Review by Hibiki
"It'd receive much higher marks if it wasn't actually Gran Turismo 2.5."
At first, I wasn't definitely sure how to write this review. I thought that writing it from a view point of a veteran who played the first two Gran Turismos until 3 a.m. for way too many days would be reasonable, but then I realized that a newbie to the series would have a much more enjoyable time playing this game. However after giving it some thought, I figured that any game, especially if it's touted as a sequel, should make the experience pleasant and entertaining, no matter if the person playing is a long-time hardcore follower of the series or a clueless newcomer. Unfortunately, Gran Turismo 3 can't say that about itself. What was expected as a full blown sequel disappoints, and instead features mostly the same tracks, cars and other perks that we played in the previous installments of the series, with the addition of enticing graphics. Be aware of this before you go out and spend $50 on this game, this is in no way a true sequel to the previous GTs, it is a mere upgrade (and degrade in a notion) to the series.
The skip from Gran Turismo 1 to 2 in terms of replay value was giant, the latter adding about 300 more cars to the series, numerous options, and plenty of new, succulent tracks to race your jet rockets on. I remember playing the game and being totally enthralled by the sheer number of cars, many I've never even heard of, tuning them to get the max horsepower possible, and hoping that I could soon reach that 100.00% game completion goal. What GT3 ultimately comes down to is a complete rehash of GT2 with graphical updates, 300 less cars, a tad worse soundtrack and a harsh disappointment.
Gameplay - 8.0
As you might already be aware, Gran Turismo isn't your typical fast and furious arcade racing game. You won't be soaring off of bridges at 230 mph, you won't have cars that are imaginary, you won't have turbo boosts. This is, for the most part, true simulation racing that tries to mimic real life driving as much as possible. You'll need to brake before taking a huge turn, you'll spin out when hitting the dirt at 100 mph, you'll need to soup up your cars to progress through the game. For some, this might be the greatest experience ever, for others this could be pointless, tedious, and utterly dull. It all depends on your tastes. As for game modes, GT3 consists of two. For starters, the Arcade mode would be perfect, since it pretty much lets you play a quick game on one of the six starting tracks and get behind the wheel (well, virtually) of one of the exotic cars. The 2 Player Battle option is available here as well, showing no sign of slow down and only minute amounts of pop-up in the distance. The only downside to head-to-head racing is that the gorgeous Cote d'Azur track is not selectable. If you get bored of the asphalt, hit the rally tracks, where you'll spin out on dirt filled roads and release lengthy clouds of dust from your wheels. Finishing arcade mode nets you some new tracks and cars, so if you're ever thinking of completing the game with 100%, don't put off this mode.
For more dedicated gamers who wish to spend plenty of more time on the game, there's the Simulation mode. On the two past Turismos, this mode was placed on a different disc because of the sheer amount of cars it included, but now that the PS2 uses DVD disc capacity, it can easily fit on the same disc as arcade mode. This is where you'll spend almost all of your time playing the game. To start off, you are required to acquire licenses, which test your skills in the game. This is based on how fast you can beat a specific task, which includes something simple as stopping your car at a particular spot, or something challenging and more complicated as taking a huge S-turn at 110 mph in a car that is really prone to swerving. You get a trophy/medal depending on your performance, with Gold, Silver, and Bronze being available. If you do accomplish the task of all gold on a license, you will win a rare car to add to your garage collection, some of these can't be bought/won in the game. While it is a nice challenge, it doesn't really teach newcomers the proper control and techniques that require you to actually succeed in the game. The later licenses are obscenely difficult, and I can imagine some gamer being daunted and frustrated as he or she cannot beat the S license, which allows him/her to play some of the more advanced races.
After finishing your first license test, you can continue on to the next, or choose to go to head for the starting line and race. You start off with 18,000 in credits, which allows to buy one out of about 4 cars (unlike GT2, which had countless cheap new cars and used cars, which GT3 does not offer). You can choose from the Amateur, Beginner, Professional, Rally and Endurance modes, depending on which licenses you own. You will be allowed to play on a limited amount of races with your first car, which will force you to keep racing on the same track over and over to either upgrade to more horsepower or buy a new car (such as a FR car, if you already have a FF car). And if you're hopeful to get some more dough in the Amateur races, you're out of luck because you'll be facing cars like Supras and Skylines with your pitiful 240 HP PT Cruiser. A general complaint about the actual racing is the amount of opponent vehicles. You only race against five cars, which really is inexcusable considering the PS2's capabilities.
