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ups: Beautiful cars& lots of 'em, customizable tracks, soundtrack is spot on, presentation, online play is rock solid
downs: No real advancements in the series, tracks sometimes feel too enclosed, at 200 Mph you don't get to admire the scenery much

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Project Gotham Racing 3 Review
game: Project Gotham Racing 3
five star
posted by: Chris Martin
publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
developer: Bizarre
ESRB rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 and Older)
date posted: 09:26 AM Mon Dec 5th, 2005
last revision: 09:26 AM Mon Dec 5th, 2005

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Click to read.Few racing games have such a grand following as the Project Gotham Racing series. The series began with Metropolis Street Racer for the Dreamcast and, after the console\'s untimely demise, ambitious developer Bizarre was picked up by Microsoft and Project Gotham Racing was brought to their black box. While the evolution of the series (technically) has been slow but steady, spanning 4 games now, the series\' fan-base has grown considerably since its second, first incarnation (PGR), rivaling that of, perhaps, Need for Speed or Ridge Racer. With the tweaks to the kudos system in PGR2, as well as a refined online multiplayer, PGR3 has much to aspire to, and much room to improve. PGR 2 showed a glimmer of substance that other racing games didn\'t: it combined style with speed in a smart, functional way. On top of that it featured enough pick-up-and-play mentality to get newcomers hooked. So has this series evolved with the launch of the Xbox 360? In a word, yes. In two words: hell yes. Overall, there\'s enough in PGR 3 to consider it an evolution of gameplay and presentation. More importantly, everything the game does is done with precision, showing the skill of developer Bizarre, and proving Microsoft made a smart move by picking them up.

PGR3, ultimately, is in a class all its own. It feels different than other Xbox 360 launch titles like Need For Speed Most Wanted or Ridge Racer. Perhaps there is a maturity in PGR 3 that we haven\'t seen before. Perhaps variety. But one thing is for sure, now it\'s on the Xbox 360 and we may have the finest version of the series yet.

PGR 3, like its prequels, is famous for its measurement of style. Drift through a corner, catch air, overtake an opponent and you\'ll earn points-\"Kudos\"-that represent you\'re style for that particular race. You\'ll use your kudos, like money, to purchase cars and compare your skill to another racer. Kudos are also used to monitor your progress through the single offline, and online, modes. It\'s a fairly easy system to get a hang of. The more kudos you rack up, the quicker you\'ll progress through ranks, eventually, if you\'re good enough, to rank number one. The good news with PGR3 is that the Kudos system is largely, almost wholly, intact from Project Gotham Racing 2. The bad news is that it seems to matter less this time around. The challenge of earning kudos isn\'t nearly as difficult as it had been in previous games. Kudos is rewarded in large bundles, so purchasing nearly any car is possible after a few races. And although it is challenging to string together combos for the greatest possible score, racing outright has dominance in PGR3.

This is good news for those who thought PGR2s kudos system was an over-complicated method of remittance. In PGR3 you\'ll quickly scale the ranks, earning considerably higher amounts of kudos than before. In the single player offline mode, you\'ll select a skill level to aspire to for each race (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum) and then attempt to meet that skill. Earning platinum is difficult (sometimes nearly impossible) while gold and lower is anywhere from doable to laughably easy. Completing a higher difficulty will net you more kudos, so, therefore, you\'ll want to try harder to be able to buy more cars. But going through to get all the gold medals seemed an easy enough way to earn cars. Go through platinum solely for the challenge. The game does reward too quickly, however, and after about ten races I had almost twelve cars. This isn\'t bad, but it feels like too many rewards with little challenge. While the offline mode is somewhat easy, and easily finished in a weekend, PGR3 pushes you to get the cars you want and then jump online for some serious races.

And here\'s where the pedal is pushed, literally, to the metal. Online racing with PGR3 is simple, unadulterated joy, and with the streamlined Xbox Live interface, finding-and keeping in touch with-friends has never been easier. Online I experienced no lag (though sometimes people do \"jump\" if they have a poor connection) and the community so far is friendly. Every once in awhile you run into some overly aggressive player, but you can always set that person to \"avoid\" so you won\'t see him or her again. Nice.

