The release of a next generation console is finally here and with it, it has brought us the usual racing franchises showing off all that glossy shine that a new console brings to the table. Throughout the history of video games infact, the racing genre has neither really succeeded nor let us down over the years. One thing for certain however is that with these new days of graphical advancement in video games racing games always seem to show off all the capabilities of their time.
I will admit however that I’m not the most avid of racing game fans, but I have played my fair share over the course of the past decade. From the old 2D Atari games right up to the latest offerings the development team at Gran Turismo has to offer. One reason as to why I don’t involve myself into them much is mainly due to the fact that I don’t know that much about cars themselves. So when it comes down to it, I like them simple and arcade-like. I will however be looking at this game from a clear perspective and see how well it plays on brand new turf. So let’s see how it rates.
Well, seeing as there is no story involved at all with this game, it would be unfair to give it a score. I will however review PGR’s game modes. Specifically, the core of PGR 3 is its career mode in which you buy cars, progress through championships, earn medals and credit in order to reach the top of the racing world. Not only can you do this, but you can take it all online and compete against players from all around the world, seeking to be number 1. Career mode is pretty deep, offering 5 difficulty settings for each race, of which there are around 50. Not only do you race against other competitors but you get to take part in other activities such as ‘hot laps’ and a ‘cone’ mode in which you have to drive through cones and string it all together with neat driving moves that earn you ‘Kudos’. Earn Kudos and you will unlock bonus concept cars of which you can buy in Career mode and progress up the rankings chart. All of this is based around 5 cities and a lot more unique tracks, on top of all this you can even create your own tracks in the creator mode, which is needless to say, not that great.
Second of all there is Gotham TV, a feature that essentially allows you to watch other player’s race. Yes, it’s pretty much as exciting as it sounds… not that much. Entertaining for maybe the first couple of views, but that’s as good as it gets. Lastly, there is the ‘Play’ mode in which you can simply play free races, either multiplayer or single against bots. This does offer some fun in that you can try out all of the great cars and tracks available when you first start the game, but certainly isn’t PGR’s greatest feature that will keep you going back.
Overall, the game modes in PGR aren’t exactly groundbreaking or anything that hasn’t been done before. Instead it’s just a good healthy combination of stuff that works.
Game Mode Rating: 8
2. GAMEPLAY & CONTROL
Controls for PGR are true as true can be to all Xbox gaming titles of the past. You use the right trigger to accelerate, left trigger to brake and left analogue stick to manoeuvre your vehicle. That’s the basics and there’s obviously nothing wrong with them at all. There’s also the A button to control the hand brake and the X button to reverse, the right analogue to control the camera view and the left shoulder button (a new Xbox feature) to change the camera view to inside the car etc. I found it easiest to keep the camera to the default setting behind the vehicle but it suppose it’s all personal preference. Personally, I found nothing wrong with the controls at all.
Whilst going through the game, you will collect both Credit points and Kudos points as mentioned above. Credits you collect by winning races, tokens and championship trophies, of which you can use to buy new cars in greater classes. Kudos points you win by performing special manoeuvres whilst racing in ‘style’, such as dong power-slides, 360’s and drifting. Collecting certain amounts of Kudos will allow you to unlock and purchase special cars of which can only been unlocked by Kudos points. This will also increase your ranking in the racing world and allow you to race in certain races, which require a certain amount of the kudos points.
PGR features plenty of cars for you to drive around in and tear up the tracks with. A lot of them however, I felt were basically the same car with only slightly different features. You see, most of them are class B+ super-cars and there isn’t much else room for normal vehicles, which disappoints me in a racing game. I realise this is a matter of personal opinion however, but I do feel that a bit of variety could have been implemented to keep everyone (including me) happy.
Combine the excellent handling system with the easy controls and you have a winner. The only downfall of the game is it’s sometimes lacking realism in which collisions don’t particularly act as real as they probably would in real life. Fundamentally however, gameplay is very fun and will keep you entertained for a long time. The challenges will take a long time to go through and you probably won’t get bored going through them.
Gameplay & Control Rating: 8/10
If you’re reading this you’ll probably already have seen numerous screenshots of Project Gotham’s visual style and chic curves and shine but is it really all that beautiful? Well, yes, for the most part. You see, the majority of PGR looks absolutely stunning and shows you exactly how far video games have come in the past 5 or so years. Even more so, it shows us how far we may actually be able to progress if Xbox’s earlier titles are anything to go by when compared to this year’s effort. The cars look brilliant and attention to detail is perfect right up to the point where you expect your car to get at least a little bruised up. That’s one bad point you see, there isn’t any detection of it at all really and if there is, I must be a really good driver to avoid doing so. Apart from this however, the graphics are ultimately flawless. Light reflections of the curves of your brand new super-car will look fantastic and highly realistic. Infact, you won’t find a better looking racing game in my opinion, anywhere. PGR looks absolutely fantastic. I would have liked to see a little more weather development and detail though, such as rain or maybe snow. One other small negative is the crowds which look a little flat and unimpressive when placed within such a beautiful clean world.
