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Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec - PS2 - Review

If you're thinking about picking up Sony's Grand Turismo 3: A-spec, be prepared to lose a lot of sleep. Most gamers would wholeheartedly agree that the Gran Turismo series has offered the best driving games released on any platform to date. They'll be no disappointments about this release because the best just got even better. Let's face it, the PSX's graphical capabilities just weren't enough to handle such a game. The PS2 is another story, as the additional processing power allows for some amazing visual effects. Incredible eye candy combined with awesome game play and complete physical realism make this game stand out above the rest. It was well worth the wait...

First off, the introduction to the game will simply blow you away. It's definitely a well made video sequence, which does its job as the attention getter and it's undoubtedly a nice representation of the game's overall energy. Once the video completes you'll be confronted with a bunch of choices, the most important being: arcade mode, simulation mode, options, and replay theater (just as in the previous releases).

There are a ton of options that you are able to configure for GT3 and the menu has been redesigned for easier navigation. If you're familiar with the noises that are made when you scroll or click on options in GT1 & G2, they'll be no big surprise, as they haven't been changed! You are able to choose the screen size, change the sound/music properties (including favorite tracks, which will play more often), configure your controller/wheel settings, and more.

Once everything is setup, you can choose either simulation or arcade mode. Arcade mode is basically the turnkey racing portion of the game, as you immediately have access to many of the included cars. Simulation mode is considerably more intensive and it's the heart of GT3. You start off with no car or license and you must work your way up to be the fastest driver in the world!

The simulation menu has been changed and it is therefore much easier to navigate. When getting started, the first step is to go to the license center to complete (at least) the B license requirements (you need a license to race!). While it is fairly easy to do so if you get all bronze trophies, you may find it very difficult to obtain all gold trophies, which is usually rewarded with a (nice) car. It's a good idea to get all the licenses first because it gives you great practice and teaches you the basics of racing, but the game is just too tempting to spend so much time on them initially! If you're like me, you want to get a car as soon as you can so you can start customizing it. The complete list of licenses are: B, A, International B, International A, Super, and Rally. They range from a timed 1000 meter test to complete races and many of the tests are almost identical to those found in GT2. The ghost feature, which shows your car in a more opaque fashion while you're attempting to improve your time, is very helpful and it saves a lot of time. Also, the license tests don't just start without any notice anymore, but instead you always get the 3-2-1-go countdown.

Okay, so now that you're earned at least one of the licenses, it's time to go car shopping with your 18,000 credits! The number of cars to choose from is significantly less than in GT2 (I believe the total is around 150), but there's an obvious reason why: more attention was paid to detail. Now it's obvious that quality comes before quantity, another change for the better. There aren't any used cars to buy in GT3 and there aren't many cars for 18,000 or less either. I ended up choosing a Mazda Miata as my first car and it worked out very well for me.

It's time to lay down some rubber! The races are laid out very differently this time around and it allows them to be completed more efficiently. The main menu consists of: beginner league, amateur league, pro. league, rally events, and endurance events. Each of the leagues have many different races within them, from the Type-R meeting to the GT championships, there are certainly a lot of races! Many of these races will be familiar to the GT series veterans, but they no longer have horsepower limits imposed on them.

The majority of the tracks offered in GT3 are simply old tracks redone to look like they should have from the beginning. I was hoping for more new tracks, but I'm satisfied with those that were included. As you win events you receive credits and cars on a random basis. Notice to all the slackers out there: you can only win a car once per race! No longer is it possible to win the same race over and over, just to get cars to sell.

The game play is among the most entertaining I've experienced. First of all, I'll say that it's amazing the physics and game play from GT2 could get much more refined, but surprise surprise, they did. Just from my experience on autocross courses, driving cars in Grand Turismo 3 is identical to real racing. The handling characteristics of every vehicle is noticeably different, just as they would be in real life. The rally mode has also been significantly improved and it's no longer comparable to sliding around on ice. You have to love pulling off huge drifts for long distances, I mean, what's there not to like?

As you start to win races, you are able to modify your vehicle with aftermarket performance parts. The options are similar to those found in the previous releases, but once again, the menus have been redone to allow modifications to be performed more efficiently. After you purchase the various driveline, suspension, and engine mods from companies such as Mugen, TRD, and Mopar, you'll need to learn how to tune the components for each car (if you want to stay in front of the pack). Maybe the car needs a little more negative camber? Not a problem, get the racing suspension setup and you're able to change the setting for just about anything you'd like. The possibilities with this game are almost unlimited and that's what makes the fun factor never wear off. Creating a car that is your own personal driving machine and that you know how to race with is the key.

