Product Type: Sony Playstation games
Newest Review: ... to get the International B because it includes a couple of slalom tests, where it's almost impossible to get into the requisite smooth fl... more
I like driving in my cars
Gran Turismo 2 (PS)
Member Name: davidbuttery
Gran Turismo 2 (PS)
Advantages: Huge range of cars, great longevity, tuning options add depth, graphics good for such an old game
Disadvantages: Only the odd real track (eg Laguna Seca), handling pretty arcadey even in GT mode, no Ferraris!
Those of us interested in retro gaming have to blink a bit when we realise that the original Sony PlayStation (PS1), which at the time of its launch felt like something coming to us from the distant future, is now well into the second half of its second decade of life. However, that can be seen as an opportunity rather than something depressing, since it's now possible to pick up a console and some excellent games for an absolute pittance; my local branch of Cash Converters regularly sells PS1 CDs for 50p a time. Many of them are terrible, as with any other system's games, but there are some real gems in there as well - and Gran Turismo 2 from 2000 (they'd had it since 1999 in America, as per usual) is most assuredly one of these.
** Arcade mode **
There are two distinct modes of play in GT2, of which Arcade is both the easier to pick up and - to my mind at least - by far the less interesting of the two. As its name suggests, it takes a fairly simplified approach to the game, offering you a choice of cars - some of them, such as the Chevrolet Corvette - pretty powerful beasts and a choice of tracks, asking you whether you want a "Racing" or a "Drifting" setup and pretty much leaving you to get on with it from there. Extra options, such as more tracks, open up if you have completed certain tasks from the other disc, so if you just opt for what you think is an easy life and stick entirely to Arcade mode, you'll be missing a lot. Still, it does allow you to drive cars you'd have to work hard at to obtain in the other mode - and multiplayer, such as it is (actual net play is only possible via certain emulators) is found here too.
** Gran Turismo mode **
You might see this referred to as the "Simulation disc", since that's how it was sold in North America. The European title is rather more accurate, since although the cars handle in a less arcadey way than in, well, Arcade mode - and the position of a car's engine and driven wheels certainly do make a big difference, which is a very welcome factor indeed - they're still a far cry from a real simulation. Even some other PS1 driving games - Need for Speed: Porsche 2000 comes to mind - have more sim-like handling, and the PC game Grand Prix Legends, which was roughly contemporaneous, is on a different planet in that regard. This is probably sensible for a console racer, given that (at the time, at least) PlayStation gamers tended to be less hard-core than PC racers.
Although there are a number of races (especially the manufacturers' one-make series) that you can enter freely, for the "career mode" events you'll need to have attained your licence. There are six of these - B, A, International C, B and A, and finally Superlicence - though the last-named isn't initially shown. Getting hold of the lower-level licences is pretty easy for the most part: I've played this game on a PC emulator using only the keyboard and got my International C licence with few problems, and only failed to get the International B because it includes a couple of slalom tests, where it's almost impossible to get into the requisite smooth flowing rhythm with such a crude control method. Mind you, some of the high-ranking events are things like a two-hour endurance race (yes, in real time!) and could you imagine using a keyboard for that?!
The big let-down in the races is one imposed by the PS1's old-school hardware: only six cars compete in each race, including your own. One of the most enjoyable feelings in a circuit-racing game is that of being part of a 25-car pack jostling for position, but that's not possible here; consequently the tracks can feel a bit empty. The artificial intelligence isn't terribly good, and it's often too easy to keep a faster car behind you simply by weaving about a bit and using it as a movable barrier when doing rapid cornering, in a way that more realistic games might well punish you for. The AI cars do race each other, but they also tend either to stay bunched up or to let one car disappear into the distance; again, it's a tad predictable.
** Cars and tuning **
In Gran Turismo mode, you start off with a mere 10,000 credits, out of which you must buy your first car. To get more money, you'll need to compete in races, and to get the most you'll need to win them! So, it's off to the city to see about a new motor. Actually, an old motor, since you won't be able to afford a new car. For some reason, only Japanese firms offer used cars in this game, so that's where you'll have to start; however much you may be lusting after a TVR Griffith, one look at its price ticket will convince you that you're going to have to be doing a fair bit of winning before you can even consider showing up at that company's dealership!
GT2 has an enormous range of licensed cars, over 600 of them, although some are merely very slightly tweaked versions of others: there's not a great deal of difference between a '98 Subuaru Impreza and a '99 one. Even so, the variety on offer is one of the game's principal attractions and helps give it its wonderful longevity and replay value. Makes in the game vary from the humble - Daihatsu, Peugeot, Mini - to the very much less humble such as Aston Martin and the French supercar marque Venturi. There's no Ferrari, sadly but perhaps unsurprisingly, and no Porsche either - though you can get close to the latter with Ruf, a (real-life) German company who take unmarked Porsche bodyshells and build their own cars around them. One drawback is that there's no visible car damage, unlike in some other games such as TOCA 2.
