Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Project Gotham Racing 3

I've read the reviews of PGR3, which is generally considered the strongest launch game. I've heard about the allegedly incredible graphics, the great sound effects, blah blah blah.

Well, nothing prepared me for this.

This game doesn't just look good. It doesn't even just look great. It is nothing short of totally mind-blowing. Unbelievable amounts of detail, an incredible number of objects, stunning lighting effects, and greasy fast frame rates. And it's razor-sharp.

If you're a PC gamer of my era, you might remember Grand Prix Legends. Remember the first time you booted up Grand Prix Legends? Remember how shocked you were? That's the same feeling I had this morning, and I haven't had it with a racing game since GPL.

The in-cockpit view is the single most amazing view I've ever seen in a racing game. Widescreen, perfectly detailed, real-time dials and gauges, dirt and bug stains on the windshield--man! And the car judders over the pavement, with the windshield moving in perfect coordination. It is uncannily realistic.

The play mechanics are familiar in that it's a ladder system with hundreds of different races and challenges to work through, and you're awarded points both for successfully completing a challenge as well as for using good driving technique. I call that carrot gameplay, and for racing games it works very well.

I can't comment on the driving model, because I started off on the easy difficulty level (haven't raced in a while). After nine races, I was starting to get my timing down and it was fairly easy to beat the field, so I'll probably move up next time.

One other nice touch, and this is just a 360 feature: since you create a gamer profile, PGR3 automatically uses that information to create a save game for you. No more going into each game and creating a profile--it's all automatic now. That's a nice touch.

Oh, and a note about the 360: it's loud. Louder than a PS2. With headphones on, I can't even hear it, but if you're only a few feet away, I think it would be noisy.

Now about review scores. Obviously, I can't give this game a real review score after an hour, but I can tell you that finding reliable review scores for launch games is terribly difficult. Sites want to score these games like it's a gymnastics competition--they want to rate these games low enough to "leave room" for future contestants. Well, that's a load of crap. The question should not be where the games score on a 1-10 versus some sort of theoretical notion of how good people expect the 360 to be two years from now. They should be scored against the last-gen, because how else will you know how they compare?

So here's the deal. I didn't see the latest Gran Turismo (which ran at 1080i through line doubling, which is a nifty trick but not true high definition), but I've seen just about every other console racer out there. If the best last-gen console racer was a 9, then this game has to be in the 13-14 range. That's how much of a leap it takes compared to existing games.

Okay, one down, and I'm glad I started with that one (I'm pulling games at random). What a phenomenal start.

Next: Peter Jackson's King: The Official Game of the Movie and the Longest Most Ego-Driven Game Title In the History of the World.

Start the crying watch.

Site Meter