Multiplayer is where you get to show off your custom cars to your friends and hopefully where you keep them in the rearview mirrors. It is a horizontal split as before, which is obviously kind of annoying. So if you really want to get competitive, you're able to have an i.link battle using two PS2's and two TV's. Now that's some intense racing.

I was able to test the game with both the DualShock2 controller and the new Logitech GT Force wheel and both offer great game play. The pressure sensitive buttons on the DualShock2 controller allows for controlled take-offs and much more effective cornering techniques. The GT Force wheel definitely adds a lot to the game and it's worth picking up if you're a serious racer. The sensitivity and responsiveness of the wheel are amazing. Additionally, it has force feedback, so why even go to the arcade anymore, since you can have everything and more right in your home? Be sure to check out my review of this product individually too.

Graphically, GT3 is one of the most impressive games to date. If you can even manage to take your eyes off of the detailed cars, you'll notice that the environments have been greatly improved. Backgrounds are no longer just second thoughts, but instead they are full-featured and smooth. The effects created from the sun, street lights, and even track heat are breathtaking. The reflections on wet pavement, cars and other objects are equally as stunning as the shadows created by virtually every object in the game. There's a new track called Special Stage Route 11 that features Christmas trees with lights on them on the sides of the track and all I can say about them is ... I'm speechless. Also, the dust in rally mode has been greatly improved.

All cars in GT3 have been visually improved and remodeled, and the difference in quality is significant from the last release. Most noticeably, the wheels have been refined and you can now even see the brake rotors/calipers through them (even at high speeds)! When watching the replays you'll realize that this game is more than you could ever ask for. This is somewhat due to the new camera angles, placements and movements, which are great for watching your racing techniques. Also, there are now digital effects that spice up the visuals on replays ever further. One time I thought that I was watching a GT3 demo, but it was actually Speedvision's GT racing (I wasn't really paying attention and didn't have the TV on video 1). The quality is that good, I kid you not.

The cars' headlights look a lot cooler, but they still don't emit a beam of light (except on the ground barely in front of the car). So if you're in a dark tunnel, your lights don't do you any good! This time around they are turned on depending the track and conditions. Cars that are equipped with HID (high intensity discharge) headlights are accurately shown as a different, brighter color, which look pretty cool!

The sound is great in this game. In order to get realistic engine sounds from each of the cars, they actually record various samples and the results are great. You'll hear the turbine spooling on turbo engines and the high-revving engines really scream. Road noise and tire noise have been made more realistic also, so now you can actually hear the tires contacting the pavement at high speeds, instead of just the engine noise. Also, when cornering/braking/taking off, the tire squeals aren't just annoying high pitch noises, they sound very real.

The music is just as impressive. You can't go wrong with classics such as "Turbo Lover" by Judas Priest and "Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue. Even Snoop Dogg busts a few rhymes about GT3 in "Dogg's Turismo 3." There are tons of great songs and the ability to choose what plays is a nice feature.

Admittedly, nothing in the game truly disappointed me, but there are some things that I would have liked to see included that weren't. This includes: car damage, which is nonexistent. There's currently no clutch compatibility, something that would be nice for the hardcore racer. Drag racing wasn't included once again, which was a bit of a letdown. Lastly, Ferrari still didn't jump onboard for this release due to licensing restrictions.

Let's see here... awesome cars, incredible graphics, impressive sound, amazing controllability, unparalleled game play - I think we have a winner. Grand Turismo 3: A-spec is a game that everyone who owns a PS2 should have. Need I say more?

Grand Turismo 3: A-spec is rated "E" for Everyone and it requires a minimum of 256K on a PS2 memory card.

Gamplay: 9.5
There are some features that I would have liked to have seen implemented, but otherwise the game play is incredible. There's nothing bad to say about it.

Graphics: 10.0
Everything in the game has been graphically revamped and the results are astounding. Environmental effects are among the best I've ever seen and the detail of everything in the game is top-notch. Perfection...

Sound: 10.0
Improved sound effects make all sounds as real as possible. The soundtrack features some impressive rock-stars and having good music to race to makes the experience even more enjoyable.

Difficulty: 9.5
This game takes a considerable amount of practice to really get good at it. Don't expect to just run into walls and still win the race. Just getting all the licenses is challenging in itself. It's definitely easy enough that it's learnable and hard enough that it will provide a lot of hours of gaming to beat it.

Concept: 10.0
Does racing around in your dream car against your friends and then watching the replay sound fun? I thought so.

Multiplayer: 10.0
GT3 is extremely fun to play against others and it even includes i.link support to connect two separate PS2's (with two TV's).

Overall: 9.8

Amazing

Gw
jkdmedia
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