Gran Turismo 3
Review of Gran Turismo 3
The ultimate driving game has finally arrived and it is Gran Turismo A-Spec. If ever there was a game that accurately reflected true to life car handling dynamics and physics this one is it.
First things first…this game is a real looker. Having played the prior demo builds I was comfortable with the fact that A-Spec would be a beautiful driving game, but the finished version absolutely blew me away.
The in-game engine displays all sorts of mind-boggling eye candy that we have been waiting for on the PS2. Real-time reflection mapping, high polygon car models, crisp, wonderfully portrayed backgrounds all come together to make this the best looking racer…actually the best looking game, on a console to date…and we havent even gotten to the replays yet. The replays throw in motion blurring, wave field effects and those marvelous camera angles that make it look just like you are watching a real race on your TV. Add to that the Replay Theater in which the onscreen action syncs up with the music, including screen filter changes, and you have one mighty sweet replay option that can suck up a lot of your time just being hypnotized by the views.
This is one of those rare games that are instantly captivating to audiences. People walking by WILL stop dead in their tracks just to gawk at what is being displayed on the screen. Polyphony has apparently mastered the PS2s intricacies and managed to deliver a stellar first effort. It seems that every graphical PS2 trick in the book is being thrown out in GT3. We are treated to startling particle and lighting effects, true reflection mapping, amazing pixel shading that can be easily mistaken for bump mapping and textures up the wazoo. The overall art direction in this game is absolutely second to none at this point in time. I will now attempt to draw you a little mental picture of a typical race…but trust me, words cannot do this game justice. You really have to experience it with your own two eyes.
As you maneuver your car down the racecourse sunlight begins to drip onto the screen. There is a notable sheen to the road surface as the sunlight reflects off of the asphalt. As you begin to veer left the surface of the cars begin to glitter and shine as the afternoon sun is fully realized off of the wonderfully rendered metallic surface of the automobiles. Upon closer inspection you can clearly see the sideline markers reflected off of the side of the cars. Applying the brakes to take the upcoming turn, your taillights ignite and the pads actually begin to glow red from heat build-up. Sunlight filters through trees in a section of dense forest surrounding the road, all wonderfully reflected off of the cars body.
I could go on and on but hopefully you get the picture…things look good, REAL good…and I havent even mentioned the wet track that you get to race a bit later in the game. The visual effects are spectacular with the water spray flying off the car tires in front of you and clouding your vision. The headlights and cars themselves reflecting off of the wet streets are just so damn breathtaking…
The backgrounds are also in a league all their own. Tracks are not only accurately recreated from the true to life counterparts, but they now look much more realistic. Little details like the new Seattle Dome being build in the background to the flashes going off in the grandstands from photographers just add to the realism. You can just tell that everything has been meticulously assembled with loving car by Polyphony. Racing down once familiar courses feels entirely new due to the upgraded graphical touches and the fact that hills and banks have been added. Navigating through the tracks comes across as fresh and exciting and there is virtually no pop-up or draw in to be found anywhere. Everything is clean, smooth and moves along at a wonderfully locked frame rate that never wavers.
Finally, no GT game would be complete without a wonderful opening intro and GT3 is thankfully no exception. The open movie is a fine combination of CG and in game graphics blended together so well that we had problems at times identifying where the CG started and the in game graphics engine took over. The intro gives viewers a nice snapshot of the courses and cars that can raced including some wild Rally car events. All of this is displayed while Lenny Kravitz sings Are You Gonna Go My Way in the background.
The gameplay itself has been nearly tweaked to perfection. If you like your racers in the arcade variety, that is in here…but the real game and challenge comes from the simulation mode. It is here that each car selected has its very own handling characteristics, driving idiosyncrasies and engine sound.
To help you navigate, a whole slick new menu structure has been implemented. Instead of separating manufacturers by regions/cities, everything is laid out pretty straight forward. Want to buy a Vette, just click on US Manufacturers, then Chevrolet and ante up the cash. Gone are the used cars though…now its new cars or nothing. At least you start off the game with enough cash to invest into a decent road machine. The other I noticed was the incredibly small load times between menus. Everything seems to flow much more smoothly and there is very little wait time.
