Summary: Does it annoy you that Nissan's Skyline isn't imported to the US? In addition to cars, we miss out on quite a few action-packed racing games. In today's article, Alan and Alexis take a look at two such PS2 titles that have been deemed too fast and furious for our market, Face-Off style! Don’t forget to check out the gameplay videos on each page!
Alan: In this article, we’ll be looking at two racing games for the PS2 that have, apparently been deemed too fast and too furious for the United States: Gran Turismo Concept and WRC 2 Extreme. Why should we care about these games which aren’t immediately available in the US? Two easy answers: Gran Turismo Concept is the intermediate between GT3 and GT4. WRC 2 Extreme was developed by Sony Europe, and although it isn’t currently available in the US, chances are good that it’ll be brought over shortly. Both of these games support Logitech force feedback wheels, and of course, we use the MOMO Force for all our testing (which at current prices of $100, would have made it Editor’s Choice material).
Skyline drifting – 1.52MB (24 sec)
SIDEBAR: We tested these games on the new SCPH-50000 model PlayStation 2 purchased from NCSX. These newer PS2’s drop the i.Link port for a quieter cooling system, add DVD+RW/VR compatibly, progressive scan DVD, and have an integrated IR receiver port. Too bad it’s a Region 2 DVD player…
Alan: You already know about the Gran Turismo series and if you’re a fan of GT3, you’re likely waiting for Gran Turismo 4. Of course, while we’ve been waiting, everyone else in the world has had a chance to enjoy Gran Turismo Concept.
GTC is a spin-off from the main Gran Turismo series and is essentially a look at what the future of GT4 will offer. GTC features a slightly modified GT3 engine, thus allowing us a glimpse into what GT4 will bring. That is, playing GT4 at E3 is one thing, but being able to spend hours upon hours with GTC is another.
The Gran Turismo 3 physics engine was second-to-none. Car manufacturers boasted that Gran Turismo 3 allowed gamers to test drive their cars from the comfort of their homes. Bob Earl, world renown racer, uses GT3 to train his students. When FiringSquad published our GT3 Review, it was the highest score we had given to date. What could a sequel possibly bring? More cars, more tracks, and of course, upgraded audio and graphics.
Gran Turismo Concept was a spin-off game, that attempted to address the first two: New cars, and new tracks. Polyphony Digital, having earned the respect of car manufacturers internationally, was able to create a “special edition” game featuring concept cars. They knew that die-hard fans of the Gran Turismo scene would be eager to drive new cars on new tracks. However, in order to increase its appeal to the new gamer, GTC was designed to be a “lite” version of GT3 – a demo of sorts.
Instead of the complex simulation mode in which gamers had to earn money to buy and upgrade new cars to compete in races, GTC focuses primarily on the gameplay – the driving (the arcade mode from GT3). Almost 100 cars are featured in Gran Turismo Concept, many of them new to the series. There are only 10.1 tracks available (5 main tracks, 5 tracks with the reverse layout, and one special level in which you can only drive the Toyota POD), with 2.1 of the tracks being new. Oh, and GTC launched with a budget price of only $30.
Dualnote racing – 968KB (13 sec)
Alexis: The Toyota POD level doesn’t really count since you’ll only play it once. The POD, is a Sony/Toyota joint project in which the brains of an AIBO have been placed in a car. The car will wag its tail (antenna) when happy, or turn red when angry (i.e. braking too hard or turning too fast).
Alan: Well that’s why I said it was a “0.1” track. Anyhow, in real-life, the Toyota POD is orange color when the car is happy (i.e. the driver is approaching the car) and turns dark blue when it’s sad (and is running out of fuel). There are ten different emotional states. The cool part is that the POD has driving data from an expert driver in its databanks, and can provide praise or warnings to help improve the driver’s skill. It’s an interesting concept car, but it’s too bad the technology was wasted on a slow and small sedan.
SIDEBAR: Gran Turismo 3 has probably helped many drivers regain control of their out-of-control vehicle in real-life. Remember: Don’t panic, and don’t overcompensate.
