Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec Review
Note: This review is a revised version of our import review of Gran Turismo 3 that was released earlier in Japan. The only major change between the Japan and US releases is the soundtrack, it is listed in the review.
I never thought the day would come when I actually began writing the review for Gran Turismo 3. It seems like it has been a decade since Sony announced the once titled Gran Turismo 2000, but in fact it has been 1 year, 4 months, three weeks, and four days since Gran Turismo 2000 was officially shown at the 1999 Tokyo Game Show event. Gran Turismo 2000 was a project that was in development since March of '99 when early PS2 units became available to a few first party developers. Polyphony, of course being a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony, was one of the first developers to get the PS2 TOOL kit. They instantly began working on GT2000, and their source was the engine that was powering the original Gran Turismo for PSX. For the time being, it had been true, GT2000 would have been a rehash of GT2, and thankfully Polyphony realized that. The engine was mostly used for vehicular physics, but the graphics engine was borrowed as well. Polyphony wanted to take the existing Gran Turismo car models and increase their polygonal counts by a certain number. Sad to say, that number would have ranged a measly 1,500-2,000 polygons per car. The environments also suffered from the once common Playstation 2 effect "jaggies", not only that but the environments were lacking any real detail, such as Seattle's signature Safeco Field.
To make a long story, "shorter", Polyphony decided to scrap the whole GT2000 dilemma, and begin working on an all new engine for the PS2's Gran Turismo title. This occurred a little after last year's E3 2000, as Gran Turismo 2000's problems began. Even though Sony never, ever, said anything about a release date of GT2000, retailers such as EB World (Stop N' Save), Babbages and Toys R' Us, put matters into their own hands and completely misled gamers, telling them that GT2000 would be available on the PS2's launch date. When the one faithful day arrived of the PS2's timely arrival, there were no GT2000's to be sold, and guess where the blame was put on, certainly not those damn retail chains, Sony! Poor Sony received hate mail, and so did we! It turns out that Gran Turismo 2000 would not be titled GT2000, instead Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec. Sony announced that due to the fact that GT2000 would not be released in that year, it would be best to drop the 2000 and stick the "3" in. Finally, it seemed as if GT3 would be on track for a stable release date of July 11, 2001, as Sony had made an official announcement at E3 2001.
At around February, Sony told the press that both the US and Japanese releases of GT3 would be during Spring 2001. Soon after, the press was handed an exclusive demo of Gran Turismo 3, it lasted only 2 minutes, but it was the best two minutes I had ever experienced. Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock... I can hear the laughter of Sony/Polyphony as they tease us, while we anticipate the release of what could be one of the greatest games and racers ever! E3 event rolls around, Sony releases even more screenshots of GT3 (we currently have nearly 400!), and then tells the world that Gran Turismo 3 would be finally available in a mere 29 days. And so the word was kept, on what seemed to be the longest 29 days of my life, our copy of GT3 arrived shortly after its Japanese release, and to be quite frank, we haven't stopped playing Gran Turismo 3 since. But now the US version has arrived, and we've got the full review on it! Find out what makes this game, the greatest racing game ever, and on top of that, one of the top 5 greatest videogames in general. We hope you like to read. ;)
We've all been drooling over non-stop movies and screenshots of Gran Turismo 3, that seem as if they have been pouring like rain drops. From personal thought and opinion, I'll tell you right off the bat that Gran Turismo 3 is the best looking videogame on the Playstation 2 or on any platform for that matter. This perception involves the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo, which I should add will portrait the exact visuals in the final version of the game. The crew at Polyphony had better be somewhere on the island of Hawaii drinking a cool beverage, and Sony had better be paying the expenses. What Polyphony has accomplished with Gran Turismo 3, I can assure that no other developer could do with any other racing game, and you can throw me screenshots of an XBox game or GameCube game, but any honest analyst will tell you that, the only racing game that will look better than Gran Turismo 3, is Gran Turismo 4...
...it's easy to see why folks, GT3 features visuals like no other, and I mean no other. Racing down Laguna Seca Raceway in your 630hp Corvette C5R is so real, that you'd swear you can feel the heat coming from your tires as you slam the brakes for a powerslide, that gets you in and out of the infamous "Seca Corkscrew". After completing a race, you can see heat waves drift from the ground up, as you and your opponents are ready to rock and roll. The level of visual realism just doesn't end in GT3, it's not hard to see why the game had to be scored a perfect 10. First of all what everybody probably notices first about GT3 is its photo captured car detail. The developer had to spend days, even weeks to create one car in Gran Tursimo 3, imagine creating 150 in about a years worth of time?