The physics engine has been retooled, but not too much. Each car feels different, heavier would be the word. Each car has received more weight and grip. Overall, the game has become more arcade than simulation, but still feels like Project Gotham. You can drift through corners at 140 miles per hour, rip off walls and continue slightly jarred but unharmed, and spin opponents out of the race with a nudge of the bumper. There is a damage model (you can dent your car), but it\'s completely superficial and you won\'t be running out of gas or losing your hood in PGR3. Racing well and racing in style are the keys to the game.

For launch titles, the prettiest of the bunch is arguably PGR3; while boasting amazingly detailed car interiors as well as exteriors, the vistas of New York, Las Vegas, Tokyo, London, and Nurburgring are exceptionally detailed. In fact, there is a higher polygon count on the Brooklyn Bridge alone this time out than in the entire New York level from previous incarnations of PGR. You\'ll even see three dimensional cheering squads (as opposed to 2D cutouts). Cameras flash from the audience. Engines sound powerful and unique. Tire screeches, bumps, and crashes all sound good (the crashes don\'t sound as good as those in Burnout: Revenge, but what did you expect?). Even the music is downright inspired. You\'ll hear some good techno with the likes of Orbital and Aphex Twin, there\'s the traditional rock music (which isn\'t that bad), there\'s J-Pop (that\'s Japanese Pop music for the layman), Classical (Brahms, Bach), Industrial, Dark Electronic (Drum & Bass), Hip-Hop, and even Bhangra. Seriously, when was the last time you heard Bhangra or J-Pop in a video game? When was the last time you heard classical? Awesome.

And looking at the cars will be helped by the five driving viewpoints: two from behind, two on the front bumper, one from the driver\'s seat (complete with wheel, tachometer, dash, mirror, everything!). The PGR trademark is, undoubtedly, the driver\'s seat view which really puts you in the action. From here you have a limited perspective; you can take a look at the interior which boasts over 30,000 polygons, or gaze around at the world with the right analog stick-just don\'t do it in a turn. As you change the camera, you can hear different sounds from the car. For instance, behind the car you hear the engine Doppler Effect slightly, but on the hood you have the roar of the engine almost entirely. Little touches like this really make PGR 3 a gem among launch titles.

Each car boasts stats for drift, acceleration, grip, and braking. I\'m not sure how accurate each stat is-as most cars can hang together in the pack-but I can say for certain that you can\'t drive each the same. A Lamborghini doesn\'t control like a Ferrari, and neither control like a Maserati. There are about 80 cars in total, but you won\'t find any Civics or Miatas; these are the cream of the crop, folks, some of the fastest and prettiest cars ever made.

Take your game offline and work through the ranks much like in PGR 2. Fans will immediately recognize events like cone challenge or breakthrough. There are additions like Speed Vs Kudos that makes you balance racing fast with making kudos to stop the clock.

Gotham TV is a feature worth mentioning, but I\'m not sure how many people will put it to good use. It\'s possible to watch friends race or to go into the heroes channel and see how the best in the world play. A better feature is the ability to create tracks in PGR 3. In any of the cities (excluding Nurburgring) you can lay out a route (point to point or circuit) of almost any size. There are some great variations here and you can race them online.

My only real complaint is that it\'s possible to report people online even if they didn\'t \"curse\" or \"play too agressively\" and that might hurt the game in the end. Also, even though the tracks and locales are beautiful, the tracks sometimes feel too claustrophobic, too narrow for my tastes. And cruising over the bridges in New York, you can wreck the guy in front of you and cause some nasty pileups.

In the end Project Gotham Racing 3 is the most solid and polished launch title for the Xbox 360 and it\'s most certainly the prettiest racer ever. Sorry Gran Turismo, but you\'ve got nothing on these cars. PGR 3 screams to be viewed in 1080i. On a normal TV the game never really gets a chance to show its true colors. The game doesn\'t do anything truly revolutionary or elevate the series to a new plateau of quality. But the gameplay and presentation is incredibly polished. More than anything, the game is damn fun. Worth every penny.

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