Project Gotham Racing 3 REVIEW

Project Gotham Racing 3 Review (Xbox 360)

This is what we had in mind with the Xbox 360.
Project Gotham Racing 3 is beautiful, exciting, fun and it points online play in a promising new direction.
While the game itself will be instantly familiar to PGR aficionados, this is a finely polished title that does everything it sets out to do in high style.

Phenomenal. In fact, PGR3's graphics may be the best reason to get that HDTV you've been ogling. If you have one already, you're in for a treat. While playing the game on a standard TV will still impress, the game practically pops off the screen in high-definition.
Sporting a rock-solid frame rate and conveying an excellent sense of speed, PGR3 is sure to satisfy adrenaline junkies. The driving locations are, quite simply, the finest ever seen in a video game, bar none. Not only are they staggeringly detailed, they're remarkably accurate. I know Las Vegas like the back of my hand, and while driving a block off the Strip last fall, I noticed the large parking structure behind the MGM Hotel that was being constructed. In PGR3, as in real life, it's still being built. Swing by the Flamingo and pass Jimmy Buffett's restaurant or tear through the Mirage's valet drop-off and note the small dolphin statues that mark each station. Even the Sephora store that my wife frequents at the Venetian - all there - perfectly replicated with exacting precision. The craftsmanship - a word not often associated with video games - is nothing less than spectacular.
This attention to detail doesn't stop at the tracks, however - use the in-car cam when driving and experience the functioning interior of every car in amazing detail. This isn't your run-of-the-mill in-car view, either; with the excellent reflections, lighting and, yes, your driver's bouncing noggin, the cockpit view is the closest you'll ever get to the experience of carving up the Nürburgring in a Enzo Ferrari.
Once you get used to the view, I'll bet you never go back to an external camera.
The cars themselves are rendered quite nicely, of course, but do have an artificial quality that's hard to pin down. It's not that they look bad in any way, but the models simply aren't as impressive as everything around them. Of course, since the locations and in-car views are the finest in video-game history, it's hard to pick on the car models, which are honestly no worse than any other driving game on the market today.


PGR3's in-game sounds are varied and excellent, with engines that whine or offer a throaty roar and everything in between. There's a wide-ranging selection of songs on the soundtrack, and they set the tone of the game well. Though most are of the techno variety, there's quite a bit of variation, and for those looking for something different, there's the thumping, exotic warbling of the Bhangra mix or the exhilarating-yet-sophisticated Classical mix. Rocketing through London at 120 MPH in a lushly-appointed Jaguar with Verdi trumpeting through your speakers is… well, special.
The Xbox 360 allows gamers to play music off of their attached hard drive or stream it off of their PC, as well - so if you'd rather listen to your own collections, go right ahead.
Unfortunately, there's no mixing and matching within the soundtracks, so if there's a particularly annoying song that crops up, there's no option for you to remove it from the play list.
It's admittedly a small complaint, but when so many Xbox games allow the player to select what they'd like to hear - song by song from both the game's soundtrack and their own music, this omission is a bit of a disappointment.

Project Gotham Racing 3 is centered around it's Gotham Career mode, which can be played either Solo or Online. The variety of race types keep the game fresh, alternating between various street races, cone slaloms, the exciting Kudos vs. Time races (where earning Kudos will extend your available time) and even a Burnout-styled Elimination race. While finishing the races as quickly as possible is still the most important thing, how you drive is a close second. Most tracks are narrow and littered with sharp turns; perfect for drift-style racing, but watch out for the walls! Kudos are earned for stringing together more and more impressive moves, and in doing so, you'll advance more quickly in your career. Credits are earned for race performance, with bonuses thrown in on the higher difficulty levels. These credits can be spent to load up your garages with the finest automobiles on the planet. While the Solo part of the Career can be wrapped up in a reasonable short amount of time, the Online Career mode never really ends. Through an excellent matching system, these ranked races will place you with players of relatively equal skill, ensuring exciting races no matter how good you get. Photo Editor lets you capture your car in motion and tweak the image in almost endless ways as a virtual souvenir, and the Create-A-Route feature lets track designers run amok in PGR3's virtual cities.
Taken as a whole, the game has almost endless replay-ability and challenge, and I suspect that PGR3 will chew up much of Xbox Live's bandwidth for most of 2006 - but we'll get to that later.


Project Gotham Racing 3 presents to the gamer an exciting blend of arcade racing action with just enough simulation feel to appeal to almost anyone. While one can immediately notice the difference between any two cars by performance alone, the driving model itself is forgiving without become too simplistic. This is definitely not Forza Motorsport or TOCA 2, but there's still plenty of challenge for most hardcore "sim" players. The arcade nature of game manifests itself in distinct and unavoidable ways, however. Your car cannot be damaged in any way that matters. While there is a minimal amount of damage displayed on the car models, the performance won't change at all, which tends to encourage careless and/or reckless driving, especially online.
Kudos and credits tend to be rather simple to earn, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, as the gamer is given constant reward for playing in the form of increased level/ranking and impressive new cars. You'll select a difficulty level before every event; this seems like a minute detail, but it's really quite valuable as you can continue to challenge yourself as you improve, with more credits your reward while making the attempt at harder difficulty settings - and at the highest levels, the AI drivers are ferociously good - one mistake can doom your race.
While parts of the Career mode may be tedious at times, the game offers excitement and constant challenge for gamers of any skill level, and PGR3's addictive game play encourages the gamer to keep coming back for more, refining their skills and experiencing the game in entirely new ways - and that's what good game design is all about.
The Online Career mode was discussed earlier, and its seamless performance makes it a joy to play. PGR3 runs magnificently on Xbox Live, with virtually no lag - and there's always a race going on somewhere, with lobbies often bursting at the seams.
You can also create a route and open it up for play over Xbox Live, which encourages creativity and tends to keep the game fresh for everyone.
The game's TrueSkill matching system works very well indeed, and with five different online race modes available - including three team-based races - there's really something for everyone.
For the hardcore racers, the flexibility available when creating a race is most welcome. AI cars can be added to the mix; the gear type (manual or automatic) can be forced, and so can the in-car camera view. Collisions can also be turned off, and the race entrants can be limited to your Friends list.
While PGR3 is no "sim", these features can allow gearheads to weed out the newbies and get down to some serious racing online.
The new Gotham TV feature opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for online play - the ability to tune into any of your friends' races or the best players in the world, and watch them perform as it happens. A ticker running along the bottom of the game's menu screens will keep you updated on events all over the online PGR3 world.
These are the kind of things that keep gamers coming back for more, and Microsoft Game Studios should be commended for including such a robust online package in Project Gotham Racing 3. Let's hope upcoming Xbox 360 games follow their lead.

To put it simply: Project Gotham Racing 3 is a perfectly balanced arcade racer. It's lovingly crafted, exciting as all get-out, and looks like nothing you've ever played before. Its challenges can be nearly endless, and the spectacular Xbox Live integration assures that PGR3 will have a long, enjoyable stay in your gaming rotation. If you own an Xbox 360 - then you should own Project Gotham Racing 3. Next-generation racing has truly arrived.

Project Gotham Racing 3 Score
out of 10