In the racing/simulation genre, nothing comes close to the realism potrayed in Gran Turismo 3. You’ll have tons of mode to choose from, ranging from Arcade mode (perfect for quickies), Rally mode (almost a complete game by itself) and finally the core of the game, the Simulation mode.
A point to ponder is that Gran Turismo 3 only features 150 cars, a far cry from the 600+ present in it’s predecessor. Is this a bad thing? Well, it depends really, because Poliphony have gone all out on making these 150 cars as close to their real-life counterparts as possible. They handling of the cars defer from each other, cars like the Dodge Viper, while really fast is hard to manuever on winding tracks, while Toyota Supra offers excellent handling, at the expense of top speed. In short, the car physics are absolutely spot-on.
Fans of previous Gran Turismo games will be familiar with the mechanics of the main mode of play, but for those of you who will be sporting L plates the first time you play GT3 here’s what you can expect. You start the game without a driving licence and with only enough cash to buy one of a few entry-level cars that are more suited to shopping runs than racing. The second-hand cars and many of the models you can still regularly see at your local supermarket from Gran Turismo 2 have been dropped completely, so your choices when starting out really are very limited. Once you’ve chosen your box on wheels it’s time to learn how to drive it via a series of relatively simple tests involving cornering techniques and the like. Each test can be passed with either a bronze, silver or gold rating depending on your speed and although bronze awards are good enough to get you onto the racetrack, you’ll need gold awards all the way if you covet the secret cars they unlock.
Different licences unlock different race meetings (including rally and endurance stages later on) for you to compete in and depending on your placing in these events you’ll be awarded generous amounts of hard cash or, if you manage to win every race at a particular meeting, a brand new car for your garage. In GT2 it was common practice to sell these cars on and use the funds to improve your existing ones but it’s worth noting that you can only win each car once now so if you decide to flog it there’s a good chance you won’t be able to get another one. It’s also worth pointing out - for the more fanatical of you at least - that the cars you win as prizes often come in colours that aren’t available to buy. It’s also worth noting before we continue that the arcade mode allows you to sample the delights of super cars and rally stages without requiring you to obtain a licence first, in case you were worried.
One gripe that I have about the title is the drivers’ A.I. It seems that opponent cars just follow a predefined route on the tracks. They don’t try to overtake you agressively, or bump each other off the tracks. This may not be a bad thing, but smarters and more realistic drivers would certainly make the game more convincing and challenging.
Just when you thought the already jaw-dropping graphics of Gran Turismo 2 cannot be bettered, developers PolyPhony Digital pulls another trick up their sleeves. Using PlayStation 2’s powerful graphics engine, the cars in Gran Turismo 3 look more detailed, right down to the hubcaps. During the heydays of PS One, you’d be hard pressed to find more than 10 superbly rendered cars on screen at the same time. Here, you’ll see dozens of realistic cars racing each other on gorgeous tracks. The sunlight effects are something to behold on their own, peeping through the trees at Trail Mountain and blinding off the bonnet on the Laguna Seca. You can also see the PlayStation 2’s blurring effects when the heat rises off the track, this is especially impressive. Say goodbye to the old pixelated dust, this has some truly stunning effects.
This is certainly one fun game. That’s the beauty of simulation games like Gran Turismo, the replay value is very high. You have to be patient and win races to unlock the various cars available in the game. In a sense, it’s just like Pokemon, where you ’catch’ the cars and ’train’ them.
Overall, Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec is trully worth the wait. Superby detailed licensed cars, stunning visual effects, multiple modes and top draw sountrack makes this one a winner. A definite must for all racing fans.
Former owner and editor in chief of Darkstation.com