Thankfully Polyphony took all of its time with the game, and have sculpted the most realistic vehicular visuals you will come upon. I'd sound farfetched if I told you, but would you believe that each GT3 car features over 15,000 polygons? To those who have understood the true potential of the PS2 will not dissent with me, but those nay-sayers better believe it, GT3's car models vary anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 polygons each, and it shows! The most complementary of all words do not do this game's visuals justice, somehow GT3 manages to look exactly like... life. These car models are absurdly detailed, and look absolutely stunning, but you knew that already since I've mentioned the fact, oh about thirty seven times now.
Aside from the visual overhaul to the cars, it seems as if more visual attention went into increasing the atmospheric detail, than it did into the cars. Comparing Gran Turismo 2's environments to those in Gran Turismo 3's, is like comparing a calculators 'visuals', to those of a PC's visuals. You get my drift? What were once empty, dingy and stale environments, are now vibrant, incredibly populated with fully polygonal stadiums, signs, pillars, massive buildings -that look eerily realistic- and most importantly, fully polygonal trees that are scattered all around stages like Midfield Raceway. What about a racer's public enemy number one?
The pop-up issue. As host of NBC's "Weakest Link" Anne Robinson speaks, "g'bye!" You'd better believe your sweet ass, GT3's graphics engine -accompanied by the 32MB of RAM- is so sophisticated that it makes millions of calculations in the blink of an eye, therefore reducing any visible sight of pop-up. On occasion, if you look very closely, you may see a little pop here and there, but it happens incredibly deep into your visibility range. What's more is that the game suffers from absolutely no frame rate dropping, and special effects such as sun rays through tree leaves, sun glare, light halos, and the reflection of the surface during a rainy race all look spectacular, just as they would in real life. So is it possible that videogame developers have finally emulated real life scenery, it could be quite so, but so far we've only done it in one specific portion.
When I originally bought Gran Turismo back in May of 1998, I bought because it had a large selection of cars, and just stepping off the Need For Speed: Hor Pursuit trip, I was looking for more. So when I played GT, I was disgusted, I kept on spinning out, I had absolutely no clue on how to play this game, and in fact even thought I had defective copy. But the internet came through for me, and I later found out this was a pure simulation game, stricken by the whole concept, I gave the game a chance. The more I played the more the game had stuck its claws in me, even though the licenses were a bitch, I came through and pulled off Bronzes and a few lucky Silvers. Starting with the cheapest possible car I could afford, I began my long lasting journey, eventually I would climb the totem pole of a diverse car garage. From Toyotas to Jaguars and all the way to the famed Dodge Vipers, I had got them all. The same could be said for Gran Turismo 2. Gran Turismo 3: A Spec lives up to every single ounce of hype that Sony has delivered.
For starters, while many may say that GT3 features fewer vehicles than GT2, that isn't quite true. GT2's "used cars" had accounted for most of the cars, and since most of the used cars where the exact same cars, just with different colors, I guess Sony took it into consideration to qualify them as different vehicles. To be fair, GT2 had only 160 unique car models (that is different year versions included), but this time around GT3 features nearly 170 cars, 120 or so of which are original. So as you can see, even though the roster was toned down, Polyphony had removed all of the unnecessary slow pacers that no body bothers of purchasing, and instead kept all of the beasts. Cars such as the GT3 signature Dodge Viper GTS-R, Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche Boxter (RUF 3400s), Porsche 911 Carerra (RUF CTR2) and even the recently released Acura RSX made the final cut into this racer. Those who swear that Gran Turismo 3 is nothing but a visual upgrade over GT2, deserve to have their videogaming privileges revoked, and if it was up to me, I'd kick the poor bastard's tuckhus into submission.
Polyphony has gone and completely refined the game's physics, since the original GT2/2000 engine was scraped, GT3 is even more realistic than it ever was. Although that doesn't necessarily mean that you'll have to be more careful while turning, because spin-outs don't occur as often as you'd think they do. GT3's racing physics have been completely reworked on, and it's quite noticeable as well. There's a pretty wide margin between the physics in GT2 and GT3. Compared to GT3, Gran Tursimo 2 feels a bit sluggish when it comes down to turning the cars, therefore some pushing of left and right on your pad could become necessary to regain control. That thankfully is not the case with GT3, the cars control like a dream, it's far more easier to get a grip on the GT3 cars, than the GT2 cars. Let's just put it one way, GT3 is 'out with old, and in with the new.'