One of the quirks about GT2 was that getting about where you want to go in the menu was frustrating, due to numerous sub-categories and the slow cd-reading speed of the PSone. Fortunately, this has been fixed in GT3, allowing you to get around promptly, since all the manufacturers have been placed on one page and everything loads exceptionally fast. Another fix that I'm glad to see is the improved text on the descriptions of the car upgrades. Not having a huge big screen TV, I wasn't sure what the descriptions were saying in GT2, but I can easily read everything now. As for other upgrades, this game incorporates use of the PS2's analog action buttons, meaning more controlled driving, but I didn't really experience that. Most of the time I didn't know if I was pressing the buttons hard enough, so I was putting tons of pressure on it, which will probably eventually make buttons loose.
A major grievance about this game is the lack of new additions, and detraction of previous cars. GT3 features only 15 tracks, and of those 15 only 2 are all-new tracks. Considering that GT2 had 20 tracks, we come to the conclusion that GT3 has less tracks than the previous version. This is just ridiculous and inexcusable. This game has been delayed numerous times, and all we got are two new measly tracks. This definitely isn't a space problem, since DVD holds tons of data, but I guess Polyphony didn't care to add new tracks, instead blatantly rehashing the same tracks we played before. As for cars, only 170+ are included, a number for the GT series that is incredibly small. And the number is just extremely lackluster in comparison to GT2, which featured about 500 new and used cars. Another thing that is missing in this sequel is the racing modification upgrade, which added some vibrant logos to your car and let you play some extra races, for a hefty sum of cash. Most importantly, the AI hasn't even been fixed that much . It's still the same ghastly AI we had to deal with in the past two games. Your opponents will take the same exact path each lap, they'll take the turns perfectly and you can bump them into the walls to slow them down and give you the lead.
Graphics - 10
As for graphics, well you know what to expect. They're stunning, hands down being the best graphics on any console as of yet. The environments implement the PS2's power to produce ravishing lighting and reflection effects. The sun effects are just mesmerizing, no longer using the lens flare we're used to seeing on the 32-bit consoles, it actually sort of looks like...well, the sun. Whenever you drive by any major object, it's reflected on your glossy, polygon filled cars, which look extraordinary by themselves. The sheer detail in this game is incredible, no screenshot will do it justice. You have to see it for yourself, moving at 60fps with all the effects taking place, then can you truly immense yourself in the beauty. The replay modes are highly visual as well, especially the one that reacts in sync with the music and combines some nice filter, spin and color effects.
Alas, with the good comes the bad, so there are some unfortunate imperfections to the graphics, one being not enough environmental detail. I'd love to see birds flying in the sky, some deer in Deep Forest, the boats move in Smokey Mountain, tire shreds on the asphalt, people changing your wheels in the pit stop, and most of all, damage to cars. It's just not as exciting when you slam into the wall while going 150 mph, only to have your car bounce back, or race on a mud filled dirt track and see your car clean and glossy afterwards, like if it was new. A major disappointment is the loss of a 3rd camera view, which was real useful in the past two games. The only available views are first-person, and behind the car, the latter not even allowing you to see what is in front of you most of the time. You can manipulate the replay mode abundantly, but you only get two camera views. I don't know what they were thinking, but the graphics over gameplay problem comes to mind once again. A minor complaint is with the 2D sprites, which mostly affect the trees, crowds, and some background mountains in a couple of levels. How thrilling it is to get make a turn at the corner where the virtual sun shines a beam of light through the flat 2D trees, then drive by the cheering crowd and see that they are unimpressive dull, lifeless, tri-colored cardboard cutouts of imitation people. Another nice detail that ought to have been implemented in this should be time change in Endurance modes. It would be great to have the sun high up during your race, then an hour and a half in, the day changed to night and you'd be racing to the glow of the moon, but maybe we'll have to wait until Gran Turismo 4 for this effect.
Sound - 8.0
The think I really enjoyed about Gran Turismo 2 was the game's varied soundtrack. Plenty of the songs really fit the game and put you in the atmosphere of racing, which added a whole new level of excitement to the game. I heard my favorite tune, I turned the BGM all the way up and raced, and unfortunately I can't do this in GT3. There is no setting for BGM/SE sound control anywhere to be found. This game lets you change your car's oil and wheels, analyzes your performance during a race, and includes tons of other options, but somehow it lacks volume controls. The whole hyped soundtrack is just going to waste it seems, unless you want the SE off. As for car/engine sounds, I'm not a car maniac, so I wouldn't know the difference between a racing modified Supra and an NSX, but the car engines sound like car engines, and that's fine with me. A better lobby theme could have been added, as it gets monotonous and somewhat annoying, but you won't be spending much time in the menu anyway.
This review may seem a bit on the harsh side, but don't get me wrong. I enjoy games that last me a while, and after playing this game and seeing how profusely it rehashed much of the content from the previous installments, I was a tad bit disappointed. If you're at all new to the series and enjoy car racing, then it's nearly guaranteed you’ll take a liking to the game and it'll be a new addiction for you. If you played the previous two, you just might get a feeling that you've already played Gran Turismo 3 before.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 12/28/01, Updated 12/28/01
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