I haven’t written my Project Gotham Racing 3 review yet, which makes me naughty, I know, but it’s past Christmas, and I hear Santa quits taking notes after December 23, so I think I’m in the clear. Part of it’s just a lack of time, since I’m still trying to un-bury myself from the 18 games of the Xbox 360 launch, but another part is simply because I’m not sure what to write. I’ve got some ideas, sure, but PGR3 is such a different game from PGR2 (remember my retrospective?) that I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to say.
Somewhere between the second and third game, the PGR series lost its way. I have a feeling it’s a sign of Microsoft focusing so much on Xbox Live, which is a bit disconcerting. Sure, I understand that Xbox Live (Silver) is now free to the world, and yes, I understand about the need to play to your strong suit (online functionality). But still, how many people actually play online regularly? Wasn’t the subscription rate somewhere around five percent for the first-generation Xbox? I doubt it’s much higher now. So why the hell-bent attitude to focus so much on Live? It should be a treat to those who have it, not a gameplay-feature black hole for those who don’t.
So here’s my list, dear diary, the list of things I’d like to see different, new or revisited the next time a version of PGR hits the videogame road.
- Make sure PGR is PGR and Forza is Forza
I like somewhat-realistic handling, and Ridge Racer 6 was just way too arcadey, but if Microsoft wants to give us a driving sim, it should let us buy Forza or RalliSport. PGR has always been about powerslides and crazy stunts, but PGR3 takes a bit more of a sim approach. I would hate to see the PGR series blend-in with Forza, like the Ghost Recon series is doing with the Rainbow Six games. Make sure the franchises each have their own flair. That’s why we buy them in the first place; we don’t need two or three of the same game.
- Don’t let Microsoft get caught-up drinking its own Xbox Live Kool-Aid
PGR2 was an awesome game on and offline, but PGR3 is clearly focused on Xbox Live. The offline Cone Challenges and Kudos vs. Time Challenges are fun, but I want more offline races in the single-player mode (not just as “playtime”). I know Microsoft wants to get people online, but don’t force us to go online just to get involved in the type of race we’re looking for in the first place. Oh, and Gotham TV is a nice trick, but it’s not a game in and of itself, nor is it a reason to drop $60 on a videogame. Please let Microsoft realize that.
- Take us on a more wide-ranging world tour.
Five cities, huh? Yeah, yeah, they look remarkable, and I don’t mean to take anything away from that. But seriously, maybe we can get some desert locales, or some arctic areas, or something besides the same urban buildings with slightly changed veneers. Las Vegas was a blast, since there was so much neon. Maybe Hong Kong would be a good place for PGR4?
- Microsoft lives in Seattle…they do realize it rains, right?
Microsoft is based in Seattle. Bizarre Creations is based in the United Kingdom. The PGR team must daydream a lot, because it’s nothing but blue sky and bunnies in the PGR games, and I know damn well it rains in both locations. How about some weather effects? How about some dust storms in a desert locale, or snow in the arctic, or rain in the Northwest? Heck, it even rains and gets windy in Las Vegas. The weather wouldn’t have to seriously affect handling (see Wish List item one), even though the “l337” fanboy jackholes might get up in arms about that, but it could make for some nice environmental (tracks in the snow) and windshield-distortion effects.
- Bring back some of the cheesy cars we can actually afford.
Yes, I like driving around in a Ferarri or Lamborghini, but do you want to know what keeps Midtown Madness 3 in many of my friends’ game libraries? The fact that you can race around in anything from a Mini Cooper to a dump truck. I wouldn’t ever think the PGR series was in need of a dump truck, but I had hours of fun trying to take corners so fast in PGR2 that I would tip an SUV. It never happened, but I never stopped trying. Maybe in J Allard’s world “life begins at 170mph,” but in the world of the working class, it’s still incredibly fun to race around wildly in cars that we might actually own, drive or see on the road.