The game’s cities are also represented very well, with excellent level design leading to extra long straight roads allowing the game to show off it’s truly impressive stable frame rate that immerses you within the feeling of speed and action found within Project Gotham Racing. All the famous building such as the MGM Grand in and Big Ben in can be seen whilst cruising through the 5 cities within PGR. Now I must make it clear that I haven’t been to all 5 of these cities in the game but to be honest, I have no problem putting myself into believing that this is one of the most detailed and realistic racing games to date.
What’s more to all this is that you can actually save all these fantastic moments at any given time through the games very neat ‘photo’ feature. So say you’re driving through and you pass by … pause the game and select photo mode and you’ll be able to zoom in, out and rotate around your car, infact you can do almost anything with the camera view to capture that perfect scene and save it to your hard drive. Not only does this look fantastic but it also adds a whole new dynamic to the game’s visual style and features that accompany it.
Graphics Rating: 9/10
PGR’s sound is ultimately hit or miss. Car sound effects such as the engine and screeching of tires sound powerful and highly realistic. Not only this, but you’ll find that every car has a specific different recording directly recorded from their real life models. This means that you’ll be treated to the ultimate experience in terms of motor sounds for all you engine nuts out there.
The downfall to PGR is its seemingly generic soundtrack. Although featuring a few well known tracks that seem to suit the mood within the game pretty well, the soundtrack is needlessly filled with other insignificant and unmemorable songs. At first glance the size of the soundtrack will probably impress you as you are presented with the option of selecting specific genres out of around 10 or so. After playing around with the game for around 4 hours or so, I came to realise that there really wasn’t that much there on offer. This needn’t matter that much though because most of the songs are more than often drowned out by the sound effects of the cars.
This shouldn’t bring down the score that much however as a lot of work has went into making this a good sounding game and overall, it does deserve a good bit of recognition. Even so, you can always just play your own music through your Xbox 360 anyway.
Sound Rating: 8/10
PGR’s main career mode should last you a good 30+ hours if you try to complete it fully with platinum trophies all round. If you keep it on a less challenging difficulty throughout however, you can expect gameplay time of around 5-10 hours doing the career mode through once. Following that, there are all the new cars you can work to unlock and the challenges specific to the Xbox 360’s Gamer Score system that you can work through. If all that gets boring then there’s always that little thing called Xbox Live which will no doubt keep you entertained for another good night or two. A good game with nice features that will have you coming back to it for a few weeks, less involved players of the game however may not get as much out of all this and may feel like all is lost after career is over and you’ve played online just a few times.
Lifeline Rating: 8/10
6. DIFFICULTY BALANCE
Project Gotham allows you to change the difficulty setting for each and every race you take part in. There are a total of 5 different settings: Novice; Easy; Medium; Hard; Hardcore. This allows fully customisable difficulty, suited to your needs, whoever you are. Not only this but as you progress, challenges will get harder but not too steeply and not so little that it’s not worth mentioning at all. So when you’re done with Easy and Medium difficulty settings, you can move on to the higher difficulty when you feel the need.
When I played through the career mode I tended to stick to the medium difficulty and managed to cruise through the races pretty easily. There was the odd case however when I could manage to beat races and challenges on Hard and Hardcore difficulty, which shows the diversity and satisfying nature of the game. Be warned however, sometimes jumps from medium to hard can be quite large and often led to me getting frustrated and trying again and again to win. It’s a good system that will actually allow you to develop your driving skills if you let it.
Difficulty Balance Score: 8/10
So yes, it’s a driving game and yes, that means that it’s automatically not going to be that original. True. What PGR does do however is offer an online mode that not many other racing games can rival with the exception of maybe Burnout? Of course, graphics within PGR are something very unique of its time so far and some other minor features such as a track creator and Gotham TV do redeem some points for the game.
Originality Score: 6/10
One thing that can be said about Project Gotham racing is that it is truly thrilling experience. Not only is a great arcade racing game with visuals to excite any console gamer but it has all the fundamentals of an addictive racer. can sometimes seem to get a little repetitive -as most racing games do- but as long as you mix up the action with different modes and bit of online play it shouldn’t get put away for a good few weeks.
The real driving force behind the games addictiveness is the willingness to get your hands on a better, faster car for you to leave your opponents behind in. This all adds to that all important enjoyment factor with the minor exception of one point: loading times. What can you expect though? With a game that features graphics as good as PGR, you should expect a fair amount of loading. What this does do however is take away that whole feel for on-the-go racing and action packed speed, when you’re sitting looking at a picture for a good solid minute or two. Don’t let this put you off though, for when it’s all loaded, you’ll soon forget about it.
Enjoyment Score: 8/10
XGD SCORE: 8/10
Not the greatest racing game I’ve managed to play through, but it’s certainly not a game to be forgotten. As a final note, I’d like to mention that fans of the whole racing game genre will probably rate this game higher than I have. Then again, I might be wrong. In my personal opinion however, PGR is a great game as eye candy and a good no brain powered time filler that will no doubt keep you entertained for a good while. I’d recommend rental to those of you unfamiliar with the PGR series and for those whom have played an enjoyed the last 2 in the series, you may as well go ahead and pick up this game if you have a 360. If you don’t have a 360 however, this isn’t the game you should buy it for. Wait a little longer for my upcoming Xbox 360 reviews to find out what is.