The most important aspect of any console is the games themselves. Launch titles are notorious for being short on gameplay while focusing on visuals knowing that second generation titles on the same platform should look a lot better. I picked up three games for the 360 that returned mixed results.
Project Gotham Racing 3 (PGR3) is the follow up to PGR & PGR2 which in turn were the follow up to Metropolis Street Racing on the Dreamcast. You know what to expect from this – fast city based arcade/sim racing with exotic cars. I loved the last three versions and this is no exception.
Graphics are lovely and show what to expect from the 360 in the future. Special mention to the actual cities themselves as the detail they contain is amazing. The cars themselves look great especially when you switch to in-car view – the level of detail is amazing but I find the game feels a bit sluggish in this view so I always race from the bumper view. The sound of the engines also gets special mention as it’s a real step up from previous games.
Importantly, handling feels just right with a great solid feel. You really can feel your way around the track and know after a few turns exactly how the car behaves. Like previous versions PGR3 concentrates on Kudos points – not just winning, but winning with style. I would have also liked to have seen lap times and other time based stats as well but they are missing unless you specifically race time trials.
Online works really well – little to no lag and most cars and all tracks are available from the outset meaning you don’t have to spend ours offline to unlock the fast cars. Niggles – no anti-aliasing for starters means the graphics can look ‘jaggy’ from time to time. Also the game is true hi-def but to be honest it’s hardly noticeable. There was a lot of fuss pre-release that the game ran at 30 frames per second and that this was an outrageous decision. Since release I’ve not heard one person complain.
Couple of gameplay flaws. There’s an online career mode that is enjoyable except for the cheats that ram into your car at every corner. Learn to brake people. At the same time learn to use manual gears as it makes for a far more enjoyable game. There is also a track build mode which allows you to design your own tracks within the 4 cities rendered in the game. Nice idea except the barriers placed by the game are transparent unlike the ones used in the real tracks – a fatal flaw which makes custom track racing difficult – patch please!
For a first day release this is an astounding game and well worth a purchase for any 360 owner.
Perfect Dark Zero has been in development for a long long time. It is also the one launch game that has taken most flak. It is probably the launch game that got most press. It’s also the most disappointing of those that I’ve played.
Graphics are fine. Sometimes amazing – other times clumsy as if they are placeholders that should have been replaced but never did. I love the audio – superb. It’s the gameplay that’s a bit iffy. Single player starts ok and to be honest that’s as far as I’ve got as it didn’t really grab me.
Online is very different to Halo 2 (the FPS that all other FPS’s will be compared to on a console at least). Lot’s of options, lots of gameplay modes, ability to add in bots when your lonely and nobody wants to play with you. Despite this something just doesn’t feel right. The gameplay feels ‘slow’ and disjointed. Animation of other players looks plain odd – they seem to do really slow turns when you watch from a distance. Maybe harsh to judge a game so quickly but it’s turned me off.
However you can play co-op over Live – class. Hopefully this will get a good bashing over the Christmas break as it’s the one part of the game I’m really looking forward to – the earlier gameplay demo’s showed that instead of side by side you were often in different parts of the level with your paths crossing at different times. I liked the idea of that – a real step forward hopefully. If that doesn’t tick any boxes then leave this on the shelves.
Was it worth it. Yep. The smoke effects are amazing and the gameplay (single player) is intense. Think Saving Private Ryan when all around you things are happening, people dying, bombs exploding, bullets flying by your head….that’s how it feels when playing this game. This emphasises what we can expect from the next generation of consoles. Finally there is the power to render in real time movie sized scenes that suck you into a world without having to use your imagination and ignore the fact there are only a few enemies on screen or one tank. Here you can have hundreds of soldiers and 10’s of vehicles all at once. It is very impressive – far more than I expected.
Online – not even tried it yet but I’ll update when i have – it is allegedly very good.
So after that little lot is there anymore?
Live Arcade allows you to make small purchases of classic and new arcade style games. Geometry Wars is the one I’ve played the most. It’s simple – one thumbstick controls your ship, the other controls your firing direction and the triggers fire a nuke that wipes the screen of all baddies. The aim – survive and set a high score. Amazingly addictive and a damning indictment on game companies when I enjoy this more than a Â£50 purchase (that’s you Rare!). Think Robotron on speed to get some idea of how frantic this gets. Screenshots don’t do the game justice.
Finally there are the old Xbox games. I’ve tried Halo2 and Pro Evo 5. Both look graphically better even though they are playing through emulation. Halo in particular looks a step up – Pro Evo just seems smoother. Nice to be able to fire up Halo2 and enjoy it on the new box.
For a new console the games have been mighty impressive, not just graphically as I feared but also adding some new gameplay elements. Roll on 2006. Roll on Halo3.