Review by gloBal enemy
"The 'killer-app' is a high resolution Gran Turismo 2? nah.."
Many of the features, comments, and additional items/promotional products mentioned here relate the Australian and European releases of Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec.
This game needs no introduction but nevertheless, one must be introduced. Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec for the Playstation2 is the third title in Sony and Polyphony Digital's successful Gran Turismo line. Originally appearing on Sony's Playstation as Gran Turismo and Gran Turismo2, both games showed great talent in the development, had graphics which were un-matched, a lasting appeal like no-other, a soundtrack to kill and a huge garage of cars available unparalleled.
Gran Turismo is not the BEST racing game, nor the BEST simulation, nor is it the BEST rally game, but for what it is, it is a true masterpiece. Each game has had an improvement over the others, such as Gran Turismo 2's larger amount of cars (650 to 140 or so) and the soundtracks keep getting better. Whilst Gran Turismo 2 was considered one of the best games ever on Playstation (and was considered the second best title ever according to the official Australian Playstation2 magazine - losing to MGS), there was room for much improvement. There was no damage model (and GT3 still lacks this), it had a great buying/selling/upgrading race system but suffered with clumsy menus (GT3 has made it easier but the eyes still get sore), the AI had some serious disabilities and handicaps (this issue has being improved slightly but nevertheless, the AI is no better than two monkeys pushing X and knocking the analogue sticks), and of course, the very poor rally system. Why the rally mode was even included is yet to be founded but it definitely wasn't anywhere NEAR the competition. The only great thing was the large amount of Rally Cars available at the player's disposal but otherwise, the gameplay felt no different from road racing and the unrealistic (and somewhat boring) tracks explain all.
Anyway, now onto the actual Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec review...
The things which are not part of the two modes (Arcade and Gran Turismo), are common are things such as data logger, controls and other miniscular things which I might have missed.
The Data Logger is an interesting thing which measures your performance quite accurately in every race, each segment of the track is monitored with speed and other details. Then, this data can be used to compare with other performances such as checking whether that new car upgrade really did help you at all with a track, or whether you are increasing or decreasing speed too early compared to the computer records.
The controls are well programmed, with analogue button X controlling acceleration, and analogue button Square controlling Brake. These are well used and because of the analogue technology, you can lightly turn and this is exaggerated on more later in the review. The Circle button controls the Emergency Brake, to be used very rarely when you need to turn just before you smash into a wall and should be used very very very rarely (unlike the handbrake in many other games).. the R1 changes the view, the L1 lets you see behind, and as used effectively by other games, L2 and R2 switch gears (believe it or not, but this is very very functional). Also, the D-Pad can be used (analogue as well) but it is not recommended as it will most likely hurt your thumb after the many hours required to finish playing Sony and Polyphony Digital's masterpieces.
Since the game has two modes - Arcade and Gran Turismo (the new and improved name for Simulation Disc), there will be two review sections.
The arcade mode is just a "get in and race" part of the game. Usually used by people who want to see the killer graphics of the game before doing any hard work trying to win these cars. The weird thing was that the S-Class was available straight away, whereas in Gran Turismo 2, this required a lot of work to unlock (oops.. Spolier for GT2). The C-Class are city cars which you'd see (guess where) in the City of course! Little cars, nothing really sporty, except for the Mercedes SLK 230 (i'm a sucker for expensive European cars). The menus here are really nice but for some unknown reason, the track selection is a bit different to the demo. The demo which I got free with a Playstation2 magazine (the official one in case your wondering) had track selection where there was a 3D-like scale projection of the track with a video of a car driving on the track at the same time. This was obviously removed, most likely due to the fact that it was too complex (and a waste of time) incorporating it.
Once you've chosen the RACE TRACK (only 5 available at the start), then your chosen car class and car (by the way, S-Class are the cars which we all want but can't afford - such as Dodge Viper Concept), your off to race. The moment you see the tracks on your Playstation2 you'll instantly go (as the Internet posts go) ::drool:: ... The way that the cars handle, every corner feels different, with the dual motor rumbling instantly giving great feedback. Then you will notice how the analogue buttons help you control the race and your car. How lightly tapping the brake actually causes a different effect to holding it down (or slamming it).
