Project Gotham Racing 3
It seems every launch has a great racing game and Project Gotham Racing 3 fills that role nicely for the 360. Frankly, there's not much missing here and it highlights many of the strengths of the 360. If you not familiar with the Project Gotham Racing series, it thrives on semi-realistic street racing, close attention to graphic detail, and plenty of features to keep you busy for some time. Project Gotham Racing 3 brings all that back, refines it further and adds new depth and functionality that makes this a must have launch game.
So what stands out as a next-gen game? Well the most obvious place to start is with the graphics. Everything is gorgeous from the city streets to the cars themselves, it's definitely eye candy (at least running at 1080i). The texture quality in particular stands out along with all the small details that make it as much fun to watch as play. In addition, there are plenty of sound tracks to select from and an excellent use of sound effects that work great on surround sound.
There're also plenty of other gameplay features to keep you glued to the road as well. The style points or Kudos are still handed out when any of the 16 combos are pulled off, the tracks are still well designed, and the AI is still tough as nails. Although a recovery is possible on the lower levels, if you wipe out on the medium setting or higher you odds of catching up are rather slim. Have no fear however as a quick race restart takes care of that. Trophies and medals are handed out when races are won and credit is given to buy new cars.
It's the Live feature that Microsoft can take most advantage of however and does so with style. Obviously the centerpiece for the 360, and there is a ton of potential used here from theme races to an online career mode all with a solid leaderboard pulling it together.
Project Gotham Racing 3 does justice to the 360 as a great launch title and considering the next round of games won't come out until next year, this should make you wait a little easier.
Download Project Gotham Racing 3
If you're not playing in cockpit view, you're cheating yourself. I don't care if the dash eats up valuable visual real estate--little details like the flickering sunlight on the instrument panel and smudges on the windshield (only visible when the light hits it just right) really convey that behind-the-wheel feel. It's incredibly intense, and all the usual cliches about white knuckles and forgetting to blink apply times 10. PGR's signature "kudos" system is back, so you'll earn kudo points for powerslides and overtaking maneuvers--but, strangely, you now also earn credits for doing well in races, and those are what you use to buy new cars. So piling up the kudos is pretty much worthless, except to climb the Xbox Live leaderboards. Weird. Don't expect that street-tuning malarky (sorry, dub fans) or free-roaming cities here. And while those things certainly don't make a racing game great, PGR3 could use a little more variety. The offline single player begins to feel like a treadmill of repetitive race events (though you can also earn credits through online races). Still, PGR3 is so damn pretty, I can't be mad at it for long."]
Perched comfortably between the fanciful arcade insanity of Ridge Racer and the meticulous gearhead simulation of Gran Turismo, PGR3 delivers uniquely semiserious racing thrills. Here, you don't have to stress over automotive minutia (the only tweaking you'll do is to your paint job), and you can recklessly powerslide around corners in luxury cars like a spoiled rich kid. PGR3 offers instant gratification: From the outset you're getting behind the wheels of some wickedly powerful sports cars. And you'll actually want to improve your skills, thanks to the series' trademark kudos system--garnering instant feedback (and unlock-able achievements) adds plenty of incentive to keep on truckin'. Still, don't expect a wildly inventive racer--the overall scope of the game hasn't really expanded much from PGR2, but the lovely photo-realistic visuals and deep online play make it a worthwhile investment.
PGR3 is pretty much everything I've been looking for in a racing game but somehow didn't even know I wanted until I strapped into its gorgeous interior. It combines the gripping, edge-of-your-seat rush and ease of an exotic arcade racer with the depth and vehicular distinction of more sophisticated driving sims. The balance between the two gameplay styles is nearly perfect. Unlike PGR2, which upped the ante in terms of total and seamless online integration, PGR3's great contribution to the genre is in the incredible in-car view that establishes not only an intense sense of speed, but also a sense of weight not found in even the most complex sim racing games. And you're never stuck driving a mundane Peugeot hatchback. There isn't another racer I'd rather play...well, at least until Forza hits Xbox 360.
Project Gotham Racing 3 borrows Gran Turismo fs photo mode, then makes it better--you can pause race replays and then pose a pretty snapshot anywhere on the track. But for the truly lazy, fire up Gotham TV on Xbox Live and watch the top-ranked players battle it out on the Heroes channel. Or hit the Friends channel and see your buddies ping-pong off the track walls and lose horribly.