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Gran Turismo 3 A-spec
Review By:  Christopher Coey
Developer:   Polyphony Digital
Publisher:   Sony
# of Players:   1-2
Genre:   Driving
ESRB:   Everyone
Date Posted:   8-27-01

This game is beautiful. These are the game-graphics that every hardcore gamer has wanted, and waited for since the days of Atari. Now, I'm all for a healthy imagination. And we all know how much of it we used back in the "old" days of gaming. But with the advent of the Playstation 2 engine, and the coming of Gran Turismo 3, you no longer NEED to use your imagination.

Of course, when Madden 2001 came out at launch, loads of people marveled at how real it looked. "It's almost like watching a real game"; "I glanced at it and almost thought it was Sunday night football." Of course, the key word there being 'almost'. With GT3, there IS no almost. It looks real, period. Especially the replays.

The defining moment for me came when I first turned the corner and came out from the tunnel of the Trail Mountain course only to find in front of me a long beautiful stretch of road featuring sunlight beaming magically down through the canopy. Breathtaking. It was like a scene from the Wizard of Oz, only the yellow brick road was hot gray asphalt, and Dorothy had a V6 engine.

I mentioned the replays right? As spectacular as the in-game graphics and sound are, wait until you see them the second time around. With the added heat-effects, and the enhanced out-of-car sounds, it's like watching a blockbuster movie car chase. The long panning sweeps, or drop-cam angles are so cool you'll WANT to watch again and again how perfectly you handled that one corner, even though you ended up in 6th place at the finish line. I might be tempted to say the replays in Driver were a little more tense, and exhilarating. But that had more to do with the dark setting than the replays themselves. Plus, Driver never had the awesome camera and lens effects, or the "synchronized to music" replay option. Try it, you'll like it.

On top of everything I've said about this game, truly the most impressive thing for me was the way the game handles car suspension. As you're driving, the car actually lift and tilts depending on the speed you're traveling, the slope of the road, or even which tire type you have installed on your car. Each car handles and moves differently. They even SOUND different. You know that sound your tires make just after the rain has stopped. That sort of sloppy, misty sound. It's there, perfectly. But what if you owned a Mazda RX-8? That would sound different, right? You betcha! And it's in the game!

These days I look back with fondness at the car I chose for my first Gran Turismo 3 experience: my Mariner Blue Mazda MX-5 Miata. I was overjoyed to squeak out every last bit of horsepower, up to a whopping 243hp (maxing out at an impressive 152 mph). Those were my 'ignorance is bliss' days. Because soon (well, not really that soon, many hours of plodding along in the Miata later), I'd be driving in my supped-up GT-One Road Car with the turbo kit/stage 4 upgrade topping off at 1068 HP and 244mph! Remember the "car-specific" sounds I told you about? Can I tell you how cool the electrical 'whir' of the hydraulics in the GT-One are? SO COOL!

At this point in the game, however, there develops a problem (and this is the ONLY problem in an otherwise perfect title.) Once you start driving the real power cars in the game, like the GT-1 or the F090/S, the simulation mode is rendered somewhat useless.

For instance: the Viper GTS is a WAY better car than most of the cars you will normally race against. Maxed out, the Viper is faster, and has absolutely insane acceleration. Although it handles like crap, once you master the controls, not many of the courses are very challenging. With some time to kill (and you'll need a LOT of time to kill, trust me) you'll begin to play some of the endurance races. Again, not really a challenge, but you win a load of money, and have a chance at claiming some truly great cars.

I had no idea just HOW great. Eventually I had a GT-1, and a F090/S in my garage (that last one is an F1 racer folks.)

The feeling you get driving the F090/S is one of utter happiness. The handling and acceleration are mind blowing. You practically have to relearn the controls to drive with the extra power. And the buzz of the engine is a thing of beauty.

Soon though, even the F1 gets tiresome. Problem is, since you never actually have to race against any other F1s, no race is a challenge. Unless, of course, you are purposefully trying to complete all the events in the simulation mode. Some races require specific cars or engine specifications: at which point you are FORCED to drive a much slower, hard to handle, feels-like-a-bus car (compared to the F090/S.) which is a pain in the ass at the best of times. OR, you can go back and choose a car which is inferior to the cars you have been driving just to make the game challenging.

There is still some replayability, however. And I don't mean simply the two-player or I-Link (up to six players on six separate monitors!) I find myself constantly popping GT3 back into my console and mucking about on one or two tracks. Consistently chipping away at each course, hoping someday to have completed 100% of the game. So the replayability does enter into the picture, since I couldn't count the number of hours I've already been playing (30? 40? maybe 50 hours. Especially if you count the 2 hours spent on individual endurance races), and I'm still only at around 35-30% completion. I see myself playing this game for many months to come.

HIGHS:

  • Incredible, photo-realistic graphics
  • Huge selection of cars and tracks
  • Perfect control, varied handling
  • Cool soundtrack

LOWS:

  • At times too easy, at others too difficult.
  • Some tracks become tiresome

FINAL VERDICT:

In all respects, this is a showcase game. The graphics are unmatched. The level of detail and realism is mind blowing. You WILL spend many, many hours playing this game: trying out new cars, mastering each course, perfecting each corner. It becomes an obsession. It's the best racing game on the market, hands down.

Overall Score: 9.3

Additional Media:

Image 1
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Box Art

 


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