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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Racing

 

Publisher

SCEA

 

Developer

Polyphony Digital

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q3 2001

 

- Inclusion of every different Gretzky era (Oilers, Kings, Blues, Rangers)

- Excellent “tipped” puck physics

- Give-and-Go is a welcome addition

 

 

- Defensive AI?

- Slow control response

- Half of the Gretzky Challenges would require 100+ hours to do

- 3 Megs for a save file? Are you kidding?

 

 

Review: Hypersonic Xtreme (PS2)

Review: Wreckless - The Yakua Missions (PS2)

Review: F-Zero GX (GC)

 

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Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec

Score: 9.6/10

 

With all of the ho-hum games that have been released for the Playstation 2 and only a few games to serve as a relatively entertaining experience, though still fleeting, there was almost a fanatical mantra echoing through the collective consciousness of the Sony faithful: It'll get better, just wait until the second half of 2001 for the really good stuff to hit.  One of these games to fall under the "really good stuff" category was none other than Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec (GT3).  By and large the game has delivered and is arguably the first title for the PS2 that has the quality to become a heavy-duty system seller.  While not revolutionary, it takes just about everything that made the Playstation incarnations of Gran Turismo good, and cranks them to eleven on the PS2.  Better physics, smarter opponents, and a huge leap in its visual presentation make GT3 a racer well worth playing.

 

gran-turismo-3-a-spec-1.jpg (48892 bytes)          gran-turismo-3-a-spec-2.jpg (55923 bytes)

 

Well, we might as well get the game's graphics out of the way right away since it's the one feature in GT3 that everyone has been fawning over since the first images of the title were made available.  GT3 looks absolutely gorgeous.  From stem to stern there is a lot of eye candy here that can be downright distracting (in a good way) when playing the game.  The environments are fabulous with an insane amount of detail crammed into each and every track.  Trial Mountain, for instance, never looked better with the amazingly detailed mountainsides with their rough, rocky surfaces, and the beams of light that pours through the overhanging trees in certain areas of the track are something that simply must be seen.  Even the reflection off of the wet roads on some tracks is very well done, right done to the blinding glare from sunlight bouncing off it just right to obscure the driver's view.  Also nice about the environments is how far off into the distance you can see when driving.  There are few faint signs of draw-in while racing; it's essentially non-existent on the actual track, only really showing up in the periphery as landscape and buildings far off to the side show up.  Even then it is a very rare occurrence.  The other important half of GT3's graphics, of course, is the cars themselves.  While there are fewer in this installment than it's predecessors (largely due to the sheer amount of time it takes to create the car models for the game), they all look a lot crisper and sharper, with some nice reflective details present while racing.  In game, while racing, the cars don't look photo-realistic, but they are by far the most accurate, most eye-pleasing, representation of them yet in a game.  When viewing a replay, however, the cars look very, very close to their real-life brethren.  You have to look real hard to be able to tell that the scene you're watching is CG.  Bringing up the rear is GT3's tried and true solid frame rate.  The sense of speed is very good here, and everything moves very smoothly with no signs of slowdown or choppy, stuttering movements, just silky smooth racing.

 

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Sound on the other hand is a wee bit of a mixed bag.  The sound effects are the best yet in the series as the sounds of the vehicles' engines and exhaust are more realistic than ever and do a very good job of differentiating one another.  The screeching on corners and the positioning of the sounds while maneuvering through the tracks is equally well done.  Where GT3's sound takes a hit is its soundtrack.  On the one hand it should be saluted for being so well rounded, sporting a 

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mix of rock, pop, electronic, and hip-hop, as well as a hint of classic rock, but because of this there's little chance any one person can enjoy the soundtrack in its entirety, and they will just turn off the songs they don't like and are stuck with maybe a half dozen or so songs to listen to when racing.  One other nuisance of the audio is that it can only be turned on and off.  The faders of old to incrementally adjust the game's audio have been given the heave-ho.  A minor annoyance, but present nonetheless.

 

gran-turismo-3-a-spec-3.jpg (37482 bytes)          gran-turismo-3-a-spec-4.jpg (43453 bytes)

 

Back again are the arcade mode and the simulation mode with the arcade mode being a little more forgiving, thus more accommodating to newcomers, and the simulation being a more grueling ordeal for those who really want to test their mettle.  More important for the arcade mode is that it offers a nice quick session with the game when time simply does not allow for an all night marathon at the races.  You get a mix of all the different race classes to choose from still, ranging from the puny little econo-boxs, to the elegant sports cars, to the race cars, to the rally cars, so your options are wide open.  They grow even wider as you complete races and unlock more goodies too.  Simulation mode is what most consider the meat and potatoes of the Gran Turismo series, and that remains true in GT3.  Buy cars, win races, take the money you earn and upgrade or buy new cars, and go through driving tests to earn licenses so to compete in more challenge, and lucrative, circuits, it's all back and tweaked a bit for our convenience.  The tweaking comes in how getting around the menu system on the city map is so much easier and intuitive than ever before.  Finally there is just one place you need to go to get a car, and one place to go to upgrade these cars, not hopelessly fumbling around through obscure, cryptic city districts you can hardly remember, hoping beyond hope that this, your third wild guess at where to go to get upgrade components for your Nissan is more fruitful.  No sir, this time you just go to the "Dealer" icon and then choose the country you want to buy a car form, then pick the manufacturer from that country which happens to tickle your fancy, get the car and your done.  Upgrading is simply done by going to "Upgrades" and you get what you need and off you go.  The one thing that hasn't changed is that it is sadistically hard to get licenses in the game.  Most who dare venture past an A License will count their blessings for somehow getting bronzes in all of the courses in the advance licenses and just move on.  Those who try to get all gold medals will likely be reduced to whimpering heaps in the corner of the rec room, a mere shadow of their former selves.  Regardless, the satisfaction of getting more and more money to buy faster, more exotic vehicles is back in all of its glory, ready to reclaim the souls of the Gran Turismo fanatics who had almost escaped its clutches during it's two and a half year hiatus.

 

While the visuals of GT3 have received a considerable facelift it should also be noted that the computer AI is far better than that of past installments of the game.  Usually you'll find yourself dueling with one other car for a majority of the race as it looks for weaknesses in your driving, while you do the same.  The other cars are still largely decoration, as they stay in a wolf pack for the duration of the game.  This makes things a lot more challenging, especially in the more unforgiving race forum of the Simulation mode, especially when the track design demands that you know the routes inside and out if you want to succeed.  And there is a lot to learn, between the return of old favorites and brand new courses there is a lot to digest and become comfortable with before you take on the competition in the various circuits.

 

While countless games have fallen horribly short after a barrage of hype, GT3 actually lives up to it.  The game looks great, has a little something for most anyone interested in racing games, and plays extremely well.  If you have a Playstation 2, this is a very worthy addition to its library.

 

- Mr. Nash

 

(August 8, 2001)

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