fishdalf's Project Gotham Racing 3 (Xbox 360) review

Sticks to a formula that works well, keeps thing's fresh.

Project Gotham Racing hasn’t been around for too long but it has made a name for itself within the racing genre over the last couple of years. With its unique blend of racing and stylish moves and combos it really has hit a niche in the market that appeals to the masses. There is a lot of expectation surrounding this game, not only because fans want to know what direction the series is heading but more importantly they want to know how this game will shape up going into the next generation. This is also one of the “big titles” for the 360 line-up and could effectively make or break the systems success for years to come, so no pressure.

Project Gotham Racing 3 quite honestly is more of the same and while that usually turns out to be a bad thing in this case the series is sticking to what it does best. The right shoulder button is accelerator and the left is brake so people who are familiar with the series should feel right at home the second they switch on their games. The courses again are pretty similar to what you have seen in previous instalments but this time they look a lot better. The handling of the game even feels pretty similar although it does feel a tad more difficult to keep you car from losing control with the slightly modified physics system. So while the game isn’t entirely groundbreaking it does implement some new features to the series that validates it as a sequel in its own right.

Bizarre have separated the single-player portion and the online portion of this game so that you’re required to achieve Kudos in each of them in order to rank up. Kudos are still earned in the exact same way here, you pull off a variety of elaborate moves and stringing them together gives you even more bonuses. The variety of moves hasn’t really expanded unfortunately and the courses aren’t that elaborate that they are going to be putting you on the edge throughout a whole race so things may get a little repetitive from time to time. There are still 16 ways to achieve Kudos and achieving them all in 1 race will offer rewards but other than that the system needs a little more depth. Clean sections and catching air are just some of the recycled ways to obtain those all important Kudos.

There are a whole host of modes available to you within the game, the main single-player mode is called ‘Gotham Career’ mode and follows a format most racing games take. You do a set of races and you win a trophy, you unlock a new set of races which you then win and unlock another set of races. This system is simple yet works better than the old ranking system they had in place, you always know where your next race or challenge is coming from but at the same time you’re not restricted to the one race or challenge; you always have a handful to choose from. You will find various types of races and challenges here, from eliminator races right up to time vs. kudos challenges. These require you to use the right amount of speed and tricks to get to the finish line before the time runs out and are a refreshing change in-between street races. This mode consists of 22 trophies in all and shouldn’t take you that long to get through on medium difficulty which is somewhat of a shame. It does however invite you to raise the difficulty and play through it again to improve your skills as a Gotham racer. What you will notice unfortunately as you play through the game is how easy it is to accumulate money, after a few races you will be looking at your bank balance and thinking “a few more races and I can afford the most expensive car in the game”. With the added catch of this game being easier than the last you can’t help but feel they are making it a little too easy to buy cars. Don’t get me wrong though, even the most veteran of Gotham players will still find the hardcore difficulty challenging but even playing through it on easy will rack up more Kudos than perhaps you deserve. The AI is still great just like in previous games and can be pretty unforgiving at times. Making the smallest of mistakes on the harder difficulties could ultimately see the computer controlled racers drive off into the distance without ever being caught. This will see you replaying levels to find the ideal racing line which some players may find a tad tedious but that’s one of the thing’s I love about racing games personally. One more thing worth mentioning is the pretty hefty loading times, this can become frustrating, especially if you have to keep restarting a course several times in order to acheive a medal.

There are some new modes this time around and most of them come in the form of ‘Gotham TV’. This has a whole host of features that are bound to keep you busy when you’re not racing around tracks and decimating your opponents. The most notable is probably the Gotham Heroes channel which lets you see the best players from all over the world race online. An impressive 30,000 people can simultaneously watch as the action unfolds and that is pretty special by any standards. All of this works off the online leader boards which are also easily accessible, so you can check how well you’re doing against the crème de la crème. Alternatively you can tune into the Friends TV channel and watch them instead. You will also be kept up to date with all the latest scores via bulletins that run along the screen, so you never miss a moment of the action.

There are also two other less enthusing modes you can delve into in ‘Photo Editor’ mode and ‘Create-a-Route’ mode and each one pretty much explains itself. The Photo Editor allows you to take screenshots during replays and edit them anyway you see fit, whether that be simply changing the colouring and the brightness or venturing onto the more challenging tools at your disposal. Create-a-Route mode is a quick and easy way to build a custom track from a selection of 5 different areas from around the world. Don’t get too excited though, this is a very basic editor and doesn’t offer much in terms of depth.

As you have already read Project Gotham Racing 3 will once again be embarking onto Xbox Live but what you may not know is this is achievable through two separate modes. The first way to connect is through the single-player career mode, all the cars you have worked hard to purchase will be ready for use against your competitors. Very similar to the offline career mode you can race in themed races and events online, this adds huge value to a game that was clearly meant to be played online. You can also connect through ‘Playtime’ mode which is also the place you can race your friends, this is essentially just multiplayer with a different name. The online ranking system is also worth a mention, as you earn Kudos online you will rank up and this will give fans something to achieve long after they have completed the single-player areas of the game. You can rank up from a Rookie to a full-fledged Gotham Star and perhaps one day feature on Gotham TV for the entire world to see.

There are 80 cars in this game and each are incredibly detailed, each car is made up of about 80,000 polygons divided between interior and the exterior. Each car looks so polished and beautiful and if you play through the game using the in-car view some of the effects are truly amazing. From the driver moving about to change gears to reflections from the dashboard and the mirrors is at times amazing. The courses aren’t half bad either, enormous amounts of detail have been added to the cities and even the crowd, infact some of the buildings alone in this game use up more polygons that whole cities in the original Project Gotham Racing. While the graphics do beat anything this generation has to offer I don’t think it is quite good enough for a next generation game though but as this is a launch title I have to judge it on that merit. The sound effects in this game are great and really immerse you in the game, it’s a shame the soundtrack doesn’t match it but there is some good stuff thrown in there. Most of it is techno though and can grate on you after a while, luckily this game features the option of a custom soundtrack and you can pretty much listen to anything you please. As with the graphical side of the game the in-car view the game offers is what I would recommend if you want the full audio experience with this game.
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