Tourist Trophy - PS2 - Review
It only took one game for Polyphony Digital to be crowned the world's greatest racing sim developer: Gran Turismo. Hundreds of cars, thousands of parts and upgrades, and limitless possibilities for gamers. GT made me care about tweaking my car. It made me think about all the little things that go into a motor vehicle, and it made me notice how vastly different each vehicle is not just in the way it performs, but also in the way it sounds.
Polyphony Digital hasn't veered from their winning franchise since its debut, releasing three full sequels worldwide and a couple bonus discs in Japan. They don't plan to change course anytime soon – the series' next stop will be PSP, followed by the next installment on PlayStation 3.
But before the famed development studio takes the real driving simulator to the next generation, they'd like to introduce you to the real riding simulator: Tourist Trophy. Built with racing enthusiasts in mind, Tourist Trophy is very much a part of the GT world. It's painfully realistic, dishing out a series of overwhelming challenges from the beginning. Players will be asked and forced to race as professionals. You'll have to learn the mechanics of how motorcycles function, how they handle, and experiment with their inner workings.
If this game had been created by anyone else it might have been too overwhelming or too realistic to last. Fun comes first, after all. It's a good thing Polyphony Digital was at the helm. What they've created is a game that asks a lot of the player, but gives a lot more in return.
I despise most tutorials, but Gran Turismo had an interesting way of teaching gamers how to play. Rather than having a boring, step-by-step guide, GT had a licensing system. To enter the introductory races you had to acquire the beginning license. Each racing tier brought a new license requirement, and each requirement presented new challenges that were vital to your success.
Tourist Trophy follows GT's route by providing four licenses, each with 10 trials that test your riding abilities. You'll have to brake, corner, weave, and perform a number of other basic techniques that come into play during each race. A detailed written description tells you what to do, but if that's not enough, a video demonstration will show you how to do it.
The Real Riding Simulator
Performing well is no easy task, not even after multiple tries and multiple demonstration viewings. I've never been on a real motorcycle so I can't make a direct comparison, but as far as video games go, there's nothing better than handling one of these beauties. The Yamaha MT, Triumph Sprint ST, BMW Motorrad R1200ST and dozens of others come to the game with unique handling, unique sounds, and several nuances for the player to pick up on. It's a no-brainer that scooters should control differently from motorcycles. But when motorcycles in the same class have significant differences, you know the game has depth.
It took me about 90 minutes to get into the arcade mode, the part of the game where I began my Tourist Trophy journey. I didn't brake soon enough, stop quick enough, or know how to corner properly. I was used to the way games had defined motorcycle controls - Tourist Trophy throws them out the window. Every aspect of a motorcycle, from its weight to the rider's position, affects the way it handles. It affects its speed, its ability to turn, and its ability to recover after a mistake. Hit a patch of grass and you will go flying - the tires lose traction immediately as you try to steer, causing the rider to fall off.
At times it felt like I was learning to play a new kind of racing game. Many of the game's 35+ courses are based on real racing tracks, and not a one of them is forgiving. There is an easier, oval-shaped course that doesn't provide too many surprises, but the essentials are the same. If you can't make a successful turn in one course, it's unlikely that you'll be able to make one in another.
Learning to ride successfully takes patience and experimentation. The game isn't going to tell you exactly when to start braking, how hard you should brake, or how sharply you should take each turn, etc. You've got to learn that on your own, and it differs per bike.
The idea is to understand motorcycles as a whole, and that's why the game provides a lot of technical information. Typically I'm bored reading anything in a game that isn't entertaining dialogue, but I found this information to be interesting and useful.
Get The Sensation
Three camera views; three different sensations of speed. The first is the quintessential third-person view, which shows the bike, its rider, and your surrounding environment. The second is the most exhilarating, taking you behind the handlebars for a bumpy ride that'll make you say "Wow!" at least once. The faster you go, the more the view shakes. Turning causes the camera to dip with the rider, adding to the intensity.
The third view takes you just past the handlebars for a first-person view that's in front of the bike. This view is a bit smoother, feeling more like a close-up of the third-person perspective.
Camera angles aren't usually something to rave about in racing games, but this isn't your average title. Whichever view you choose, Tourist Trophy makes you feel like you're part of something more than a game – they make you feel like you're a part of a race.
The difficulty is quite high, and with over 20 event races and over 100 bikes to collect, you're going to be with this title for a while.
The Sound of Mus— Engines!
Tourist Trophy doesn't have much of a soundtrack. You'll hear a few dozen instrumental tracks, and a few GT-style jingles, but the music ends there.
The sound effects, however, have been given the Gran Turismo treatment. There are over 100 different bikes to race, and each one contains real-world engine sounds recorded specifically for the game. The result is an enormous variety of engine sounds, from start-ups and revs to the low drone a bike makes when its idle, the sound is amazing.
Review Scoring Details for Tourist Trophy
One of the most challenging racing simulators made for PlayStation 2, Tourist Trophy is the Gran Turismo of its kind. Precise riding mechanics, real-world courses, tons of events – I haven’t been this challenged by a racing game since the original Gran Turismo came out. A couple of hours had passed by the time I grasped the basics, and I don’t want to even talk about how long it took for me to start winning races on a consistent basis.
Gran Turismo-quality visuals for the motorcycle world. If this isn’t the same engine that GT4 uses it must be pretty close. Everything looks the same – the quality of buildings, natural environments, real-time lighting and shadow effects, etc. These aren’t new effects, but they’re just as impressive here as they were in GT3 and GT4.
The best part is the riders and how realistically they react to every situation. They lean, turn, and bend in accordance with whatever the player is telling the bike to do. Stare at the screen long enough and you’d swear these riders were real. The animation is superb, and their textures are unbelievable.
Loads of praise goes out to the Tourist Trophy sound team. Aside from the realistic effects, however, this game doesn’t have much sound. I presume the engine sounds were meant to take center stage, which they do. This is a long and involved game, and there were times when I would have liked to have something else pumping through the speakers.
If Gran Turismo is Polyphony Digital’s son, then Tourist Trophy would have to be its daughter; different in so many ways, yet its clear they were birthed from the same parent. Gamers who enjoy the GT series will go crazy for it, and anyone who’s interested in motorcycles will appreciate the incredible amount of depth the game offers. It’s the best in its class – a game that only its creator may be able to live up to.
Not the greatest multiplayer mode. The two-player limit was expected; I don’t think it’d be possible go further on the current technology without sacrificing the graphics. Nonetheless this one-on-one gameplay takes just as much patience as the single-player modes. Patience doesn’t belong in multiplayer – I have a hard enough time as it is waiting for the controller to be passed to me.
Tourist Trophy is an unconventional racing game in a world that’s often too conventional. It’s harder, faster, and more realistic than its true competitors (motorcycle racers), but has what it takes to stand alongside the greatest racing games.