Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: September 28, 2001
When gamers talk about anticipation, there are certain titles that have left them hanging on a larger cliff than Tim Curry’s famous lyric in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. PC gamers were salivating over Black and White for months, while Dreamcast owners were hanging by a thread before the release of Shenmue. Of course, the PS2 has no shortage of these hotly anticipated games, including the still impending Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and the now arrived Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec. Racing fans everywhere have loved this series for years in its PlayStation incarnations, and with hordes of screens from the PS2 flooding the net before its release, the hype had reached incredible levels. As much as “any press is good press,” this kind of hype can make or break a game, since it must leap from a tower of its own anticipations, and from this either soar or crash mightily amidst a crowd of knowing nods and crushing reviews. Read on to see whether this racer soars or sinks in our review of what some were considering the first “killer app” on the PS2.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Gran Turismo 1 and 2 earned their fame by presenting drivers with the opportunity to guide a seemingly endless series of street legal cars through high-speed tracks. One of the most appealing parts of this simulator was its encyclopedia of cars, ranging from the standard family sedan all the way to the high-performance racers that grace speedways the world over. For Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, the scope of the garage has been scaled back considerably, leaving many of the family and mundane cars behind in favor of introducing performance models right from the beginning.
There are two ways to experience Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, and the more accessible of the two is obviously the Arcade mode. Selecting it from the main menu takes you promptly to a racing fantasyland where you can tackle a wide variety of courses with a wide selection of vehicles at your immediate disposal. Speedways, road races and circuit courses are all available and allow you to select your car from the lowly C class all the way up to the racing specific S class. In between these two lies the performance roadsters and hefty price-tagged sports cars as well, meaning there’s a wide variety open right from the start. Whether you’re racing a Honda Civic Del-Sol, a Peugeot 206, a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII GSR or even a Racing edition Dodge Viper, the cars are modeled straight from their real life counterparts and handle as if you’d just pulled them out of the factory following production.
Arcade mode also lets you tackle Rally tracks that feature every racing fan’s favorite four-wheel drive vehicles. The Mitsubishi Lancer, Corolla Rally Edition, Subaru Impreza and Peugeot 206 Rally are all ready to tackle the gravel, and they are even joined by Colin McRae’s trademark Focus rally car. Obviously these vehicles require quite a bit more care when handling, and test an entirely different set of skills than the asphalt courses. Unfortunately, realistic damage modeling is missing from this version of rally racing, freeing up players from worrying about degraded handling or blown transmissions.
Arcade mode is also the home of the multiplayer options in Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, and they have some surprising features included. The typical head-to-head mode appears here, but for variety players can load their personal garages into the selection and race their custom cars in competitive play (more on customizing cars below). While split screen racing entertains, true fanatics will probably have to call in their local electrician to rewire their house, since systems equipped with an appropriate hub can join up to six systems together and race on their own TV and with their own hardware.
True enough, arcade mode will progress as you beat the races and unlock new courses and cars, but those really interested in developing a sense of forward movement would be well advised to skip past arcade and head directly into the simulation mode. Starting with a paltry 18,000 credits, you must begin your racing career by visiting the man with bad hair, a tweed jacket and a smile from which you’d never buy a used car; yes, none other than the car dealership’s friendly sales associates. Luckily, there aren’t any used cars at this shop, only a vast selection of the world’s most desirable automobiles from almost all of the top makers.