Rating: Good Hardcore racing game fans may think that Gran Turismo is the greatest video game of all time, and while I agree that it is a truly great game, it runs out of steam too quickly to be a must-have product. First of all, the graphics in Gran Turismo are the best ever seen in a home racing game. Sure, they pale in comparison to such Sega Model 3 arcade games as Sega Rally 2, but this doesn't matter since Sega Rally 2 runs on a $10,000 arcade machine and Gran Turismo runs on a $150 PlayStation. Say what you will about the game's music; I think it rocks. The music fits the mood and intensity of the gameplay almost perfectly, more so than any other racing game on the market. Now, onto the gameplay. Gran Turismo makes the best use of the Sony Analog Controller yet. Playing Gran Turismo with the d-pad and then playing it with the analog controller is like playing two complete different games. The control with the d-pad leaves a lot to be desired, but the analog control is dead-on (most of the time...). Gran Turismo has two modes of play- Arcade Mode and Simulation Mode. Arcade Mode lets you choose from a small lineup of cars and compete in time trials against your own best times, or race against the computer on one of four initially selectable tracks. The tracks are well-designed and it's very addicting, but the Arcade Mode would be infinitely more enjoyable if could simply race all the available tracks on a points basis in a mini-season, instead of just taking it one race at a time with no cumulative results. The real game of Gran Turismo lies in the Simulation Mode. Here you start out with a small amount of money (10,000 credits) and buy a car you can afford from one of many dealerships. After suffering through a painful, meaningless, and repetitive process to get your first racing license, you can race through a mini-season on a select number of circuits, earning cash as you go. You can use money you earn to buy new cars or upgrade your current cars. In all, the game has an incredible 166 total cars, many of which can only be obtained by winning a particular curcuit. After a couple of days of extremely addictive fun, the game then begins to slowly fall apart. The main problem is that it often seems that whether you win or lose depends not on how well you race, but how fast the computer cars were programmed to go. There are many control issues that need addressing such as certain surfaces like sand where the slightest contact with them can (and usually does) send you spinning uncontrollably. Control problems like this and the occasional human error will never allow you to race 100% perfectly, but the computer cars somehow manage to go through every turn flawlessly almost every single time. It's as if they're mocking me, saying, "Have fun skidding around on the sand, mere human! I'm running on pre- programmed Artificial Intelligence, and I never mess up!" The Arcade Mode has three difficulty levels, and the Simulation Mode would have benefited from this more than words can describe. Instead, there is only one difficulty level in Simulation Mode, and it will prove just as frustrating for racing newbies as it proves easy for racing veterans. The Time Trial modes offers an initially fun alternative to the various circuits you can race on in Simulation Mode, but even the Time Trials get old after a while. For some strange reason, the Arcade Mode has extensive time-tracking features such as tracking your Top 8 finishes on all the tracks, but the Simulation Mode's Time Trials only record your all-time record. Shouldn't it be the other way around? In Simulation Mode, you should be able to track more Time Trial records, not less, so you can put into perspective how far you've progressed over time. Despite all its flaws, Gran Turismo is a great game and for now at least, it is the mother of all racing games. I rented Gran Turismo and played it almost non-stop for three consecutive days, and for a time there it was among the most enjoyable video games I have ever played and probably ever will play. But unfortunately, the game lost its magic almost as quickly as it originally gained it. Gran Turismo is the greatest weekend rental of all time, but it's still just a weekend rental.
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