Review: Gran Turismo 2 (Playstation)

In this review, we earn some credits to play the Playstation racing game, Gran Turismo 2. We find out if this sequel is worth playing again.

This game was released in 1999. It is a sequel to the game, Gran Turismo which we reviewed earlier. The prequel received a great score around here, so we were naturally curious to know how the next game in this series plays.

The game features 2 discs. One of them is the Simulation mode. This is where the main part of the game is and, ideally, is where players should start playing this game. The reason why simulation mode is the first mode players should play is because a vast majority of the content found in arcade mode is locked down until you complete certain parts of simulation mode. In addition to this, you can gain a major advantage in arcade mode if you work your way through simulation mode first. That advantage being that arcade mode only allows access to a small number of cars with pre-determined settings. If you have a save file from the simulation mode, you’ll gain access to any car in your garage that you’ve built up the whole time (you may have to save in the game in the main menu under the simulation mode in order for the arcade mode disc to detect the save file). So, since a majority of gameplay is found in simulation mode, this review will focus largely on that mode.

When you first play this game, just about everything is locked down save for a couple of races. If you’ve played Gran Turismo, you might remember the license tests were what locked you out of so much of the game. That is the case here. If you passed the license tests in the original Gran Turismo, then it is possible to pass them over to this game and skip these licenses. I chose to play this the hard way and earn those licenses all over again. Generally speaking, I was surprised to find out that the license tests are actually generally easier than the prequel. Whether this is because I already played through Gran Turismo and already know what handling is like, I’m not entirely sure. It also had been a while since I played the game, so it’s difficult for me to tell. Regardless, there are a lot more tests found in this game. There are three licenses you can earn: A, B, and C. In addition to these licenses are the International licenses: I-A, and I-B.

Each license has a series of tests that you must pass in order to earn that license. A vast majority of these tests only feature bits and pieces of track. Most of these are sections of the tracks you’ll encounter in the regular game. You have a limited amount of time to complete an objective. If you get a particularly good time, you’ll get a gold trophy. If you just miss the gold trophy, then you can earn a silver trophy which is nothing to be discouraged about. If not, then there is the minimum bronze trophy which is something that allows you to pass that test and move on to the next one. If you don’t get the bronze trophy, but complete the objective at just barely under that time, then it is possible to earn the green and yellow symbol. There are different names for this such as the junior trophy or the exemption. Whatever you call it, this also counts as a pass anyway. Failing that, then you’ll get a fail and have to start over if you want to earn that license you are working on.

While time limits is one way you can fail in a course, that isn’t the only way. If you wander off course and into the dirt or grass, you’ll also be disqualified. This specific restriction only exists in the license tests. Lastly, you can be disqualified in the early stages by overshooting the goal line.

One way this game is actually better than the previous game is the fact that each test has a demonstration. While it can be tricky to get pointers on car positioning due to the different camera angles shown, but you can get pointers on break times and general speed through the gauges on the lower portion of the screen. Also aiding you on some of these tests are the yellow guide line. This is drawn onto the course to show you what an ideal path to follow is.

Different races throughout the game require different licenses, but unlocking races aren’t the only things these tests can offer. One of the biggest prizes early on in the game is the ability to unlock cars early. If you get all gold trophies during the tests, you can unlock a car before you even start a race in the game. Even if you don’t use those cars, it’s more than possible to liquidate some of these cars later on for an additional infusion of credits. Such a thing is a huge advantage in the early stages of the game, but hardly a requirement. So, if you don’t achieve perfection in these tests, no sweat. The best cars in the game are further in.

One final note about licenses is that once you’ve earned all 5 licenses, a little arrow will appear in the license menu. Going into the second screen will unveil the super license. This license may seem like an extra feature because if you browse through the various races, you won’t see the super license as a requirement. There is, however a few things this license unlocks. In the simulation mode, this license is one of two requirements for unlocking the event generator (sometimes called the synthesized events). Of course, this is only found at the very end of the game, so if the super license proves to be too difficult early on, then it’s more than possible to go back to these tests later on in the game and complete it once you’ve spent more time getting a better feel for the controls.

Once you are through with the license tests, you’ll have a majority of the game ahead of you (depending on how many licenses you’ve earned of course). If you didn’t earn a car in the license tests, you can browse through the various used car lots to snag your first car. You start the game with 10,000 credits. There are at least two strategies you can go with right off the start line. One strategy is to buy a particularly cheap car and upgrade it early on before you even get to your first race. A second strategy is to just buy the most expensive car you can get your hands on, then hope you can win a few races to upgrade your car later on. My strategy was to buy a used Skyline early on, then keep adding upgrades to it whenever I earn enough credits. The reason was mainly because I took what I learned from the previous game and applied it here. I soon discovered that while you can reach early success in the game with this strategy, new limitations in different events would lock me out of races early on, forcing me to purchase more cars to meet those new requirements.

