Project Gotham Racing 3 [*****]

When I first got the original Xbox, I was dismayed by the fact my favorite genre of game – simulation racing – had yet to find a real home on the system. PGR 2 was a joke. Sure, the cars were eye candy – but the physics were so arcade-like they made OutRun look like Gran Turismo. I had grown accustomed to Gran Turismo – playing every version from the very first on the original PlayStation.

Project Gotham Racing 3 is the game that shows Microsoft is serious about racing. While I won’t hold it in the same regard as Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport it holds a close 2nd, very close. The physics are just about dead on, handling, controls, braking, drifting, all the aspects of controlling the car are heavily geared towards simulation… not so much that the cars aren’t forgiving, but try to take out a vehicle marked expert and drive it like something rated novice – you’ll toss it into a wall and blow the pretty paint job. Skill levels are abundant as well, and accurate.

Up the skill level and the AI adjusts accordingly, giving the player a better run and greater challenge. Kudos are back, not quite sure what these are for besides unlocking rides, but you are rewarded for various stunts including the now common drifting. All the tracks are tiered out, increasing in difficulty and complexity as each new tier opens.

Graphics – It’s a Microsoft game on a Microsoft console, they’re outstanding. Being an early title, even under 1080i some pixels are visible – but not so much that the view is any less breathtaking. Engine and braking sounds are accurate and paired with the extremely precise force feedback only serve to add to the overall experience.

I fully expect this game to get trounced by Forza Motorsport 2, but in the mean time for about $20 it’s the best racing game on the console.

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