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GamesFirst! Magazine

Gran Turismo 3 A Spec Preview

by Sony and Polyphony
Due March 2001 for PlayStation 2.

scrn1-01.jpg (3704 bytes)Passion. Technology. Dynasty. These three words grace the jacket of the GT3 A-Spec demo disc. I’d say that the marketing machine behind this great franchise has summed it up nicely. Gran Turismo: a racing dynasty. Well, as the saying goes, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

scrn2-01.jpg (4254 bytes)Yeah, we’ve all seen the screen shots. They’re beautiful. But I have learned to take those little single-frame gems with a grain of salt. You can make just about any game look good if you hand pick the prettiest pictures it has to offer. The true test comes when those pretty pictures move. Let me assure you, the screen shots simply do not do this game justice. You have to see it in action. GT3 is the single most incredible display of graphics and effects technology I have seen so far on the PS2. The cars are rendered with astounding realism. Granted, this is the polished, ultra-colorful brand of realism achieved by special effects. There is virtually no aliasing or pixelation on the cars. The lines are straight, the textures convincing. Each car has been meticulously created to the last minute detail. There are hood ornaments, antennas, and trunk latches on the exteriors; you can even see the bulbs in the headlights.

scrn3-01.jpg (4077 bytes)The cars are also completely reflection-mapped, from windshield to bumper. And this accounts for multiple light sources, shade, road glare, everything. The most beautiful effects on the demo track take place under a canopy of trees, where the light streaks down onto your car while individual branches scroll across its glossy finish. This is inspired programming. And the frame rate remains constant regardless of how many cars, light sources, signposts, whatever, are on the screen. They never slip. In fact, the only fault I can place on the cars themselves is the traditionally unconvincing motion capture of the wheels. The days of bland, repetitive backgrounds and frustrating draw-in are over as well. The level design (at least on the one track included here) is complex and fresh with extremes of depth that never suffer from fog or haze. Oh, you’ll find some background shimmer among the most intricate compositions as the camera rotates around a corner, and I found one instance of mountain draw-in during the race, but these are minor. The shimmer can be distracting. I found the draw-in only as I observed someone else racing, and even then I had to look for it. It is too far in the distance to really notice during the race.

scrn4-01.jpg (3735 bytes)The sound is an improvement over its predecessors and better depicts the separate sounds of multiple car engines when you are in the pack. Some of the engines seem a little high-pitched when they tach out, but I am no expert. The befitting butt rock soundtrack seems to have remained intact as well. The theme song on this disc was Motley Crue’s "Kick Start My Heart." Gotta love it.

scrn5-01.jpg (3415 bytes)It wasn’t much of a shock to find that the gameplay and presentation hasn’t changed much. After all, GT2 was a landmark racing sim. Of course, as the demo disc only contains the one track (Trial Mountain) and 3 cars (a blue Honda Raybrig NSX, a red Ford Mustang SVT Cobra R, and a Honda S2000 in your choice of red, white, gray, or black), I can only comment on basic performance. After you choose a car the usual game options apply: Racing or Drift Steering, Automatic or Manual Transmission, Vibration on or off. The driver’s seat and 3rd person points of view contain the same displays. In fact, the only new addition to the control system is the analog buttons of the Dual Shock 2 controller. Now any button you choose is touch sensitive, which adds a certain refinement to the interaction between car and driver.

01.jpg (4016 bytes)Sony and Polyphony promise that the finished game will contain unmatched racing physics, with realistic climate conditions, "emotion" driven opponents with competitive impulses, and nearly unlimited customization. They brag about exact vehicle engineering and "invigorating sensations of speed." Well, I will vouch for the engineering and sensation of speed. I got that here. The rest remains to be seen. We will have to experience how the minutia adds up in the long term. The GT franchise is, after all, about the long term. GT3 is certain to be just as grand in depth and scope as its predecessor, and the enhancements I have seen so far range from good to simply stunning. I have no reservations about recommending that all of you tenacious, red-eyed, GT fanatics stand in line for this one. For all the newcomers out there, check out our review when the finished game is available. Get ready for a racing experience like none other, Gran Turismo 3 is almost here.

Jeremy Kauffman


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