While it isn’t immediately clear, there are actually 5 different kinds of races in this game. The first four is found in the “Go Race” menu.

The first is the Gran Turismo league. There are a number of different races found here found in 3 sets. The first set is the national events. Each event features a small set of races for you to win. While you can go in any order you like, you must complete every single race in all 6 events order to advance to the Euro-Pacific events. This second set features two events: the Euro and Pacific leagues. If you complete every race in this mode, then you’ll have access to the International league which features one championship event: The Gran Turismo World League. If you beat this championship, then you’ll “win” the game. If you earned your Super License, you’ll also unlock the 4th secret set which is the Event Generator set. There are four sets in this section. There is easy, normal, and hard. Those are randomly generated races picking a random course and opponents. The final one is Expert which features a 5 race championship. While every race can show a trophy or a number (depending on how well you placed at best), the Event Generator will never feature anything in those blank circles. Still, if you are going for 100% in this game, you need to beat all four of these once in order to earn credit for completion.

The second set of races is the special events. This is a number of different events sanctioned by the Gran Turismo league. Some of these races are carried over from the previous game (such as the Sunday cup). while a couple of these races have no restrictions, most of these races do. The unique restrictions found here include the drive train restrictions. Each car has its own kind of drive train. This includes front wheel drive, real wheel drive, all wheel drive, and the mid-engine drive trains. The last one being new to the series. In addition to this, there are the tuned races. There are two different kinds of tuning you can do to the engine of your car: NA tuning and turbo tuning. A large portion of the cars are turbo charged, but some of the cars are NA Tuned. You can tell by trying to upgrade your car. While you don’t actually unlock anything by completing these races, you still get credit for completion by completing these races.

The third mode of these races are the rally events. These races have their own race tracks entirely because they are all dirt races. This is a new feature to the series. While it can be exciting to try different terrain, there is one aspect that might temper expectations of these races: you only race against a track ghost. Still, there is a unique kind of race found here: the hill climb/downhill event. These are the only races that features a start and a finish line (while every other race are circuit race tracks). Still, you’ll likely want the dirt tires before you even think of tackling these races.

The fourth set of races found in this section of the game is the endurance races. These are like the endurance races found in the first Gran Turismo game, only there are more of them (7 in total to be precise). While there are more of them, if you’ve played the previous game, you’ll discover that the rules of these races have largely stayed the same: you have a massive number of laps, probably spend close to an hour minimum completing even one of these races, and your tires will gradually wear out as you skid, brake, and/or swerve around the track, requiring a pit stop to change out those bald tires. The status of those tires is indicated with the four tire diagram on the side of the screen. Blue tires are band new cold tires. Green means they have heated up and, for some tires anyway, indicate when they will at least begin to reach peak performance. As the race goes on, the colors will change gradually all the way up to red which means that the tires are now bald and, seriously, you really need to change those tires. One unique race is the 2 hour endurance. While the race count shows 99 laps, the race ends when you’ve completed a lap past the 2 hour mark.

The fifth and final set of races will have been staring at you the entire game: the dealership special races. I left these races to near the very end of the game and leaving these races to the end is probably the best strategy. Of course, if you happen to already have that car as part of your buying strategy for the rest of the game, no harm in completing those races in the process of completing the other events. The reason you leave these races to the end (which counts for about 40% of all the races in the entire game) is one thing and one thing only: cost. Each of these races is restricted to either a specific car or a specific type of car. If you aren’t in that car, you get no access. So, you will find yourself forking over a small fortune just paying for these cars. While you can save some cash and headaches by buying from the used lots, not all dealers will have these lots. In addition to this, the vast majority of your expenses will be found in upgrading these cars in the first place. The reason for this is because a vast majority of these races features a “normal” and “racing” version. The normal mode just entails buying the car and possibly performing small upgrades to get you through the race. The racing version requires your car to undergo a racing modification. You can’t take a race modified car into a normal race mode, so you’ll need both versions to complete both races. To put the cost of all of this into perspective, you have to undergo stage three weight reduction of the car before you can even get the racing modification. While the cost varies, you are looking at spending somewhere in the ball park of 20,000 – 40,000 credits just in having all three weight reduction stages paid for. Then, you get to the race modification screen and go into sticker shock when the paint job will get you back somewhere between 75,000 and 85,000 credits. So, you’re looking at a 100,000 credit set back for every race that features a racing version before you even take into account the cost of the car as well as other modifications to give yourself a fighting chance at winning these races in the first place. While you may have earned a tidy sum in credits for the other races, you’ll find yourself blowing through it in short order completing these races one at a time. There are two ways you can solve this cash problem. The first is the long rout of just finding a high payout race to complete multiple times to build up a stock pile of cash. The second, and quicker method, is to begin liquidating your garage of all the cars you earned as bonuses and don’t need anymore. Be careful of what you sell because some of those cars, such as the Speed 6 and Mugen cars, are required for some of these races and can’t be purchased regularly. I ended up earning 30,000,000+ credits in car value by the time I tackled these races. By the time I was done, I was down to less than 10,000,000 in value. While cash prizes can soften the blow, that garage was greatly reduced in size. While you might think that selling these cars as you complete each race might be a viable option, this is not the case. Sometimes, you can spend upwards of 30,000 in credits for a car and spend about 150,000 credits in upgrades. Then, when you turn around to sell it, you’ll find yourself gutted when the hunk of junk is worth a mere 4,000 credits after all of that. The real challenge in getting through these races is figuring out which upgrades are essential and which upgrades you can forgo while still earning that checkered flag. while you can set certain general rules for yourself, there is no one size fits all in this scenario.

