Console racing games in the 16-bit era were a mixture of concepts and ideas ranging from “kart” games to arcade racers, but none of them could ever strike a nerve with the simulation audience because the technology just wasn’t there. With the introduction of the PlayStation, the leap of technology allowed for companies to try a different style of racing game to appeal to the enthusiast. Enter the Gran Turismo series.
[alert type=”blue”]Developer: Polyphony Digital
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: Dec. 23, 1999
Gran Turismo was a technical masterpiece, featuring full 3D graphics and a licensed soundtrack. Featuring about 140 real-life cars, the gaming industry had never seen something like this before. Gran Turismo easily set the benchmark for racing gaming, but was surpassed by its predecessor in every way.
Gran Turismo 2 was a behemoth of a game. No other racing sim was even in the same league as this game, which included an Earth-shattering 650 cars to choose from, all from the real world. Gamers had never seen such an array of cars, and the game could feel a bit overwhelming, but it didn’t matter. Gran Turismo 2 was so good that nothing else mattered.
Gran Turismo 2 was a two-disc game, and each disc represented a different mode. The first disc included “Arcade” mode, where you choose a car, picked a race and have fun with no restrictions. Simulation mode starts you out with 10,000 credits to go out and purchase a car. The mode also featured a license system that was basically a tutorial, because no one had ever played something like this before. You would learn everything from the basics to advanced strategies, and most race events had a license requirement before you could enter it.
Personally, I never played Arcade mode, because Simulation mode was where it was at for me.
The best part of Gran Turismo 2 was its real-world physics and car-modification upgrades. Cars all felt like their real-world counterparts, and were programmed to their respective performance specifications. If the car you chose does 0-60 in 5.8 seconds in real life, it’ll do it in the game. Cars handled and spun out just like their real counterparts as well, so each vehicle would have different speeds as to which it could take a turn or how much brake is needed depending on the chassis of the vehicle. It was totally mind-blowing at the time.
The aforementioned car modifying was another important feature of the game. You got money by doing races and progressing through the game, which, in turn, would lead to new vehicles or allowing you to spend money on modifications. You had the ability to change everything, from engine components, to suspension to even gear ratios. “The Fast and Furious” film was released shortly after this game, so as a youth I remember tinkering with Hondas and Acuras trying to make them as fast as possible to mimic the movie.
The most important thing about Gran Turismo 2 was the fact that the replayability was endless. With so many cars to choose from, you never could get bored with the game. The graphics at the time were as real as it gets, and it’s still very playable today. The game is smooth and fast and has a good sense of speed–which is essential. Honestly, it was quite a learning experience for me, too. You learn so much about the cars, how they handle and what does what, that it can be a very educational experience.
The thing I find the most fun is that the cars in the game are still relevant to people in their late 20s or early 30s. We all wanted a cool-ass Integra or something along those lines, so that’s what we played with when we were younger. As tastes change and we get older, the game still caters with the line up of AMG Mercedes (I actually own the ’98 C43 featured in the game), RUFs, TVRs, Aston Martins and so on.
This was the perfect racing game at the time, and I still feel is a perfect simulator that can be enjoyed by anyone, from the novice to the experienced driver. We wouldn’t have Forza and Grid without Gran Turismo 2, and I’m glad that I got to experience it when it first came and out and still to this day.