Alan: Gran Turismo Concept appears to offer slightly improved graphics. We especially noticed this when taking our screenshots and videos. Polyphony Digital appears to have obtained an even better grasp of the PS2 hardware and push out larger textures, resulting in better looking cars and tracks. Of course, aliasing is still a problem. Special effects, including lighting, also seem to be improved. The occasionally blocky dust cloud textures found on the rally tracks, and heat wave artifacts that were found in GT3 have been corrected in GTC. Now, you almost never see the square textures of the dust cloud, and the heat wave effect looks smoother, free from the matrix artifacts.
FX45 racing – 672KB (11 sec)
The addition of new cars is excellent. Yes, there are more than a few different Skyline GT-Rs, but most of the new cars are cars I actually care about. Moreover, the new cars aren’t simply new geometry and textures – they drive differently. The Infiniti G35 and FX45 both handle in the game as they do in real-life. What are some of the other new cars in the game? Try the Volkswagen W12, Cadillac Cien, Audi RS6, the production Ford GT (formerly known as the GT40, Ford no longer owns the rights to this name), Mazda 6, Mercedes SL55 AMG, Lexus SC430, and Honda Dualnote.
Alexis: The Honda Dualnote (Acura DN-X) is probably the car every other Gran Turismo Concept article talks about because it’s significantly different from anything you’ve seen before. The Dualnote is Honda’s NSX-replacement Concept, and is a gas-electric hybrid vehicle. Unlike the slow-as-molasses Toyota Prius or Civic Hybrid, the Dualnote is designed as a performance hybrid vehicle. The 3.5L i-VTEC V6 gas engine provides 300 hp to the rear wheels, and a 100 hp starter/generator/electric motor powers all four wheels. Oh, by the way, this car does 42 mpg with 400 hp.
Alan: In Gran Turismo Concept, the Dualnote appears to be modeled in the same way. While driving, a blue electric meter located within the tachometer shows you the current charge in the electric battery. While electric power is available, the Dualnote operates at peak performance. Once the electric motor is discharged completely, the car acts like a RWD car, losing 100 hp in the process. The electric battery is recharged by braking. One concern we have with the game is that the batteries appear to recharge far too quickly. In the GTC, recharging occurs faster than you drain the battery, suggesting a perpetual motion machine.
While graphics have been improved slightly, the physics also seem to have been upgraded. We suspect the changes are mild as we did not find it to be significantly different initially. There appeared to be two differences, however. Heavier cars appeared to move more realistically in the rally tracks, and during the replays, the graphics looked even more realistic than before. For the force feedback steering, “Simulation” mode isn’t available, but the “Professional” steering assist works well.
With only a $30 list price, one new track, and cars such as the Cadillac Cien, it is clear that GTC would have been successful in the United States. We’re not sure why the game never made it here, and can only suspect that licensing agreements of some sort prevented Gran Turismo Concept from reaching the United States, even though it was released in Asia, Europe, and Australia. This wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened – the US version of Gran Turismo did not have the Lamborghini Diablo.
Bottom line? If you’re a Gran Turismo fan and have access to a Japanese PS2 unit, you’ll definitely want to pick this game up. Gran Turismo Concept 2002: Tokyo/Geneva is the best rendition of Gran Turismo Concept, but it is a dual-layer game meaning that it’ll only work on original Japanese PS2s and not with most mod-chips.
Alexis: One thing you didn’t mention was the pairing up of cars. The game is supposed to have you race against equal opponents. If you’re in a VW Golf, the game won’t have you race against the Ford GT40. However, there’s a bug or overgenerous setup for the Audi RS6. With the RS6, you’re not racing against peers such as the Jaguar S-Type R -- they pit you against RUF RGT’s (modified Porsche 911), Vipers, Lotus Esprit Sport 350’s, and Corvettes. The S-Type R is in the opposite situation. You race against Integra (RSX) Type-R’s, WRX STi’s, and EVO VII’s.
Alan: Final Verdict: 94% No editor’s choice this time… maybe for GT4.
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