August 16, 2001
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec - Review
Release Date Publisher Developer Players Rating RRP
10/8/2001SonyPolyphony Digital1-2 (6 w/ i.Link)G$99.95
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Yes, it really does look this good.
It's been hailed as the first true "must have" game on Playstation 2, and Sony are hoping it will help kick start sales leading into the hectic 2001 Christmas season. In case you are unaware about the history of the series it is as follows. The Gran Turismo games were one of the biggest success stories on the PSOne. The first game, which was released in Japan in 1997 and America/Europe in 1998, has sold well over 10 million units to date while the sequel, which was released just almost two years ago, is also approaching 10 million sales worldwide. Although initially announced as Gran Turismo 2000, and as merely an upgraded Gran Turismo 2, Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec now looks set to continue the series' fine tradition with some major upgrades for this Playstation 2 game. But is it really a revolutionary game as many have predicted, or is it just a rehash of an (admittedly brilliant) older game?

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Check out the car texture details.
Gran Turismo 3 is really split into two main, and very different, sections. The first is the Arcade mode where you can select any track and car and can race against either 5 CPU controlled opponents, or against a friend. This is definitely the "pick up and play" area and is tremendous fun. Most of my friends were wishing that arcade games were this good, let alone at home on a console.

But it's the Gran Turismo mode that will hold most peoples interest. You start out with 18,000 credits, which is barely enough to buy a bottom of the range car, and there are only 7 in the extensive list which you can initially afford. (The Tickford Ford costs a whopping 1,500,000 credits!) After selecting a car you can enter races which, according to the type of race and your final placing, earns you more credit. This money can be spent in the auto shop on almost anything including new cars, new components (brakes, tyres, LSD, Gearbox, clutches etc) or even washing your car, changing the oil or changing the wheels. These upgrades are critical to your success throughout the game. Fortunately, as you win gold cups in every stage in each race you are awarded with a new car. It's tough to do, but well worth it.

Polyphony Digital are an internal team at SCEI and were initially responsible for the two Motor Toon Grand Prix games before forming an independent company and developing Omega Boost and the two PSOne Gran Turismo games. Their next project is believed to be Gran Turismo Online while they have stated they would may develop a motorbike simulation in future.
Another major component to the Gran Turismo mode is the licensing. As with previous games in the series races can only be entered if you have acquired the license needed. For example rally races can only be accessed when you have completed the Rally license, which is comprised of 8 separate tests. These tests start out pretty easy but when you reach the International license you will have your work cut out trying to pass them all.

One of the most appealing, and exciting, aspects of Gran Turismo 3 is the 6-player i.Link mode for people with 3 consoles and TV's. With 2 players split screen per console it's a great addition that is sadly missing from so many other games. Why no use this in a FPS such as Red Faction or Quake III Revolution? Hopefully it's a sign of things to come as it's tremendous fun as the opponent cars are as unpredictable as yourself.

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Racing in the rain requires skill.
All is not perfect however with some obvious disappointments with the game. Classing GT3 as "The Real Driving Simulator" is a little bit much when you can't cause any damage to the cars. Yep, you heard right, the game still doesn't include any damage to any of the 160 odd cars. Whether it's the deals made with the car manufacturers, or Polyphony Digital's reluctance to include such a feature, it's a major detriment to the game. With games such as Bizarre's Project Gotham on XBox, and even Sony's own Formula One 2001 set to include damage of real-world cars it makes it even more disappointing. I mean, who wants to slam head first into a wall only to bounce off, loose 90% of your speed and then continue to lead the race?

Another problem is the lack of AI for the CPU controlled cars. Unfortunately they seem to follow scripted set paths more then anything with only the occasional error being made by the drivers in the early levels. Swerve towards an opponent and they are more likely then not to allow you to sideswipe them rather then trying to get out of your way. As a result it's possible to approach a corner at full speed, slam into the side of a car ahead of you and overtake them to the next straight. It may not be in the spirit of the game, but it is possible, and without damage to cars there is no penalty for doing such a thing.

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Not Sydney; but it's smoggy enough.
Much has been said about the graphical quality of games on the PS2, but I think the critics can now well and truly be put to rest. The graphics in Playstation 2 games have constantly been improving and are now so far ahead that it has my PC loving friends coming back for more. First there was Tecmo's Dead Or Alive 2, then LucasArts' Star Wars: Starfighter. This was followed by Volition's Red Faction, Squaresoft's The Bouncer and most recently Capcom's Onimusha Warlords (review soon). Gran Tursimo 3 has once again pushed the boundaries for the system back further and is absolutely the most realistic driving game ever. The game maintains a rock solid frame rate, even though each car in GT3 is made up of around 4,000 polygons, or ten times the detail of the original PSOne games.

And during 2001 God created sounds for Gran Turismo 2001, but then forgot the volume controls. Basically you could sum up GT3's sound effects with that statement. Never has a racing game sounded so realistic or exciting. The engine noises from the cars are simply superb and it's even possible to gauge your revs by the sound alone. Obviously I don't own a BMW but I've been in quite a few and they sound pretty good from memory. In fact each car in the game has a totally different engine sound, and the noise from the in-car perspective is definitely a lot more exciting then from behind which realistically has a much quieter and more muffled sound.

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Rally car racing is a real thrill.
Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed with the music in Gran Turismo 3. Yes, it's appropriate for the game with tracks from Grand Theft Audio among others. It's rock, it's hard and it's frantic, but it's hardly the most awe-inspiring music for such a high profile game. The Wipeout games beat it hands down, albeit with a different style. Surely Sony Computer Entertainment could have obtained some more varied tracks from Sony Music for use in the game as the selection here is too similar overall. Worse still is the fact that there is no volume control to boost the engine sound or drop the music a tad. It's either on at the volume they provide, or it's off.

Gran Turismo 3 is definitely one of the best racing games in history and while I've pretty much lashed out at this game, it was really for a couple of things that hardly deserve a mention. Just driving the cars is a joy and completing the Gran Turismo Mode will definitely take a lot of time. This really is a "must have" game on the Playstation 2.

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