Sunday, January 5, 2003

Gran Turismo 2

Genre: Racing
Platform: Playstation
Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. Screenshots and images courtesy of Amazon.Com.

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Cover Description:
The world's most advanced racing game returns with screaming new features.

Over 500 cars from world-class manufacturers.

  • All vehicles are designed according to their exact specifications and are fully customizable.
  • Insane Arcade Mode with power slids, burnout's, jumps, and excessive speed.
  • Increased 2 player racing.
  • Killer soundtrack from star-studded bands.
  • Benchmark 3D graphics.

THE driving simulator on PlayStation. >>> by Shunichi Sakurai

29 tracks. 600 cars. One game.

There's no denying that Polyphony Digital's "driving simulator," Gran Turismo (GT1), became a monster hit when it came out in 1998. Barely two years later, they have tweaked their game and packed in so much new stuff that it had to be released with a "2" in the end.

Yes, this is Gran Turismo 2.

Polyphony Digital (PD) has given car nuts more of a reason to celebrate, given that GT1 served up a total of 166 cars racing on 11 tracks. GT2 tops that with around 600 cars on offer, from around 40 different manufacturers from around the world (some of which you may never have heard of). I'm impressed Sony and PD even bothered to include mundane city cars in the lineup, including hot hatches like the Peugeot 106/206, Ford Ka, Fiat Punto and even Japan's wacky k-cars. GT1, in contrast, predominantly featured sportier cars mainly from Japanese manufacturers.

These 600-plus cars can leave fresh lines of Michelin on a total of 21 road courses and 8 rally courses. All but one of GT1's courses are carried over, and GT2 even offers two challenging real-life venues, the infamous Laguna Seca racetrack in California and the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.

One of the most prominent additions are GT2's Rally races, which feature a totally different driving experience for GT1 stalwarts. If you're looking for some good ol' drifting action absent in this grip-obsessed racing franchise, Rally mode is the way to go. The eight tracks are challenging, rewarding careful throttle and steering correction---they may as well have been part of the World Rally Championship. All of them are on dirt, however; there is no ice track.

Also in the mix are more Endurance races, some of which can take as much as two hours or more to complete 90 or so laps. Any Formula 1 or Touring Car dreamers can live out their fantasies here, pit stops and all.

So now that we know what's in the game, how much have things changed since GT1?

GT2 is much more reliant on the Dual Shock's analog capability than GT1, as it's noticeable that steering has been slowed down a bit. Some people may relish this change as a step towards realism; others have dismissed it as a backwards step from GT1's cat-quick steering on analog sticks.

For the plethora of race events in Simulation mode, GT2's restrictions system now works to limit maximum horsepower. For example, to race in Special Stage Route 5 of the FR Challenge, your car must have less than 394HP.

Tweaking your car's settings (after you've bought the appropriate parts) is a big part of the GT franchise as well, and GT2 is no exception. However things seem to have been idiot-proofed for GT2, as non-engine-related tweaks do not cover as wide a range as they did before. You can't overboost your brakes' balance to shave 100mph in a split second of braking, for example.

The music has changed a fair bit too, and personally I prefer GT1's soundtrack to GT2's, the former more into driving rock and techno. GT2's soundtrack is a mite too pop-oriented.

In terms of sheer racing challenge, I don't think GT2 is as hard as GT1. The difficulty has been decreased a bit, especially because the Normal Car Tournament (no modifications allowed, not even tires) has been all but removed. To this day I am still unable to finish this GT1 special event. It's also an easy task of building up money to modify your car(s), if you know which events to race in.

When driving in stock cars, expect to be bumped around by the CPU drivers a lot, just like in GT1, as they are going to do their best to move you away from the racing line. That means drifting is done at your own risk; they can always hit your rear and make you spin. Of course, you can always do that to them, too. Heheheh.

The graphics have been smoothed a bit from the previous game, although gone is the GT HiFi mode that allowed you to race in slick high resolution. Silly, awkward jumps in the Autumn Ring and Grand Valley Speedway tracks are now gone, making for more natural racing.

The replays are something else. GT2 now gives you around 10 different camera angles you can use to view your progress, and as always, you can save your best replay videos onto a memory card.

In my opinion, GT2 is a must-buy for absolute car fanatics who want to know everything and anything about cars. It helps that it's a pretty darn good driving game, too. As a racing game, strictly speaking, it has its share of detractors.

This isn't a game that encourages drifting too much, so those of you who do may just stick in Rally mode or play Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit instead. But if all you want to do is go car-crazy, GT2 is your ticket.

COMPLETION TIME: 60-100 hours
HIGHEST LEVEL ACHIEVED: "GAME COMPLETE: 97.5%" (max for US version: 98.2%)
RATINGS: Gameplay 8; Battle 9; Story N/A; Visuals 9; Characters N/A; Sounds 7; Replay Value 10

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