So when I went to Wal-Mart back in January I was looking for Ridge Racer 6, the worst-selling game in North America. I get there, and having the clerk dig through the games on the bottom of the shelf (I’m not allowed to) it became abundantly clear that they did not have it, and that this was entirely Microsoft’s fault. So I go for the “other” racing game, Project Gotham Racing 3, from Bizarre Creations and Microsoft Game Studios, bring it home, pop it in and immediately have the phrase next-gen graphics defined for me.
The game has its roots in Metropolis Street Racer on the SEGA Dreamcast, which introduced the Kudos system and after the downfall of the Dreamcast, moved in spirit to the original Project Gotham Racing for the Xbox. In fact, the only reason this game is not called Metropolis Street Racer 4 is because SEGA owns rights to the name, but you can see the link (Metropolis and Gotham, both DC Comics cities.)
The movies don’t do it justice. You have to begin a race on your own and your mind is immediately blown. I mean, it may not be now, after Lost Planet and Fight Night Round 3, but keep in mind this was back in January. The environments are photorealistic, and the cars, while having a few jagged edges here and there, look great as well. Each of the game’s 170+ cars has a different interior for you to slobber over while in the game’s in-car view for a completely immersive experence. (You know. If you can drive in that view without getting pwn3d.) The game recreates in excruciating detail Tokyo, New York, London, Las Vegas, and the NĂĽrburgring track in Europe. The only downside to this is that there’s not a lot of variety in the tracks.
Beginning on graphics, it sounds like that’s most important to me, but it’s the first thing you notice. Then a newbie (me) to these sorts of racing sims will quickly notice how hard it is to turn without braking completely. Of course, braking completely isn’t conductive to a racing atmosphere, so you’ll spend quite a while learning how to drift and later take corners by just letting off the gas.
The game offers you two different play modes from the main screen: Gotham Career and Playtime. Gotham Career contains both the Solo and Online Career modes, the former being a series of speed and style challenges and the latter involving Xbox Live ranked matches in different scenarios. For instance, in one gametype, you’ll have four people in point-to-point races in Classes A and E, and in another you’ll have two people dueling in circuit races in Class D. The classes are changed every so often to keep it fresh, but that’s a little irritating and you wonder why they didn’t just make all classes available in all gametypes.
Playtime is a more friendly affair, offering you an ability to play system link, splitscreen, against the computer, against the clock, or against friends over Xbox Live. The game also sports one of the most robust Specator Modes on Xbox Live, allowing you to view select Online Career races featuring the best racers in the game. The game also notifies you when you’re in one, alerting you to do your best. Very few people still watch, more than likely, but there’s still a rush of doing especially well in one. On that line of thought, there is also a great Photo Mode, which unfortunately does not allow you to upload your shots to Live. You’ll still spend time with it.
What sets Project Gotham 3 apart from its competitors is its emphasis on style. In the top-right side of your screen is a counter that makes a clicking noise as you drift, slide, and gain air, and half of the Solo Career is based entirely on this. It’s called the Kudos system, and you’ll definitely get a kick out of watching it multiply. The clicking noise is a joy.
The game keeps track of practically everything you ever do, and many of the achievements demand that you showcase all kinds of l33t skillz. As far as those go, they run the gamut from amazingly easy - finding the Geometery Wars 1 and 2 demos (which I should seriously get around to doing on this Gamertag) - to the amazingly difficult - beating the game on Platinum difficulty.
Project Gotham 3 also sounds great, with the motor drowning out most of your music. The game features a varied soundtrack (Death Cab for Cutie! In a racing game!) which unfortunately you can’t turn up over the effects; you have to turn the effects down. You’ll spend more time listening to the Death Cab for Cutie CDs you already own with the custom soundtracks.
My only gripe with this game is that it does not feel fast. You’re going two hundred miles/three hundred kilometers an hour, but it doesn’t feel as twitchy if-you-blink-you-will-crash fast as Burnout Revenge. However, this is personal taste, and this game probably works better at this speed. You’ll crash enough as it is.
A couple of months ago I finally got to play Ridge Racer 6. All I have to say is thank you, Microsoft, for not letting Wal-mart have that game, because I like this so much better.
Final Score: 9 out of 10 - Very Good (how do we rank games?)