While different races may have a few different rules and restrictions for entry, there is one major restriction that affects a sizeable chunk of these races: maximum Horse Power (HP). In determining how fast your car is, the main indicator tends to be what the HP is of your vehicle. These restrictions can greatly affect your strategy as you try to complete every race in the game. Sometimes, there are no restrictions in the races. In the events section of the game, this is indicated by the “free” races. Dealership races (mercifully) also do not restrict cars based on HP. However, a large portion of events featured in this game do place such restrictions on cars. This includes some rather misleading race titles such as the ones that feature specific kinds of cars when the only restriction if HP. Probably the most strict restriction in this regard is the K Cup which boasts a regressive restriction throughout the three races – getting knocked down to less than 100HP even. While the HP restrictions seem like a hard limit, it’s actually a sort of soft limit. As I found out, it’s possible to have cars that exceed this restriction by a couple HP while still being permitted to race. The way to find out is to mix and match upgrades until you achieve the maximum allowable HP. If your cars HP exceeds the restriction before entry, you’ll have to access another race to get to the settings to downgrade your cars performance (a bit of a pain if you ask me).

If you’ve played Gran Turismo, one thing you’ll notice about these events is that very few of them actually play the same. More specifically, each race in the original GT game earns you points before moving onto the next round. The racer with the most points wins the championship. In this game, most do not operate in this manner. Instead, the races are much more “open” in that you pick one of the races in a particular set and try to beat them in whatever order you like. While this might actually seem a bit disappointing, this feature of earning championship points didn’t disappear entirely. A few of these races, and even the event that wins the game, still functions like the original GT game. In these events, there are 5 races that you must complete in succession. In each race, you can earn championship points before moving onto the next round. 1st place earns 8 points, 2nd place earns 6 points, 3rd wins 4, 4th wins 3, 5th wins 2, and finally, 6th wins a measly 1 point. In each race, you can also earn credits for your performance. At the end of the championship, you’ll also earn a sizeable bonus in credits that can total 250,000 credits which helps substantially in performing upgrades or buying better cars.

One feature that was removed was the trial race. In the original GT game, you can play the trial run where you race a single lap around the track by yourself. If you earn the fastest time, you’ll not only earn a bonus in credits, but also the pole position for the main event. In this game, there is no such pre-race and you are stuck in the final position every time to my knowledge. A bit disappointing, really.

While HP is a major factor in determining the performance of your vehicle, it is far from the only one. Some cars have painfully slow acceleration. Other cars have particularly bad handling. A great example of seeing pros and cons of different cars is actually the Skyline that I got early on. At less than 400HP, the car handles quite well. The speed restricted races can seem like a breeze. However, once you upgrade this car to the upper extremes in HP, the handling starts to degrade in performance. Even with the Super Soft tires, you need to exercise extreme caution going around corners or you risk spinning out. I ended up quitting some of the endurance races early because with extremely high HP and hard tires, the car became uncontrollable where even the slightest touch in steering caused skidding. When I switched to a 4WD RUF car, the limit in HP was much lower than the skyline, but the skidding was remarkably less than the Skyline. Of course, if you can afford the 2,000,000 credit price tag, nothing, in my books, beets the Escudo Pikes Peak vehicle which boasts unmatched acceleration, top speed, and reasonable handling. In fact, using this vehicle almost feels like cheating after a while.