The replay that then follows shows some pretty damn realistic footage. Many people who walk by will often (to no suprise) wonder if that it is a real race. Once you've (spoiler) seen the great city tracks (/spoiler), you really will be amazed and I'm pretty damn sure you'll go just as the well known GT saying goes, "Go Go Gran Turismo" (as seen on many parts of certain race courses)...
After playing the Arcade Mode for a while, you actually will win prizes (a spoiler of course) but this is quite blatantly obvious by the fact there is an option called "BONUS MENU" right beneath the Single Race option. So, to save you the trouble of reading the manual or experimenting too much, if you look carefully, there is a trail and this trail is there to indicate how long it is before you get a new reward. And by looking at the bottom of the screen (where the trail abruptly stops) you will see what reward(s) you may recieve for finishing so and so tracks with so and so places. But anyway, simply put, this allows you to use those lovely S-Class cars (and not win much) on those tracks which are just so nice (eg. the city tracks).
The arcade mode also features the standard run-of-the-mill Time Attack (the same as any other time attack where the clock counts down..), and the Free Run (where you drive in circles and get no reward for practising except self-satisfaction).
There is also the multiplayer options here which are truly excellent but for some unknown reason, Sony has opted to only allow for 1 on 1 competition (no computer cars) or in the case of an i.Link battle, upto 6 cars (no computer cars).
Since the Arcade mode is for people who haven't put much thought into the game, here goes the
Gran Turismo mode is just the new fancy way of saying Simulation mode. The Gran Turismo simulation mode has being greatly improved over GT2's clumsiness and disfunctionality. The fact that you can get from your car upgrade shop to a race in under 10 seconds really is amazing. But since this is more of a menu/interface thing, it shall be discussed later.
The Gran Turismo licenses are THE most important things to you. Not only do they let you into races, and give you an extra thing to brag about to all your friends, they also allow you to win a few extra cars and learn a few new tricks ;). These few new tricks will most likely win you many races and the (spoiler time?) cars you have won will also help you by saving money.
This brings us to the fact, you get a WHOLE 18,000 credits (thats right! a WHOLE 18,000). Enough to buy a Toyota Sprinter Tureno (my first car), a Mazda which can't drive much faster than a Ferrari with no engine, a PT Cruiser which is the latest thing, a Volkswagen Beetle (be just like the new Barbie!), and there are a few other cars which I will not mention (just in case this spoils your suprise). After you've decided on which unworthy car is worth your 18,000 big ones (or you could have just won a car elsewhere.. and no, you cannot import GT1 and GT2 cars.. :( ), anyway, you can now spend whatever is left of your free FOR PASSING GO money, you can buy a few upgrades to your car. Things such as mufflers, brakes, and turbo kits will help brighten the day with you speeding past the monkey-driven AI. But it should be noted, sometimes the computer will totally kick your butt and this is normal (as entering Professional Races when you have your first car still is not the greatest thing. Each part you choose to buy will not only enhance your driving experience, but will actually use real-life-physics in helping you drive. Suspension Kits really help you feel the corners alot easier, improved Brakes also help when you need to dampen the speed a little for that slightly tight corner you forgot about, turbo kits actually improve your car's acceleration (amazing what you learn from reading the manual) and new hudcaps, well, they do nothing except look cool in the replays (assuming you actually have a parked car so you can observe their fine beauty).
Anyway, to give you all a nice thought on the amount of cars, its between GT1 and GT2. Stuff the maths, its around 180 cars, each of them stunningly modeled with 5000+ polygons (around 4500 more than GT2), each car's got its true-to-life coloured head-lights, brandings/sponsorships, door handles, badges, exhaust pipes.. everything.. It is SO DETAILED, you can see the BMW logo on the back of the BMW, you can see the VIPER badge located on the sides of the Viper (beneath the side turn indicators) and thats just the cars. With cars such as AUDI's 1.8TT Quattro (i think thats the name), Mercedes SLK 230, BMW 328i (unfortunately, thats the only BMW in the whole game), the many Toyota models which many have never heard of, plus some rare and somewhat exclusive star-labelled cars (such as Tom's GTone - its mentioned in the manual so not a spoiler).
