Project Gotham Racing 3 Review

Wow. I really like next-gen racing, and racing isn’t even my favorite genre. Playing Project Gotham Racing 3 (PGR3) in high-definition with the 5.1 cranked up is an amazing gaming experience. I could just end the review right now and tell you that if you like racing games then this game should be in your Xbox 360 game library and for the rest of you that unless you abhor racing you should at the very least give the game a rental … but I won’t. I’d rather take the time to let you know why the game is so enjoyable as well as why it’s not perfect. I am, after all, a game critic…

PGR3 is a racing simulator that focuses squarely on the kinds of cars only the wealthy can afford – we’re talking cars from Lotus, Ferrari, Shelby, and the likes of those. There are over 70 cars available in the game and you won’t have to spend a minute in a Honda Civic. The focus on these high-end dream machines has a number of consequences. First of all, there’s no damage model. If you’re at all familiar with the complicated world of auto licensing in video games, you’ll know that car manufactures have all sorts of conniptions when it comes to allowing their cars to be shown with damage. I guess they think people will stop buying their cars if they learn that bumping a wall at 120 MPH will do more than scratch the paint. Anyway, the end result here is that you can bounce your Ferrari off of a wall at 200 MPH and then simply pull back onto the road and get right back into the race none the worse for wear.

The other consequence of the high end focus is that you’ll need some video game driving skills to get anywhere in the game. If you think it is tricky getting your SUV into a compact space at the mall parking lot, imagine what it must be like to make a 90 degree turn onto a city street when you’re approaching the intersection at 200 MPH. Now think about doing it with a video game controller. Unless you’re used to racing sims it won’t be easy. The game does have different skill level options, but these change the race requirements and not the realistic physics model. For example, you may need to finish in the top three positions at a lower skill level while a higher skill level may require you to come in first in the same race. There’s not a gentle upgrade between the levels either – you may make the cut comfortably at one level and then have your shorts handed back to you on every single race at the next.

While I’m laying out all the caveats for the game, I need to warn you gear-heads out there that you won’t be able to customize your car in PGR3. There are no part shops, tuning screens, or any other options for tweaking or tuning your cars. You’ll be able to choose the color of your cars’ paint jobs but that’s about it. Personally I’m just fine with this as I’d rather spend my time with a racing game actually racing, but I know that some people really get into that sort of thing.

The game itself provides you with a wide variety of racing challenges. You’ll need to beat competitors to the finish line, make your way through cone-marked slalom courses, and reach a set target speed over a short stretch of track to name a few. All of these races take place on the streets of real-world cities such as London and New York, and the processing power of the Xbox 360 really brings all of these locations to life. The races are grouped into series of three or more races that collectively make up a “cup”, but there’s no more significance to winning a cup than it unlocks new cups for you to compete in. You have to run the individual races in a cup in order because only the first one will be unlocked when the cup is unlocked, but you can always go back and re-run a race in an attempt to improve your time or score.