Rupert Kent writes:
Gran Turismo 2 for the PlayStation has finally arrived on UK shores, so it was with great anticipation that I swerved down to Blockbuster video on the afternoon of the official release date to buy my copy.
Initial impressions are good, half decent manuals and two of those lovely black discs...! The first disc contains the Arcade mode, this is the game traditionally reserved for Gran Turismo virgins or when your mates come round for beer and curry on a Friday night. It's a no-nonsense thrash-em-up where a decent selection of cars is at your disposal, along with a good bunch of circuits to try. Two player mode is available for split-screen racing action, and the good news is that GT2 looks every bit as good as it's older sibling GT1, with even more detail to the cars. Two welcome additions come in the form of being able to use your saved cars in the Arcade mode, a feature missing from GT, and real audio samples for most of the cars.
Any Serious GT regular will know that the Gran Turismo mode is where the action really happens, and all this is contained on the second disc, which curiously has a scratch-n-sniff label that it supposed to smell of the pit lane - smelled more like a combination of burning plastics and solvents to me.
Once loaded up, you realise there's a new feel to the GT mode with a plethora of new menu layouts and a few new options. This is where we find my one and only gripe. There was much publicity about being able to import your saved cars, licences and games from your original Gran Turismo 1 games memory card. I couldn't get this to work, no matter what, and was a bit disappointed to say the least, especially considering I had millions of credits and a swathe of cars to choose from on my GT1 memory card reflecting literally hundreds of hours of serious gameplay.
After the import failure, I had no option but to start from scratch. I set about it, and gained all the licences from B to Superlicence in one evening and then bought myself a used 1991 Honda Prelude Coupe 2.2 VTEC. I raced my heart out until I had enough money to buy a second hand 1993 Mitsubishi GTO - four wheel drive and with a pair of turbos to allow for cheap performance through turbine kits and such once I started winning. This is where things started getting really good - the V6 Mitsubishi engine sound was absolutely fantastic and forced me to crank up my amplifier and wind the volume up on the subwoofer for the real feel.
One thing immediately apparent was that qualification has been done away with in GT2. To be fair, it never was that important in GT1, and I for one purposely qualified last or skipped it altogether, to allow for an exciting scythe through the grid during the race. I did notice that my progression through the licences and races was much smoother and easier than with GT1, hopefully the game will get harder as I get further into it, but having just raced in the 450,000 credit GT500 championship for unlimited cars, and won it outright, I'm not so convinced.
The cars are much easier to drive, and seem nowhere near as fidgety as the 940+bhp Skylines and GTO Twin-turbos I used to run in GT1, it's much more like the American version of GT1, which was an inherently easier game.
There are a whole bunch of new circuits including a faithful reproduction of Laguna Seca with the famous corkscrew turns at the top of the hill. The circuits are just as demanding as those from the first version of the game, many of which find themselves transplanted into GT2.
The music soundtracks are also very good indeed with analogue synthed strings, and Roland 808's and 303's overlayed on drum n bass rhythms with a few guitar riffs for good measure. There are big names in there such as Ash and Norman Cook, so good tunes were always on the cards. One good thing I noticed was that the menu load times seem to be much faster that those of GT1, a welcome improvement to any of us who are used to the rapid solid-state loading of our PCs and N64's.
By now, my GTO, coupled with a few engine mods and suspension tweaks was set up beautifully, allowing me to blast round circuits in perfect four- wheel drifts, very satisfying after the fishtail or understeer of the Honda. After trying several of the races and earning loads of dosh, I blew it all on a brand new Macau Yellow Griffith 500. I'm not disappointed. The car looks superb, a faithful reproduction, as are the Chimaera and the Cerbera, but I wanted Rover V8 power and a round rump...!
Polyphony Digital have made a gallant effort to recreate the sounds of the Griff, and it is there, although somewhat marred by the familiar whine that was present on the noise on GT1. The car drives spectacularly, allowing for fantastic Miami-Vice style powerdrifts and lift-off oversteer is on tap.
I've worked my way through the game to the ultimate championship, racing in a Mugen Honda NSXR-J GT car - very quick, very smooth, but too easy to drive, I still prefer the challenge of trying to honk a thousand horsepower 2 wheel drive Supra on road tyres round Grand Valley - let's hope I can get the GT1 import feature to work.!
From what I have seen, heard and played so far, If you're a PlayStation owner and you liked GT1, you'll LOVE GT2 - it's similar enough to be familiar, yet different enough to be challenging, and well worth the £29.99 asking price. It's a bit too easy to progress through, but the lure of hundreds of cars to buy and try, and head to head racing with your mates wins over convincingly.
Take a look at the RealPlayer G2 clip of me in the Griffith 500 doing the standing kilometer...!
Additional pictures courtesy of Robert Mann