Now, I'm sure you've got the idea of the car's amount of detail, which might have gone into the Graphics section but anyway, we mustn't forget that each track is superbly modelled. Not graphics-wise, but when you race, since the graphics are so (*insert a 'ing swear word here*) good, you notice many things which are not otherwise noticed. When you hit a slight bump or jump in the road, the car feels lighter, thanks to the greatly improved Dual Shock 2 (I only noticed the analogue buttons but I'm sure the vibration is improved). Every knock by another car, every slight change in the road conditions, and lets not forget the 'nicely hyped' wet roads, the game's realism in terms of controls is excellent.
Since I mentioned controls, here they are; The controls kick (*insert rear body part*)! Everything is perfectly tuned with the Dual Shock 2 (I haven't tried the GT Force as it isn't available in Australia at time of writing). The turns are perfectly executed with great precision and the analogue buttons help the control over the road. The only problem I have with this is the fact that the Views only have two options, Bumper and Near-back. It would have being nice to have more (like every other game) but I can live with this as I only ever use Bumper view (a lot easier when the game's movement is fast).
In case this wasn't mentioned before, racing after a while to get prize money, and then buying the 'latest and greatest' upgrade to your car feels good when you hand over the cash (virtually) but after 3 or 4 races, you seem to wonder where you were without one of whatever it is (exception of the hudcaps, they do nothing).
There are so many races in this game it is NOT funny. There are so many things you just have to have to beat. Many things to race on, many new things to unlock, lots of money to be earnt. But there are the occasional real annoyances where you just can't win no matter what (because you have junk for a car) and this causes you to upgrade your car. There are also endurance races and in the harder levels of Arcade Mode, tire wear comes into play. After lots of driving (careful driving that is), your tires wear out (and using thinner, faster, and more expensive custom-bought tires wear out faster), and you need to pit and repair. It should be noted (in case anyone thinks this will get annoying), GT3 somehow gives everyone a new set of several thousand credit tires every race! Good on ya GT3, now thats what I call good value.
Each turn in every track, uses the Playstation2's emotion engine to calculate minute precision things such as traction, stability and over-steer. Unlike GT2, over-steering does not occur on nearly every turn with a fast car (obviously Sony got it right this time) and the stability and traction control systems are quite unique and very helpful. Whilst it is also not possible to over-flip your car on a hill, it is annoying to know that certain upgrades to the car can actually deplete your ability to go up hills (very annoying indeed). There is also the new OIL system, where changing the OIL (for only 250 credits) actually improves your car's horsepower (as explained in some manual) and give your car a whole new feel. The Car Wash also increases your cars value (just like in GT2) for 50 credits (far less than the 5000 needed in GT2).
Australian/European GT3 players will be pleased to know there aren't the conversion problems that befaced the Americans (as we hap-happily use the kilometers just like our fellow-Japanese) and everything was ported over exactly without any miscalculations. Another note is that the game's amount of details for each car (not just acceleration, but weight, both front and back, height at different parts and suspension amounts, plus more) are outstanding. No other game comes close to this.
Enough of the gameplay, I'm sure you all wanna hear about the 'life-like' graphics.
Thats the only word I can think of which describes the game's graphics. The only problem I've ever had with Gran Turismo 3 and with many other racing games, is the lack of someone driving the car. Yes, yes, yes, the graphics are perfect but when you see through a window or in the mirror, there is no-one in the driver's seat. It looks weird looking through the gap between the seat and the headrest only to see through to the winshield and to the scenery outside. It is very odd and I'm sure they could adopt something similar to the Need for Speed series and possibly include special customised/special drivers for each car, or the player can use their own made-up (or even picture imported) character - HINT TO SONY FOR NEXT GT GAME.
But now to talk more of the great plus's. The graphics kick (*Insert another body part*) and they are a beautiful 60-ffps. FFPS? Yes, my new word, Fluid Frames per Second. Even in multiplayer modes, there was NO SLOWDOWN whatsoever. This has only being accomplished with a handful of racing games such as Wipeout and Gran Turismo 2.
The tracks are greatly detailed and it should be noted, with great outstanding-ness, each track has highly detailed textures on every corner, and this is outlined better with the sunlight setting, or the lights of building office blocks on every corner or even the trees that are endlessly running. Unlike many normal trees in the racing game world, these trees are 3D. Yes, you read right, they do not only have one side with a stand up post behind them. This has being noted in another review, that there is always something blowing, be it the very over-used heatwave or the blowing of the banners hung high above the course (only noticable in the replays), but is it just me or is there always a 'convinient breeze blowing by' whenever something "blowable" is on the screen?
