I know that the very sight of my mediocre rating for such a highly touted game as Gran Turismo 2 will bring down the wrath of hundreds of fans crying "blasphemy." But before anyone ignites a torch or hurls a stone, please read through my review and try to understand my perspective first.
First of all, though I admired the original Gran Turismo from afar, I never really got into it. So in critiquing Gran Turismo 2, I dont have any preconceptions or biases. Second of all, I consider myself to be a pretty involved fan of all sorts of racing games, and I enjoy the thrill of the competition—whether I'm driving a space age hovercraft or a kiddy go-kart. And third, I've been known to enjoy an occasional complex PC flight simulator and learn all the technical intricacies. As further proof of my simulator credentials, I even shelled out major dough for the rather pricey Saitek X36 joystick and throttle.
So if I enjoy both racing and simulation type of games, why did I dislike Gran Turismo 2, which is billed as the ultimate real driving simulator? I think most of my displeasure stems from my own personal disinterest in sports cars. I may have a drivers license, but I don't consider myself a car connoisseur in the least. I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a BMW from a Mercedes-Benz even if my life depended on it. What's the difference between a Jaguar XJ220 and a XK180? Damned if I know. It's all Greek to me.
In Gran Turismo 2, one of the major goals outside of the actual racing is to purchase and accumulate an impressive garage filled with officially licensed exotic cars—as if you are some kind of a celebrity millionaire like Jerry Seinfeld. Since I know nothing about the actual cars and brands themselves, I wasn't particularly drawn or impressed by this part of the game. In fact, I often found myself simply befuddled at the comprehensive amount of choices available to me.
As for the actual driving and racing, that didn't impress me either. I found the controls and physics model overwhelmingly difficult to master. I appreciated how the game tries to be lovingly realistic and educates its users (mostly through a reference manual) in many of the finer details of GT racing. But even after several days of driving research and practice, I still struggled and didn't feel confident of my driving skills (upgrading to faster and more advance cars only made things worse).
Of course it didn't help that my already waning interest that the License Tests was one of the most painfully frustrating and difficult gaming experiences of my career. I managed to achieve all licenses (barely), but I don't understand why anyone else would subject him or herself to what I consider to be rigorous digital torture. What made it so bad wasn't just the how insanely hard it was, but just how unnatural and poorly presented each and every individual test was. I'm sure the developers knew drivers would screw the stringent tests up dozens of times, but did they bother to include a quick retry option? Fat chance. Instead I had to constantly wade through the instant replays and reselect the course and wait for reloads over and over again until I was driven to the brink of madness.
What also weighed in against Gran Turismo 2 for me was the organization and structure of the races. Rather then set up some sort of season mode or a progressive tournament cup, players are left to join mostly single and some multiple races at their leisure. I found this free method to be dry, unrewarding and an unengaging experience. The whole thing also seemed so unmotivating for me because there weren't any rivalries between other race teams or drivers. The focus didn't seem to be on putting the player into an immersive racing environment, but seemed more focused on players simply trying to earn as much cash as possible in order to purchase more and more cars.
Regardless of what I say, this game has already sold heaps and I think that speaks volumes as too how much of a car culture the United States is. For those hardcore car lovers and fanatics who get excited at the very sight of officially licensed car manufacturers like Aston Martin and Shelby, I can understand why the ultra-realistic physics model and overall car collecting theme would be attractive. But for someone who is not so much into the cars compared to the actual race, Gran Turismo 2 is a dose of too much reality in the driving department and too disintresting as far as the whole car collecting goes.
Now that you've finished reading my review, if you still feel an unquenched hatred toward me, fire at will. But just keep in mind, I've got five kids to feed! (Total Recall anyone?)