Gamestyle Archive intro: we’re back in July 2001 and the expectation and hype around the latest Gran Turismo is at fever pitch. Mike Bather takes the latest incarnation for a spin and isn’t blown away. This is a perfect example of the Gamestyle ethic. An average game received 5/10 as that is the average – for some reason some sites and PR types believe 7/10 is where an average should start. It is a mockery really and our honest scoring attracted some abuse and fanboy nonsense from those that couldn’t count.
On the starting grid a Ford Focus and a Ford Escort sit patiently, engines grumbling like some vindaloo stricken polar bear. As the starting grid lights flicker from yellow to green, short bursts of petrol ignite in metal chambers, pushing exhaust fumes exit from a big hollow steel tube at the rear of each vehicle promptly making large gassy parrrp noises as they rocket from the starting line, spraying up clouds of dust. Welcome to Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec: the real driving simulator.
As driving simulators go, nothing has so far matched the might of tuning, suspension altering and gear lengthening that Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo offered. GT2 was an unlucky step back in the series that fell slightly with too much ambition, it unfortunately just never seemed as finished or as polished as the first game. GT3 is now here to entertain us in this third instalment and after owning 1and 2 we want something nice and special. And we mean nice and special. So, the ‘special’ looking all-silver DVD goes in the slick black machine and the intro commences, nothing short of the visual splendour that you have come to expect. The intro is fantastic, with growling GT cars writhing for first place on the all too familiar back drops of the tracks we are all to familiar of.
Already, you should not need an intro, as this is GT through and through even down to the way the opponent’s race. Same options, similar layout to the menu system, although rabidly overhauled to make it all simpler and easier to navigate through. Initially we are given the choice of the well-known Gran Turismo mode, where you buy, tune, race and sell cars or the arcade mode where you just race for fun or some competition with up to six friends with I-Link, complete with the ability to import players’ garages. The arcade mode gives you access to most of the top-flight GT cars like the Nismo and Mugen creations and also the lesser bhp-ridden Celicas, Minis and general road goers. Two player mode works well with only a very small amount of pop up visible that affects proceedings very little, if at all. But enough of the pretty impressive arcade mode, the GT mode is where this game is at. GT mode is the game in where you are given an amount of cash (18,000 in GT3) to buy a car, and then pit yourself against the various races that are suited to its class and type. You then build up your car from money earned through winning races, selling unwanted cars that you accumulate from winning race series’ hoping that one day you’ll have the money, time and the right car to take you through the long haul 200 mile races. Immediately noticeable is the thankful drop of the shopping trolleys of the prequel games, which leave the new player with a relatively small choice of about five vehicles to start off with. Chose your car and away you go to glory, wasted champagne, fireproof suites and women-a-plenty.
All is not so though, as a series of intuitive driving tests stand in your way. After all it is obvious: You didn’t really think that they would let you on a racetrack unqualified, did you? As a player of the first two GT games, this comes as all too familiar territory and is indicative of the game series limits. Although everything you could possibly want from a Polyphony Digital-produced driving game is here, there are serious shortcomings in the series, and the 128bit ages brings them glaring forth. Minus the car damage of other racers these seemingly perfect mechanical fire-breathing monsters are brought kicking and screaming into videogame territory. They remain perfect through race after race, as a testimony to the creators of the vehicles and also the mind’s behind this game for sticking to what they know best: Exceptional game play complete with amazing graphics.
Never have such lifelike vehicles been placed on ROM storage before, but Gamestyle choose to ignore the sheen and try to find the shine. You spend a few hours building up your initial, carefully chosen first car for the first couple of races and you finally have every upgrade on it, from tyres to the exhaust right through to the excellent alloy choice. You’ve re-mastered each track from the previous games and the player then decides to complete the change from normal road-going car to full-on racer. It doesn’t happen as this option has unfortunately been removed. Upon realising this, most players wont be too bothered but some players may have been relishing the thought of having their own race prepped Toyota Yaris to run in an all-Yaris GT final. This has been the biggest disappointment so far in playing the game as it was, in a way, a fundamental step from being one of the Sunday Cup Lada drivers and moving on up to the big league of the insane Grand Tourers. Having gotten the most out of your car, little pleasure is taken in keeping it on the road with no race spec upgrade so down to Barry’s Banger Bargain’s you go and sell it off. For a pittance, too as it’ll probably just pay for your sports suspension on your newly acquired sportster or whatever. And this is where the game takes a rapid cruse-control style.
Once you make it to the GT spec monster cars for probably the first time ever in the series, you can control them. And really control them. One of GT3’s biggest assets to the joypad user is the analogue pressure sensitive buttons that work great and coupled with the super smooth graphics you can brake later and still make the corner as everything happens now. No delays at all like in the prequels and coupled with what we can see as perfect handling it brings the whole game down to a point of, well, not very challenging. There’s so many challenges and races it will take you time to plough through them but whether or not you’ll actually bother to do so is up to you and is more depending on your ‘hot’ spot for GT cars.
Sonically the game has improved fairly well especially the different tones in the equipped parts on the car. Applying a sports exhaust gently beefs up the exhaust sounds and applying a better gearbox changes the whole sound of the car as the engine, depending on how the gearbox is set up, runs at different speeds. Regarding the soundtrack, using real life musicians it all down to personal choice but it’s all pretty average stuff and it is also in Dolby Surround as well which is nice to hear. Nice additions are a good tunnel noise, excellent tyre noise and crowd cheers which create a nice ambient sound by themselves. It is all pretty much standard fare for the GT series and there are other things that can be mentioned such as stupid 2D people for the crowd that is made up in the excellent car and track graphics, but they are easily forgotten and less of a glaring hindsight as in Metropolis Street Racer’s unpopulated cities.
The main act of criminality is the feeling of ‘nothing new’ that you get and at the start of the game it really does seem slow, but stick with it until you get to the 1000bhp+ monster vehicles and it soon speeds up and offers the most compulsive car tuning game available. This is due to the realism of the game, the super smooth framerate and the excellent and highly responsive control that make playability the no.1 issue and that’s why it shouldn’t be faulted. For absolute playability this game, although in a different style, is on a par with MSR, both are great games in their own rights. GT3 is by far the most crafted and exceptional driving game around, but something or even anything new wouldn’t go amiss.
Gamestyle Score: 7/10