Other little improvements over the previous GTs become immediately apparent once you start to dive into the game. For instance, changing your oil now becomes an important factor. The game will track the last oil change and give you an indicator for when the next one is due. If you choose to ignore this warning your cars HP will be affected and you will eventually experience serious degrading in performance.
The inertia model used in A-Spec is much more accurate (and unforgiving) when compared to the prior two GTs. The cars now behave as if they have real mass to them. Taking a turn too quickly will no longer send you careening and shooting around the bend but will instead have you t-boned into a guardrail or concrete barrier. Players really need to learn the intricacies of each car if they want to win races. I really appreciated this tweak in gameplay as it adds even more realism to the driving experience.
The course selection has been improved from previous GTs. In addition to most of the tracks from the previous titles, we are treated to some all-new ones. Unfortunately one of my favorite tracks, Autumn Ring, has been omitted. Oh well, some of the new ones more than make up for it though like the Complex String course which is a rather insane track that has more twists and turns than a curvaceous lap dancer.
Another area that sees a marked improvement is the Rally mode. Races here handle a lot like the Colin McRae game minus the co-pilot voice barking out alerts. The control is much more fluid and responsive this time around and it really feels like a lot of thought and development was put into this section of the game instead of just including it as an afterthought.
Everyone remember the license tests? Well, they are back…There are 48 license tests this time, some of which will really put your driving skills to the test. In addition to the B, A, IB, IA, and S licenses from the prior GTs, you must also apply for a special Rally license before heading out to the dirt.
Alas, not all is perfect in the land of GT3. The one glaring problem that I found with the game was the opponent AI. Its good, but it appeared to behave a little too much like GT2. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but I never quite felt that the computer driven cars had the fluid (emotion) AI that I so desired. Just like its predecessors, once you get the opponents car driving patterns down you can pretty much anticipate how to maneuver around them. What it boils down to is that the cars pretty much follow an imaginary line around the courses. Bump a car out of the way and watch it fall back into the line during the replay. While this isnt a really bad thing (cars actually DO follow a line in real races ya know), I expected a bit more blocking (although this has been improved over GT2) in the game. There does however appear to be pay-back attitudes from the cars this time around. On more than one occasion a car that I had cut off earlier in the race clipped me from behind.
I was also hoping for some real time car damage, but with all the cars included in the game all it would take is for one manufacturer to say no and it gets chucked out. Such is life I suppose. Finally, I was under whelmed by the lack of camera options while driving…we get two; low and over the back of the car (near chase) and the inside the invisible car view. What the hell is up with that? I would have liked a further back and slightly higher view, and how about giving us full instrumentation, dashboards and car hoods from the inside view next time?
Finally, how about adding another two cars to pack Polyphony? Is six cars some kind of magical number? I am certain with the added processing power of the PS2, two more cars should be able to be squeezed in there.
The sound effects and music are just as stellar as ever. In fact, I happen to like the music on GT3 the best as I am just an old rocker at heart and happen to like hard drivin soundtracks like Motley Crue, The Cult, Kravitz and such.
Engine sounds have always been the one of the hallmarks of the series and GT3 keeps the streak alive. Each car has a very distinctive and realistic engine signature mainly due to the fact that the real cars sounds were digitally recorded and placed into the game. There is also a pitch difference depending on whether you are driving from the in the car view or the overhead view. From inside the engine sound is slightly more muted and muffled to accurately mimic being inside of the car. Also, due to the PS2s more advanced sound chip, crashes, burnouts, skids, etc. come through much more crisp and detailed. We are also treated to subtle wind noises, deviations in engine performance, etc. Sound really adds to the overall gaming experience and GT3 really comes through in this category with flying colors.
OUR PLEDGE: We promise that we have fully played 'Gran Turismo 3' before writing this review. The scores given above are our honest opinion and were not influenced in any way by the manufacturer or distributor of the game.
This review was written by Tom Rooney © Absolute PlayStation
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