• Ever since the spiritual father to the Project Gotham Racing (PGR) series, Metropolis Street Racer burst on to the scene with the Dreamcast, racing games have never been the same again. And that?s no understatement; Midnight Club exists because of it, Gran Turismo borrowed the idea of Street Racing from it and PGR even resurrected the Need for Speed series. The impact of the MSR/PGR series can not be underestimated. So, is PGR3 as revolutionary as its predecessors? Read on?

    When we were lucky enough to be invited down to London by Microsoft to be one of the first people in the UK to play on the Xbox 360, one game stuck out above the rest; that game was PGR3. Admittedly it was the game I personally was looking forward to playing most but nothing could have prepared the sheer beauty of the game.

    Project Gotham Racing 3

    This game, more than any other screams next generation. The level of detail in the environments is astounding; even to us harden games journalists. Landmarks are on occasions indistinguishable from the real thing, and other graphical effects such as motion blur often trick the mind into thinking the game is real. Of course, the visuals are far from perfect and occasionally you’ll see something that breaks your suspension of disbelief but on the whole the first few races you’ll find yourself crashing into barriers as you gaze astonished; especially if you know the place in real life.

    Racing around London, Tokyo, New York, Las Vegas and the Nurburgring has never looked so good. However, things only look as good as you can see them, and one of PGR3’s new additions is the in-car dashboard view. The level of detail is jaw, dropping with every car from the Nissan Skyline to the McLaren F1 looking just as it should. It’s also in the view that motion blur is greatest; which, far from being a bad thing, actually adds to the experience. Moving your view to check you wing mirror while the crowds and environment passes by as a blur is an experience to be had.

    However, the visuals are but one part of the overall picture. As with the past games, the sounds of the cars are spot on; however, one major change is the use of audio. Bizarre Creations have put a lot of effort, not just into the visual and gameplay side of things, but also into the audio, for example, when shifting from outside the car to the new dashboard view the sound is noticeably muffed, the opposite with music. In car it is crisp and clear, while outside the car is subject to environmental noises.

    But, what about gameplay? We all know you can have a beautiful looking game, and it be crap to play. Well, rest assured, while on the whole Bizarre Creations have taken a ‘if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach there have been noticeable changes to gameplay, although all for the better.

    While the Kudos system remains largely unchanged from PGR2, other gameplay aspects such as handling have been given an overhaul. But before you pick up your controllers and prepare to batter the development team, its good news. While retaining its slightly arcade style of racing, the handling is now much more simulation like, but not to the point that you can’t just pick up and play. The level system has also received an overhaul. PGR3 sees you compete in set events, either in individual cities or in world tours. The familiar street races and speed tests return along with the infamous cone challenges and time trials.

    The other major change to gameplay is selection of cars; you can pick any car from the off, aside from the unlockable concepts. While you are obviously limited to lower powered cars by lack of funds at the beginning of the game, its entirely up to you if you want to save up for the Ferrari F50GT or just trundle along building up your car collection as you go along.

    The only major criticism of the single player game is that it is very easy just to speed through even on Silver; indeed, some people have finished the game within a week. However, PGR’s longevity has never been about is offline game, although going for gold and platinum will have you punching the wall for some time yet. As with PGR2, online is where it’s at and PGR3 builds upon its predecessors solid foundations.

    The usual array of online modes can be found, Street Racing and Time Trial will likely be the favourites for some time. However, the new eliminator mode is a refreshing change with the gamer in last position at the end of each lap eliminated back to the lobby.

    And speaking of the lobby, unlike in PGR2 where all you had to look at was 2d map, PGR3 brings you GothamTV. GothamTV is PGR3’s spectator mode, and can be used to view friend’s races while you wait for them to finish, or watch the best in the world race each other. This ingenious addition to the series is an invaluable feature which you can get many hours of fun from.

    However, PGR3 does have its problems, but fortunately, while they do distract from the game, they don’t ultimately ruin it. The omission of any form of times on the Xbox Live scoreboards is a glaring mistake on Bizarre Creations behalf. While it’s not going to make the game unplayable, it would have been nice to see how you are doing against the world, not just in terms of your kudos, although admittedly, it is what the series is about. The other problem is the lack of any visual cue as to who is speaking online; something that can cause great confusion when online.

    While those niggles do distract from the gameplay as I said, they don’t ruin the experience. Overall PGR3 excels visually; at times photorealism is the order of the day. The gameplay is also top of the line, with the undisputed online racer seeing a return to form, something that only enhances the longevity of the game.

    Score: 9/10

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