The first Xbox was certainly not short on racing games, in fact it was home to many present day classic franchises such as TOCA, Rallisport Challenge, and even the love it or hate it Test Drive series. The most popular racing game on the console however came from a small European developer called Bizarre Creations. Before creating Microsoft’s perennial racing franchise they had worked on the fantastic Dreamcast racer Metropolis (these names lead me to believe these guys are comic book fans) and even developed the quirky platformer Fur Fighters for the PS2. It wasn’t, however, until they released the original PGR for Xbox that they staked their claim in the racing market. It was certainly no surprise that MS asked them to return for the release of their new console with the latest entry in their fan-favorite racing franchise, Project Gotham Racing 3.
For those familiar with the Gotham series this latest entry is exactly what you would expect from a next-gen effort. The core game remains the same with the usual expect upgrades and the graphics have been given a boost of steroids to increase the already amazing detail in the cars and even the city itself. You will be hard pressed to find better visuals among the 360 launch lineup; PGR 3 is a visual showcase in every sense of the word. From the 80,000+ polygon car models to the ridiculously accurate city models this game never fails to impress. The uncanny attention to detail in the environments will have you slamming into walls on your first trip through each course just to take in the scenery.
There are a total of five cities in PGR 3, Las Vegas, Nurburgring, Tokyo, London, and New York, each one has a specific set of routes to traverse through and even the ability to create your own. There is plenty of road for you to explore in the extremely robust career mode and especially online, you can even take your created routes online and race against others which is an extremely nice touch.
Like I stated earlier Gotham 3 is an extremely feature-heavy game, there are so many options and modes that you could literally spend months just discovering them all. I already mentioned the create-a-route mode but there is also a standard career mode, basic time trial, ghost race, and of course online multi-player. Bizarre has also thrown in some new online modes that take full advantage of Xbox Live such as the online career that pits you against other players online in a battle for more Kudos. Probably the most talked about addition though is Gotham TV, now you can watch other people race online on what Bizarre has dubbed the Heroes Channel. Up to 30,000 people can watch any race simultaneously in a broadcast style format, of course to be featured on Gotham TV you have to prove your skills and be able to hang with the best drivers in the world. Bizarre has also created a friends channel which allows you to see what your buddies are doing online, so study your friends racing habits and then exploit them all over Xbox Live.
Speaking of Live integration fans of PGR certainly remember how well part two was intertwined into Microsoft’s service and you won’t be disappointed here. PGR 3 is easily the best game to take advantage of Xbox Live out of all the launch titles. All of your stats are recorded and uploaded instantaneously and there is even a live ticker that gives you up-to-the-minute updates on all the happenings in the PGR 3 community. You can view leaderboards of the top racers or simply your friends and even download ghosts of the best online players to race against. Oh I almost forgot, you can also just hop online and play with other racers from around the globe, PGR 3 supports up to eight-player simultaneous racing action!
The meat of the game is still the career mode. This time around Bizarre has made this option more user-friendly by simply eliminating the class-type racing. You are now able to race any class car on every single type of race. This really adds a pick up and play atmosphere, it also doesn’t hurt that you have access to over 70 cars right from the outset. Each section of the career mode is broken down into a series of races all of which have the usual tier of difficulties. Basically this mode is great for honing your skills and being able to purchase new cars for the higher difficulties. Your Kudos bonus and credits are still determined by the level you set the AI to, so the better you are the more money you can earn to earn new cars. When you first start the game you are given a simple garage with four spaces for your new rides, there are also two arcade machines in the back for you to enjoy some leisurely rounds of Geometry Wars and its sequel. As you progress through the game and purchase more rides you earn new garages that are much more appealing to walk around in.
Simply put Bizarre Creations has crafted, in this reviewer’s opinion, the perfect racing game. The sheer amount of modes, options, cars is enough to hook the casual while the hardcores will enjoy building up Kudos and trying to make appearances on Gotham TV. With stellar Xbox Live integration and an almost infinite number of ways to play the game Project Gotham Racing 3 is the definition of what next-gen gaming should be. I simply cannot recommend this title more, if you own and Xbox 360 do yourself a favor and buy it now!