You may remember some of the tracks in Gran Turismo 2 such as Laguna Seca, Midfield Raceway, Special Stage 5, and Trial Mountain, but when you play one of those tracks in GT3, you'll be astonished at how different they look. The visual overhaul definitely makes this tracks almost un-recognizable when it comes down to 32/128 bit comparisons. Instead the tracks look photo realistic and from up far can easily be mistaken for an actual TV presentation. Basically most of the tracks that were made available in GT2 have returned to GT3, Midfield Raceway, Laguna Seca, Special Stage 5, Rome Circuit, Seatle Circuit and a whole slew more. In addition to that, a new track was added to the count, Tokyo R246, it's a great track that takes place in a city, where nothing but buildings and admiring structures surround your race.
I feel as if I'm forgetting to mention something, but since this is Gran Turismo 3 you already know what to expect. Gran Turismo 3 is without a doubt the most addictive videogame since Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and even more so this is a simulator and not an arcade title. GT3's limitless options, addictive racing, sense of speed and pure joy of driving makes this game one of the best games ever made, and that's no joke. It certainly makes my top 5 of all time.
The Japanese soundtrack was great, albeit featuring an "ok" track here and there. The GT3 import had an excellent cast of bands such as Grand Theft Audio, Overseer, and Feeder, who provided the three best songs in the game. Lennny Kravits had lent two of his songs as well, the recent "Again" and a remixed version of "Are you going my way." Although for the American release, the British band Feeder and Overseer have been nixed from the soundtrack. But Sony still kept Lenny Kravits' tunes, as both of his songs make the cut in the US version. What separates this soundtrack from the Japanese one, is Snoop Dogg's exclusive contribution with a song titled "Dogg's Turismo." The sound is smooth, just like every other Snoop Dogg track out there. Although I must express my gripe with one of the songs, the Apollo Four Forty "Stop The Rock" track. I find this song to be by far the most used videogame song ever, on top of that the song is used in countless commercials. Let me tell you that this song has completely driven me to loathing it! Gran Turismo 3's overall soundtrack is gold, it's got legends such as Judas Priest, and even the late and great Jimi Hendrix. The full soundtrack includes:
"Again" / Lenny Kravitz (plays during ending credits)
"Are You Gonna Go My Way?" /Lenny Kravitz
"Satisfied" / 8 Stops 7
"Stop the Rock (Mint Royale Mix)" / Apollo Four Forty
"Mad Skillz - Mic Chekka" / BT
"Break In" / CiRRUS
"Glowl" / daiki kasho
"Mirage" / daiki kasho
"Obscure" / daiki kasho
"Sky scraper" / daiki kasho
"Strike breaker" / daiki kasho
"Go Gran Turismo" / Dave Aude
"Call It Brisco (And Why Not?)" / Elite Force
"99 Red Balloons (Adapted from '99 Luftballons)" / Goldfinger
"As Good as it Gets" / Grand Theft Audio
"Champion" / Grinspoon
"Stone Free" / Jimi Hendrix
"Turbo Lover" / Judas Priest
"Def Beat" / Junkie XL
"Crash" / Methods of Mayhem
"Kickstart My Heart" / Motley Crue
"Never Enough" / Papa Roach
"Super Nova Goes Pop" / Powerman 5000
"Determination" / Raekwon
"Dogg's Turismo 3" / Snoop Dogg
"She Sells Sanctuary" / The Cult
As I've mentioned before the control has changed quite significantly. GT enthusiasts will definitely notice a change in vehicular control, this time around spin-outs don't occur as much as they did in previous GT games. The support of the analog sticks for basic car functions is awesome. The car and the analog sticks work as one, giving the gamer control over his mighty beast. Another sweet feature is that compatibility of wheels such as the Logitech GT Force (Wingman) and Interact's Blue Thunder, both wheels (especially GT Force) work marvelous when playing Gran Turismo 3: A Spec. If you have the Logitech Wingman Formula Force GP steering wheel and it's USB based, go ahead and plug it into your PS2, it works!
By now your eyes are sore and you're thinking 'when the hell is this review going to end'? Well you can shut your pie hole and quit your whining because it's done, finished, finito, zaconchin, finition, ende, revestimento, eh you get the idea. Gran Turismo 3 is not only the best Playstation 2 game available for the PS2, but it may very well take my "Game of the Year" award. I should also mention that GT3 is the very first Playstation 2 game to earn a perfect ten from me, but which game will steal tens across the board? I shouldn't have to tell you that GT3 will be a must own title, and no PS2 library will be complete without a copy, 1 million Japanese owners sure think so, shouldn't you? If you haven't already, YOU MUST GET GT3! Your life depends on it!
7/10/2001 Arnold Katayev