The graphics have detailed every car (with over 5000 polygons per car) with so many minute details such as brake lights on top of night-time driving lights, the brake discs heating up and much much more. Every car has their own little badges just like the real thing, the rear lights arranged ever so perfectly, the headlights lined up and the reflection of every car and the extremely effective 'instant everyday shine' polish really show off the Playstation2's processing abilities.
There really is not much to say about the graphics. There really are no flaws in the graphics department and every menu is also nicely represented with lots of motion video in the backgrounds.
I have read several reviews dissing the audio's features (in terms of volume control) and some who also disagree with the soundtracks choice. Anyway, firstly, the sound effects. Everything sounds so natural, thanks to the Emotion Engine and the fact that there really are very few environment sounds (except I've heard wind.. wind.. and more wind) but the majority of attention should focus on the different sound effects for every different car. Then, whenever a car is upgraded in some way, that engine goes even more high-power and every part changes something in the audio department (assuming the part is not a hudcap). Things such as intercoolers and mufflers soften the sound, whereas a turbo kit gives the bigger rev noise to heighten the experience of the game.
The soundtrack of this game is excellent, well, to me anyway. Some people just don't appreciate good soundtracks and probably these people are those who follow teeny-bopper or just plain ol' pop music or whatever else is popular at the moment. If that is the case for you, do not be offended but you will most likely think that this game has a pathetic soundtrack too. There are a few songs which weren't all that 'carefully chosen' (Lenny Kravitz.. the name says it all), but there are some good songs performed by Ash, Grand Theft Auto, Muse, and some nice Japanese beats plus some remixes off some of those songs which are just stuck in your head. Another famous artist is Snoop Dogg, who has performed some 'special' songs just for Gran Turismo 3 (shhh...) This soundtrack, just like previous Gran Turismo soundtracks features great alternative songs which many just do not appreciate.
An annoyance (yes, an annoyance, i seem to find many) is that you cannot make the music volume go up or down, whilst many teeny-bopper fans will want the volume down, or out altogether (which can be achieved by manually disabling all the songs in the option), there is no option to turn the volumes down for individual components. A plus though is that Sony has opted to allow for people to rearrange their song list, and the method of playment (shuffle, straight) for your enjoyment during the race.
The menus in this game are extremely improved over Gran Turismo 2's 'clumsiness'. Now that I think about it, the menus are far better as I can now get from one part of the game to another quickly. Then there is the fact that they improved on the knowledge that small TVs and small eyes = lots of eye squinting. Whilst they have improved the font size to be much more easier on the eyes, some of the finer details of the license tests such as the all important instructions, really need some eye squinting. I have perfect vision, no I'm not lying, I seriously have perfect vision, and on a 68cm television, less than 3 metres away, I find it sometimes hard to read the blur of dots. But other than that, and it should also be noted that even if you can't read the license test information, just watch the very useful demo. One of the best features of this is the newly improved demo video on every screen as well as that, there is the option to watch it full screen.
There are many video files and replay options which I haven't even touched yet. The replay options include making the video fit in with the music (a very interesting effect), automatic race following, and many more other weird effects. There is also the option to include or remove any little parts of the interface on the screen (such as acceleration/deceleration markers, speed, tachometer, tire wear, time) and also there is a little Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec logo in the bottom right of the screen appearing occasionally if you do not have any features of the interface enabled. This will remind you you are not watching real TV I guess. But there is something I miss, the feature which shows you how much the wheels are turning. I loved that in Gran Turismo 2 but I guess they had to drop something out when they put the really cool performance graphs in.
The Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec came with an awfully short manual for such a detailed game, with certain things which weren't very helpful (and weren't self-explanatory). And I quote "11 Boost Meter (for turbo cars only)", now is that much of a description of how a circle with a needle on it with 4 digits which no-one can figure out unless you play the game quite a bit. Whilst I'm sure someone could have put a bit more description into this, I guess to some its pretty self-explanatory but for people like me who have no idea how cars with turbo kits and special sports kits work, it bamboozles us.
