When the original Sega GT was released for the Dreamcast, Sega fans were all set for a taste of Gran Turismo on their favorite console. What they got was a little less than they expected, but certainly a capable racing game with a lot of room for improvement. Sega and Wow have decided to take another stab at the genre on the vastly superior Xbox console. The result is a great racing sim with much better play mechanics and highly polished graphics.
The depth of the game may have some people turning their noses at it saying they’d rather get to the racing than have to worry about fixing their car after each event or worrying about buying new tires when the old ones wear thin. But car aficionados will drool over the great selection of vehicles from the 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s, and beyond.
The game initially gives you a wad of cash ($13,000) to go and buy yourself a car to start racing with–this leaves you with 3 possible monetary choices, all of which have less than 100 HP and run about 18 seconds over the quarter mile. To be fair, the game’s difficulty adjusts to the car you are driving. So if you have a Honda S800 you will race other cars in your class and not Mustangs or Corvettes. You can also win cars in the event races to add to you collection, as well as sell your cars from your garage rather than at the dealership. This allows you to get more cash return for your car because the dealership usually has a set value price.
Having spent a full week with this game and testing over 60 of its 100+ cars, I can say with some certainty that Sega GT 2002 is fair competition for Gran Turismo. Xbox owners can finally enjoy what PS2 owners have been talking about for quite some time now.
So lets get to the nitty-gritty:
The graphics are impressive and on par with what we’ve come to expect from an Xbox racer at this point in time. That said, they’re really not all that much better than Project Gotham Racing, with the exception of improved reflection maps and a slightly higher level of detail. They are more than adequate, though, and look really sharp with very few noticeable jaggies. The frame rate is solid and there is no draw-in or pop-up to speak of. Visually, Sega GT 2002 is better than you’d expect to find on the PS2, but not quite as good as it should have been for a premier Xbox third-party title. On a side note, there is no visible car damage; some might say that if the game is so bent on realism then why is there no physical car damage. Well, this is due mostly to some of the manufacturers not wanting their cars to be shown in a bad light. When talking about GT 2002’s 100+ cars things rapidly get expensive in terms of licensing, so I can see why Sega may have decided not to argue the point. It may have cost them more than their budget allowed.
Now, let’s have a chat about the sound. The effects for the cars are great–from the airy whirring of the turbo to the rumbles of the big V8s, and the odd jet-like whistle of the rotary engines, the mechanical noises are all solid and believable. The soundtrack feature is available in GT 2002, so while Gran Turismo had licensed some big name artists for its soundtrack, Sega didn’t spend so much time on the music, which is obvious because the default in-game music is the usual lame techno and grating sort of rock music. Sadly, the menu music is not changeable and does get on the nerves after some time, unless you actually like 70’s porno music.
Now to the most important part of Sega GT 2002–its gameplay. Plain and simple, GT 2002 plays extremely well. The cars are responsive and true to their nature. They certainly spent some time tuning the game physics to match each car’s real-life counterpart. I really have no complaints about the gameplay, it works well and has no major drawback issues. It is easy to pick up and go with the smaller cars like the Integra and Celica, and it takes time and skill to master the faster cars like the GT40 and the NSX type S. The driver AI is also very good at boxing you in and preventing passing, which adds a considerable amount of strategy to your driving seeing as you don’t want to crash into anything and risk using some of your prize money to fix your car post-race. However, the AI is not so stringent as to frustrate you, and the game seems to match your development stride for stride–it is never too hard or too easy to win a race. The gameplay addition of your car being prone to mechanical failure (like your air filter blowing out mid-race and causing you to lose performance) can make you think twice about buying used parts, but again it adds a level of depth that’s hitherto been missing from the racing genre on consoles.
Overall, Sega GT 2002 is a great game and there is also a quick race option for two-player action, and a mode that allows you to race some classics throughout racing history. But you’ll spend most of your time in the GT mode, honing your driving skills, earning your license, and decorating your garage with photos (that you can capture during race replays), and the trophies you have won. More tracks would, perhaps, have made GT 2002 an even better game–there are only about 12 to choose from, and so would the inclusion of visible car damage. But, for those seeking a quality racing sim for the Xbox, Sega GT 2002 fits the bill perfectly.