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Graphics: Somewhere the assessment by Image Space Incorporated and Electronic Arts about the graphics quality of this offering became rather overblown. As you wait during its installation, you even see quotes from some leading game magazines praising the visuals to the skies. Well, the truth is the graphics are indeed above average, especially for a racing simulation, where visual standards have traditionally been noticeably lower than with arcade racers, but nothing at all to scream about. Two of Electronic Arts own recent car racing releases — Need for Speed III and NASCAR Revolution — make the visuals in Sports Car GT really pale by comparison. The designers seem not to realize fully how advanced the state-of-the-art has become; for example, they crow about skid marks remaining permanently on the tracks, when this feature has become quite commonplace. The dynamic lighting effects are nowhere near up to the competition and, needless to say, there is none of the reflection off windshields that I have come to enjoy so much. The racing backdrops are generally quite drab and stark (even a standard racing circuit can be made to look more vibrant), and the rendered vehicles do not have a sufficiently high polygon count to do real justice to their gorgeous real-life counterparts.
Interface: The input controls are absolutely normal, with the standard keyboard or joystick/gamepad/steering wheel options implemented in the usual ways. The play screen is cleanly laid out and I like the on-screen tachometer. However, I am not particularly thrilled with the menu system. Part of the problem is that on the critical race setup menu, you often need to have your mouse cursor at the bottom of the screen to see the garage and options tabs (it is a pop-up menu), and it took me a bit of head-scratching before I realized that. The other part of the problem is that the menu system lacks the flash, polish and aesthetic attractiveness of other Electronic Arts racing offerings.
Gameplay: My biggest problem with the gameplay is getting motivated to run another race; there is so little to provide any form of satisfaction that it is really a struggle. Most racing offerings have something I look forward to on each track that provides special excitement or a special rush of anticipation, but not here. The racing is neither frustrating nor fulfilling. You have the option to turn damage on, but the result, which does not appear visually, is nothing like the magnificent implementation in Sierra’s Viper Racing. The physics engine is more than decent, but when you skid off the track, your car handling on occasion becomes virtually impossible (causing you to spin out no matter what you do), and you might as well give up right then and there.
Sound FX: The primary sound effect in this game is the engine noise and, frankly, it sounds more like that of a diesel truck than any of the performance cars involved in GT racing. There is no support for 3D sound here, and it is disappointing that the choices for the quality of the audio samples are only 11 or 22 kilohertz, rather than the CD quality 44 kilohertz that many of us are used to in current titles.
Musical Score: I would not dignify the background soundtrack here by calling it music. It is simply a set of variations on a repetitive driving beat (not to be confused with techno-rock, which I like and usually has a tune). This is awful, but at the default volume settings it is often blessedly inaudible due to the engine noise.
Intelligence & Difficulty: In single race mode, you may control the degree of competition either by reducing the number of opponent cars or by using a difficulty level slider to decrease the skill level of their drivers. The options menu also affords the possibility of several aids, including steering and braking help, to assist novice players. But like most racing simulations, buyers new to the genre will not have an easy time winning. Sports Car GT pays particular attention to the artificial intelligence of the computer-controlled drivers, to the point where they attempted to simulate the driving styles of real-life racers on the GT circuit. However, in practice, I find the AI to be disappointing. For example, I performed a test where I drove slowly in front of the whole pack of cars (with the highest level of difficulty so as to maximize their skill level), and virtually none of them could successfully pass me even when I was just cruising along.
Overall: In reflecting back on Sports Car GT, the term “run-of-the-mill” keeps coming to mind. This nondescript offering is no embarrassment, and if it had been released a couple of years ago, it would have been quite well-received by reviewers and buyers alike. Most of the game is simply mediocre, but the incredibly bad sound and music and the absence of Internet support stand out as real sore spots. Electronic Arts has a reputation for great car racing titles, but after the debacle surrounding NASCAR Revolution and the disappointment surrounding Sports Car GT, I must admit I am beginning to wonder a bit what is going on here. I guess I will just wait for the release of Need for Speed: High Stakes to get me back on the high road.
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