles but some new challenge types have also been added. The Xbox Live features have been really improved for PGR 3 and are now more central to the game as a whole. You can now select an authentic driver's view to play the game from and there is even a route creator to play around with. At first glance then this looks like it could be the best game in the series.

What's good about the game?

The first thing that's going to impress you is the graphics as they look very good. Graphics aside though (as we'll get to that in a moment), the most impressive aspect of the game has to be the online play. Assuming you're connected to Xbox Live, the single player game and online features feel intertwined. After completing a challenge in the single-player game you're shown the leaderboards for that event so you can see how you compare with everyone else, which is a nice touch. There is even an online career mode where your challenges will involve human opponents rather than the AI. As well as the online races for you to enjoy (or not if you happen to get the kind of opposition that likes to play knock you out of the way rather than overtaking in a proper fashion), you can also sit back and watch the best drivers out there with Gotham TV. You can either watch the Heroes channel, which will simply take you to a live race featuring the most skilled drivers or you can watch the Friends channel to see what your friends are up to in the game whilst online.

PGR 3 even includes a route creator. You'll begin by choosing a city and this will give you an overhead view of your chosen city with all the available waypoints clearly visible. Basically you simply choose to connect the various waypoints as you want and that will create your circuit. You can race against the AI on your new route and you can even host a game on Xbox Live and get your friends to tell you what they think of your custom route.

What's not so good about the game?

If, like me you've played PGR and PGR 2 to death you'll have appreciated the longevity of the single-player game and would have expected an equally meaty single-player mode in PGR 3. However, you'll be disappointed to learn that this isn't the case and that the single-player game hasn't got much substance to it. There are 23 trophies in all and each trophy requires you to win between 2 to 8 events (or at least meet the medal requirements). Steel, Bronze, Sliver, Gold and Platinum medals can be attained for each challenge (steel being the easiest variant of the challenge whilst Platinum is the most difficult) and earning all Platinum medals is certainly going to take a while to achieve. However the challenges are not as well thought out as in the previous two games and after a while, it does get a little tedious.

How does it look?

The graphics in PGR 3 are stunning. The car models are incredibly detailed and each car now has a dashboard view which not only looks superb but also adds a heck of a lot to the game's immersive qualities. The cities you drive around in also look superb and this time you even have spectators (although contrary to what other reviews have said we don't think the spectators look that great in all honesty). The draw distances and various lighting effects are very impressive and so is the sensation of speed that you get when racing the faster cars in the game. PGR 3 has been the topic of much discussion on many Internet forums for months now with the game running at 30fps instead of 60 fps and the game not being 720p but 600p (which is then upscaled leading to a more jagged appearance). Whilst it would have been great if the game had run at 60fps (one of the developers has apparently gone on record as saying that if they had had more time the game would have run at 60fps), I can't say that running at 30fps spoilt my enjoyment of the game and the frame rate is rock solid which makes for a very smooth experience.

I played the game on a standard TV and on a PC TFT monitor using the official VGA cable. On a TV the game looks great but not as nice as when playing the game at a higher resolution. On the TFT the game looked fantastic with much more detail being visible. However I do have one complaint with playing the game on a TFT monitor. My TFT has a native resolution of 1280x1024, which the 360 is setup for. Games like Kameo run in a letter box format to retain the true 1280x720 perspective and this looks superb. PGR 3 however doesn't do this and runs in a stretched full screen mode which makes everything looked squashed. Dropping the settings to 1024x768 in the Xbox 360 settings gives you a letterboxed image in PGR 3 so why doesn't it work properly at 1280x1024?

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

The only real problem for deaf gamers is going to be the voice communications that are used in the Xbox Live races. Whilst the Xbox 360 supports text messaging (something the Xbox never did) communications during an online race are by voice only. Aside from that you'll have no problems. All the instructions and information in the game is given in text so there are no problems there. The game manual has been well written and describes the various challenges, the methods for earning kudos and fills you in on every other aspect of the game, just what you want from a game manual.

Final thoughts.

Did Project Gotham Racing live up to my expectations? In a word, no, it doesn't, but in many ways I'm still impressed with the game. The online features are superb with Gotham TV being particularly impressive. The new dashboard view is simply amazing and I can't wait to get hold of a widescreen display to fully take advantage of its visual splendour. However, the single-player game is a disappointment as it has little substance and feels like a rushed addition rather than being the core of the game. Fans of the previous games and indeed fans of driving games will really enjoy the game. Here's hoping that PGR 4 will give us a single-player game to match the one found in PGR 2. After all there won't be a launch date to rush the game out in time for will there?

 

Overall Game Rating: 8.9/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:


(Click the letter or here for details)

Project Gotham Racing 3 is definitely one of the highlights of the Xbox 360 launch titles. Once again the multiplayer elements are better than anything else out there for a game of this type. However the single-player game is a pale imitation of the one found in PGR 2 which takes the shine off an otherwise great game.