Thursday, September 14, 2006

360 review: Project Gotham Racing 3 (6/10)

I wanted to really like this game. I did. But it turns out that PGR3 is like the woman you dated who had a really hot sister: everything was fine as long as the sister wasn't around, but when she was, you just couldn't help looking, and when you looked back at your girlfriend, all you could see was what she wasn't. It wasn't that she wasn't hot in her own right; she just wasn't that hot.

PGR's sister is Gran Turismo. On its own, PGR 3 is a solid game - online racing, single-player mode, "creating" tracks, badges, medals, kudos, achievements. But when you start comparing them, you start noticing all the things that PGR doesn't have.

Replay value, for one. The difficulty for each medal is roughly geared to the car you're driving, so you can't go get that gold medal simply by driving a faster car, as you might in GT3. And if you don't complete an event, you don't keep your kudos, so you can't try over and over again just to move up in rank.

Vision, for another. Especially in HD, where Bill Gates must have personally overseen the lighting. "Make sure they know we can show light and dark," he said, and so the nighttime races look like you're running at midnight on a cloudy night. Yeah, it looks cool, unless you're trying to play, in which case you're all over the track because you can't see it.

Of course, it would be easier if they had a course map for you, which they don't. All they have is a little inset map showing the region of the track you're on, and even in HD, the detail is lacking, so you can't tell the difference between a slight bend, a chicane, and some other feature they forgot to detail.

Not only do they not have a course map, they don't show you by how much you trail the car in front of you, except at checkpoints, so there's no way to tell if you have any chance of catching him. Not that it would matter, because he'd just spin you out. You can't spin him out, though. AI-controlled cars almost never spin out. It's magic.

And the things like time and speed challenges? Say you're doing a speed challenge where platinum is 120 mph, gold is 110, and silver is 105. If you try it at silver, and you reach 121, all you get is silver. You can only win the medal you've selected.

It does have one thing in common with GT3, though. It's nearly impossible to tell if you already own a car, just in case you were thinking about trying to buy all the cars in the game. Seriously, would it have been that hard to have some little icon in the list indicating that you've already got one?

And yes, it does have Ferraris and Lamborghinis, so it has something that GT3 doesn't (or was it Ferraris and Porsches?).

This is the best racing game I've played on the 360, for what it's worth (Burnout Revenge is a better game, but a worse racing game. You'll see what I mean when I review it), but it's no GT3. That's okay, though. Unplug your PS2, set it behind you, and enjoy PGR3 for a while. It's fun, worth a GameFly rental, but buy at your own risk.

zlionsfan's rating: 6 Ferraris out of 10.

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