Not all the cars in the game will be at the dealerships at any one time, so if you're looking out for something specific you'll need to keep checking back. You can also sell off your unwanted cars (at a big loss, naturally) and this is necessary if you want to complete the game, as only 100 can be stored in your garage at any one time, though you can effectively double this with careful use of memory cards. This is also where you'll need to come if you want to enter the various one-make series most of the manufacturers run, which is a bit of a trip into the unknown since they race on random circuits. You can't just cheat by backing out if you see a circuit you don't like, since the game treats that as a last place (with no bonus, either) and so it worsens the win percentage in your stats!
A car in showroom condition ("stock" as the Americans might say) is likely to struggle to win many races, and that's where tuning comes in. The range of upgrades on offer differs slightly between cars - you can't upgrade the turbo on a supercharged engine! - but it's always pretty big, and understanding what type of tuning suits different models is a vitally important skill to learn. Some are obvious power-boosters, such as fitting a "Sports ROM" (engine mod chip) while others, such as weight reduction, help a car's handling. When you get really good at the game there are upgrades marked "for professionals" which may make a car very much faster but at the expense of making it harder to drive. Again, it's no Grand Prix Legends, but it adds a good deal of depth for a game on a console like the PS1.
** Graphics and sound **
Remembering that the system they're being presented on is not far short of its 20th birthday now, Gran Turismo 2's graphics are really pretty decent, and as long as you don't use a ridiculously large screen the inevitable blockiness isn't really a problem. Some of the tracks are worse than others - the mountain Grindelwald circuit, for example, seems pretty easy on the eye. There is rather more pop-up than I'd have liked, and just occasionally that can be a slight distraction from the action (hey, that rhymes!) but again, you soon get used to it. The race replays work pretty well, with fast-moving action and smooth animation carrying the day. Menu design is a bit of a mish-mash, and it sometimes looks a bit thrown together (for example in the detailed car descriptions) but it's not too awful.
This is a console game, and so the whole thing is suffused (or infested, if you prefer) with constant music. This may be to your liking, of course, at least if you happen to enjoy the likes of Fat Boy Slim and The Cardigans. (Should you be interested, the former is a PAL exclusive; Americans got Garbage. With a capital G!) Personally I find music in a racing game a distraction, so always turn it off as soon as I can. The sound effects are okay: engine notes are hardly realistic, but are pretty well distinguishable from each other and don't grate too much during a race, at least in the shorter events. In the menus, it's just a bog-standard collection of beeps and bloops. So, not a world-beater on the audio front, but not a disaster either.
** Differences from the North American version **
I include this section because the majority of the guides you'll find online are American. There are differences between the two versions of the game, beyond the usual PAL/NTSC graphical tweaks. For example, we get speeds shown in km/h whereas the US sees them in mph; unfortunately this can't be changed (either way) in the game menu. There's also been some translation into British English, though this wasn't done all that assiduously: "tires" has indeed become "tyres", but you're still told about options to change a car's "muffler" rather than its exhaust. There's also one minor point within the PAL disc: if you select English as the game language, you'll get Vauxhalls, but if you choose another language they become Opels. Win the one-model series for both and you can in theory score over 100%!
** To get you started... **
I don't claim to be any sort of expert in GT2, but I've found that this isn't a bad way to begin: with your initial cash, buy a used Honda Prelude, and then spend the rest with a couple of mild tweaks in the tuning shop. (Many online guides suggest a used Toyota Supra instead, but I find the Prelude much more controllable.) That should allow you to win a Sunday Cup race or two to get a few thousand credits. A little more tuning should make the car fast enough to win the first event in the Historic Cup - yes, I know it's not really a historic car, but the game only checks for drivetrain and power levels, not authenticity! Win that, and not only do you get a cool 7,000 credits, you also get a prize car: a nice little green Mugen (the racing arm of Honda) sports car with pleasant handling even at the start.
Trick that car out a little and you should be able to win here almost every time - and you'll get another new Mugen each time, which can be sold for 3,000 credits, making your effective profit 10,000 credits per race. You can tune your original car (don't sell that one!) up a bit more, but watch you don't go over the horsepower limit for the Tahiti Road race. After a while you should have enough for a Subaru Impreza WRX, which - again with a modicum of tuning - will be fast enough to win the Impreza one-model round. Winning that earns you 10,000 credits, so a few victories there and you'll be opening up a lot more options. Make sure you have at least your B and A licences, and preferably the International C as well, and that will do you for quite some time. Good luck!
** Buying and verdict **
As I mentioned right at the beginning of this review, PS1 games are now amazingly cheap to buy, and while this particular title may cost a few pounds rather than a few pence thanks to its popularity and reputation, it's also incredibly common: the game sold well over three million copies in Europe alone. It's certainly a better game than the original Gran Turismo, not least because of its vast range of cars, something which the first PS2 game in the series (GT3, amazingly enough) couldn't remotely live up to. Of course the PS1's old-tech nature does limit it in places, most irritatingly in the small fields possible in the races, but there's such a lot to do in Gran Turismo 2 that it remains a supremely playable and enjoyable title, and is heartily recommended. Four and a half stars, rounded up to five for that massive car list.
Summary: Shows its age in places, but still extremely playable and enjoyable