Project Gotham Racing 3 Reader Review
You lot remember the Dreamcast, right? Probably one of the best consoles in history with a load of top-notch games and innovation. When I was at university I remember doggedly following Metropolis Street Racer and so wanting it because it showed the power of the DC, and also you could drive around in London in standard street cars. I've still it somewhere too.
Fast forward a few generations, past Project Gotham Racing 1 and 2, and we see Bizarre Creations at it again with what is essentially their fourth in the MSR series (MSR and PGR are interchangeable in my mind). The thing I loved about MSR was that you didn't so much as learn the tracks/routes, more that you learnt how to take particular types of corners and unique sections of road. It wasn't: 'left-right-straight-handbrake-push-off-left-left-right', but 'ah, this corner' and execute the relevant gas-brake-turn-gas manoeuvre. Maybe that's how you play racing games, but for me MSR/PGR was/is different.
Bizarre have been able to carry this through because they focus on particular parts of a city and build tracks from sections of road. Each route may be unique but you'll easily recognise sections from past tracks and know how to go about completing them. It's nice to see that through the four games, the developers didn't just keep the same cities but have added, replaced and returned those that they believe to provide the most fun, with London, Japan, Las Vegas and New York on offer. The exception is the Nurburgring, which put me off a little as this goes back to what I was saying about knowing the order of the turns and not much else.
Graphically and aurally fantastic, there really isn't much else to talk about on those aspects. The developers have included a Photo Mode, allowing you to take pictures at any time during a race or replay (without the obscuring HUD showing) and there are a number of photographic options to turn even the most boring scenes into a work of art. If you prefer to view the scenery on the move, an outside-car view provides you the opportunity to pan the camera - although you're likely to crash your car too. And you can also upload such stuff onto the PGR3 server - although it doesn't seem to be fully implemented yet (as you can't view your photos).
I'm going to assume you know about MSR and PGR so I'm not going to bother with the mechanics of the game, but will say that there are old and new race events for you to play through to become Rank 1 (offline). Of five difficulty levels, getting the highest Platinum medal is no easy feat and, with some PGR3 badges (for general skills) and LIVE Achievements only attainable with the highest medal, you'll definately be challenged.
If you like racing, you'll like PGR3 - definately no qualms about it. There are a load of sports and concept cars available for you to play with, but they have now scrapped any vehicle that doesn't go forwards at at least 150mph - no more saloon car racing for us. Except this is where LIVE Marketplace steps in. Lately, there have been a number of updates for PGR3 (a good thing) with more cars to buy as well as a couple of different online multiplayer racing modes. I'm sorely tempted to buy the Mini, just for the sake of it. It's only 60-points (51pence); nowadays you can only just get a choccy bar for that. Microtransactions might be evil, but at least you can't say they don't give you anything (an aside, Atari's Test Drive Unlimited will retail at a much lower price than standard with the intention that your saving will be plugged into LIVE Marketplace items - clever indeed).
There's one thing that hate about racing games and that's the lack of 'survival AI'. Fair enough that there's a racing line and that each racer wants to be on it, but when you're playing offline and you are on the racing line, the computer controlled racers just don't give a shit. They will bump and push you, and for as hard as you might try they will normally win the line. In fact, it's most likely because you'll have given in because you couldn't actually nudge them out the way like they do to you. Even with full-lock, you best outcome is crashing into a wall. Utter, utter shite, and stupid. The opposition have no care for staying on the track primarily because they don't have to care - they will always win. Crap crap crap!
Which is why the online multiplayer is actually good fun. There are a number of modes, with a few recently added (Cat and Mouse, Cone Touch(?) and Capture the Track), and there is also an online career. As great as that sounds isn't sometimes difficult to find other racers wanting to do the same thing as you - although this is likely because I'm late to the game what with PGR3 being a launch title. Still, the non-career races are a good laugh as you'll regularly find 10 or so races waiting to fill up with players and start, although it damn hard to find people wanting to play Cone Touch or Capture the Track (which do not have route restrictions).
Project Gotham Racing 3 is still as good as it ever was. Oh, and the inclusion of the Nurburgring was definately a good one.