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Of all the additions and improvements to Gran Turismo 2, it was probably the in-game audio that most took us by surprise...
Before I die, I would love to shake the hand of the guy who's job it was to stick a microphone up the tailpipe (exhaust) of hundreds of cars in order to capture the subtle differences in sound that each engine makes throughout its rev-range. Sure, I am not stupid enough to think that the developers didn't cheat a little and use the same samples for several cars in the game, but its not the 'variety' of sounds that impressed me anywhere nearly as much as their stunning 'quality'.
The engine in your vehicle transforms from a pussy-cat purring into a tiger-like roar with a quick stab of the accelerator button, tires squeal as they search for grip on the tarmac and the turbo hisses loudly as it gasps for air. Crank up volume and close your eyes for a moment and you could almost be at the wheel of your very own 'Skyline', 'Porsche' or 'Corvette'... yes it really is THAT good.
Racing off the start line, you can't help notice how the pitch of the engine fluctuates as you change up or down through the gears with a level of realism never heard before in any videogame.
You race into the first left-handed bend and squeeze past a few cars... the sound of your tires on the road changes briefly indicating that you've just clipped the 'rumble-strip' on the apex of the corner.
Down the straight and the 'Doppler' effect created as you pass another car is wonderful... first you hear the distant murmur of another car and it gradually gets louder and louder building to a crescendo, before quickly disappearing when you accelerate past it.
As you approach another corner you hit the brakes and suddenly a dull 'thud' can be heard coming from the right and then left speaker on your sound system... without even using the rear-view you can almost place the exact location of the two cars that have just sandwiched you, thanks to the accurate stereo positioning and panning that is used in GT2.
Yup, we haven't even completed a lap and already I can feel a small bead of sweat forming on my forehead... this must surely be an indication of the level of atmosphere created by these wonderful in-game effects.
If we were to be particularly picky we could emphasise the fact that the sounds used for impacts are the same no matter if it's a 40 kph shunt into a barrier or a 200 kph head-on collision with another car. In addition a chasing pack of cars often sounds like a mass of angry 'bees' in pursuit. Also, the road-noise doesn't change when you go over grass, you don't hear the car hit the ground after a jump and readers have advised us that the engine note sometimes gets 'stuck' at the same pitch... but as you can probably tell, we really had to "scrape the bottom of the barrel" to come up with these criticisms.
The in-game soundtracks vary between each of the three available versions of the game. The Japanese NTSC copy has some fairly 'cheesy' music that could almost be coming straight from the PlayStations on-board sound chip, whereas the USA and EURO versions both have several CD quality tunes recorded (and in many cases specially remixed) by well known and respected artists.
Unlike GT1 there is no CD-Player area in the options screen that allows you to preview and select each of the tracks you want to use in the game and as they are hard-coded into the main game code you wont be able to listen to them in a regular CD player (ala WipeOut) either. My guess is that after a while, you will probably just switch them off and concentrate on the game.
Due to the size of this review, we have split it into several readable sections. You can select each of them by clicking on the links below:
Game Graphics Game Sound and Music Game Playability Reviewers Scores
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