A special feature, only for us lucky Aussies (released in certain other countries which I do not know of), certain people, or those who pre-ordered, recieved an additional 84 page glossy colour booklet. Now, to make all those people who didn't get it (especially the people who got the game one whole month before Australia), this is designed to make them envious. The booklet, labelled "Car Guide" on top of the same box art used on the main Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec box (the Japanese art of something resembelling a headlight coloured in red) except in blue. The first page is filled with some interesting (not really) quotes whilst the rest of the booklet is filled with the storyline of every car (well, close to it) in the game. Some cars are mentioned with other cars which are similar (ie. all the Toyota Supras) but most of the booklet is quite fascinating. With details of how cars came to be, several pictures of the car in different views, this not only tells us about the cars, but it hints at what cars are available in the game (including secret cars). Also, before I get in trouble for spoiling the game, you can find out what cars are in the game just by going into the BUY menu and looking at the list. Even if you have to win a car, it will still appear in the buy list except with a - - list for the price. After all the details, it includes some credits which weren't mentioned in the GT3 manual. Things such as Tuning Part manufacturers, a nicer-on-the-eye car manufactures and the in-game brands such as Dunlop and Mobil Oil Corp. One of my favorite quotes in this booklet I will put at the end of the review.
Another little thing is that many of us were graced with the fact that Gran Turismo 3 had very little load times and when it did load something, it had a weird (and very uncreative) Square flashing in the top left. But that is only me picking something to make fun of or get annoyed at just to make sure this game isn't getting a perfect ten.
This game has lasting appeal? With so many races (plus those *insert word of choise*'d up Endurance tests), the real thing which everyone wants is to GET IT ALL! Get all perfect times, get all the cars, get all the upgrades, sound familiar? This formula has being used in many situations such as card collection (Magic) and in the successful (oh my.. here we go again) Pokemon gameboy games (no, not Pinball).
This game will take most experts and veteran players way over the 80 hour mark. But it is all worth it as you can go down the street, yell out "I BEAT GT3" and run off before anyone beats you up. Then you can use your greatly-filled garage to beat the (*Insert funny word*) out of the next person who thought they had also beaten GT3 and somewhat become glorified in some way.
Other Influencial Factors
*Sony and Polyphony Digital have opted to remove support for Namco's NegCon and JogCon controllers (two very good racing controllers) to allow for a main (and more focused) support for Logitech's official GT Force steering wheel (rumour has it that GT3 will work with several other *cough* USB steering wheels)
*Many steering wheels are now redundant, as most were really inaccurate and hard-to-use in Dual Shock (standard) mode. Whilst they will still work, they will be very hard to turn and will often cause much more effort and control to get around the place, and since many relied on the Namco technology, which is now no longer supported by Gran Turismo 3, many steering wheels will quickly return to their original spot behind the TV.
*The conversion details that plagued the American release of Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec do not affect the European release as we commonly use the same system as Japan.
RENT OR BUY
BUY BUY BUY - whether or not you like racing games, just buy it.
Gameplay : 10
There is nothing wrong with this game. Multiplayer also is good.
Graphics : 9.9
All great except for the no man driving the car.
Audio : 9.7
I like it but not many others do. Sony should have included the option to change individual volume components. Overall, great high quality audio sound samples with great music taste.
Menus/Other/Overall Presentation : 9.3
All great except for the eye-squinting menus. Otherwise it is perfect.
Lasting Appeal : 10
This game will take you forever to finish.
OVERALL (not an average) : 9.85 -> (rounded to GameFAQs score) 10
This game is very good. I can't say anything more. Just buy buy buy. Don't forget, the car booklet I mentioned is no longer available as the special promotional items have stopped being given out. In case you want a shot at getting them, I got mine free with my pre-order at Electronics Botique, Castle Towers, Castle Hill, NSW, Australia and they might have some left.. But anyway, this game rocks and I highly recommend it.
Cool quote from Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec Car Booklet
SEIKO - SEIKO name and logo are trademarks and/or other interllectual properties of Seiko Corporation and used under license to Sony Computer Entertainment. The timing data used in the game is generated by Sony Computer Entertainment using its own method and not by Seiko Corporation. - pg. 84, GT3 Car Booklet
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 08/13/01, Updated 08/13/01
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