This, of course, brings us to the discussion of game difficulty. Opinion seems to be wide-ranging for this game. Some people I’ve spoken to say this game is exceedingly hard. Others, I’ve heard, have criticized this game for being far too easy. So, what is it? Is this game hard or easy? This all depends on a number of factors. A major factor is the vehicle you chose to race. Sometimes, the vehicle makes the races laughably easy. Other times, the vehicle of choice makes this game unbearably difficult. your experience will largely depend on the vehicle you choose and your racing style. Can you handle the complex maneuvering of power-sliding around corners while still maintaining control of your vehicle? Then you’ll want a vehicle that is much easier to skid such as some of the MR drive train vehicles. You you prefer to simply slow down at corners, take the corner slowly, then gun it like no tomorrow once you begin to exit your turn? Then some of the 4WD vehicles might be your thing. For a large portion of the game, there is really no right answer or one-size fits all. It’s all up to you experimenting with different vehicles and finding out which one will work for you best. Even with the Escudo vehicle in your garage, you will never be permitted to race in most, if not, all HP restricted races. You need a small arsenal of vehicles tailored to your driving style to make your way through the game. If a vehicle is giving you excessive headaches in a particular race, it may be a sign that you might need to try another vehicle instead for a while. The only two races that ultimately gave me headaches was the GT300 classic event and, surprisingly, the Fiat 500 racing version (probably because I ended up getting stuck with particularly hard races for the vehicle such as the test track which is clearly meant for faster cars). Otherwise, it was just a bit of trial and error to find the right car for the right race.

Once you complete everything in similation, you get a sort of bonus “arcade” mode on the second disc. While there may be hours of gameplay to be had, once you load in your own garage, it’s pretty much a matter of selecting your best car in your garage, setting the difficulty to professional, and working your way through each race (reverse doesn’t really count for much unless you have yet to complete that race I believe – not that I tested this myself). It’s easy to just spend an afternoon just breezing through these races because there is no restrictions on your car. On the plus side, the arcade mode disc features 2 time trial races not otherwise found in regular play and the closing credits of both discs.

If we want to talk about difficulty compared between Gran Turismo and Gran Turismo 2, I would say the original Gran Turismo was a bit more difficult only because of the early sections of each game – specifically the licenses. The first game just gave you a course and an objective while the other actually allowed you to see what is being expected of you during these tests.

There were certain bugs that came with this game. One of the biggest ones was, apparently, that it was impossible to earn 100% completion in this game. Later releases had fixed this bug. Some speculated that the bug existed because drag racing was removed, but the math fits more with the event generator. If you couldn’t complete the 4 event generator races, you are stuck at a completion level of roughly 98%. However, winning all four event generator races will allow you to actually obtain 100% completion in this game, so it is possible to get 100% if you have a fixed copy of the game.

Another bug I ran into was with cars merging/fusing into another during the race. Sometimes, it’s a small corner, but other times, one car is inside another car. The theory is that the game only detects collisions with the sides, but not collisions through the top or bottom of the car. After a few seconds, the cars will “bounce” away from each other. So, this remains an oddity in my books as it doesn’t happen that often.

One of the impressive features of this game was the vast amount of cars and races found in this game. If you are going for 100% completion, you’ll probably spend a good 3 weeks to a month trying to get there. You have hours upon hours of gameplay ahead of you. What really impresses me is the fact that the game remains fresh throughout these races from beginning to end in spite of the roughly 21 tracks that are available. Most of these races don’t allow for racing in reverse. It’s only when you get into the randomly generated courses that you have access to these races. By the time you finally tackle the dealership races, this is a very welcome change. While the pure volume of content can be daunting, it actually allows this game to compete at an N64 level as far as I’m concerned. There is so much to do, I was almost reminded of the vastness of an RPG game called The Elder Scrolls – Daggerfall. I certainly haven’t played a racing game that was takes this long to play, that’s for sure.

One of my only real complaint about this game is the fact that you can get lost with the massive number of cars found in this game. Whether it’s finding a race appropriate car or fumbling through your garage, hoping you have a special car for certain dealer races, it’s pretty much impossible to really keep track of what car you should be getting and what car you should be getting rid of – even with being methodical in your racing. This almost demands a car guide at the ready whenever you get lost in trying to figure out which car you need for a particular race. It doesn’t help that you can’t see the lineup of each race unlike the original GT game. In fact, the lack of ability to see the line-up makes this process more difficult.

The second complaint I would have would be a slight overuse in tracks that were found previously. At first, it was cool to see a sort of nod to what made the previous game by including those tracks in this game, but it became a bit much when I found out that every single track from the previous game is found in this game. Even if all of the tracks are found in this game, the re-use in the different events can be a bit excessive. This is especially true with the inclusion of some of these tracks in the endurance races. The track that I got the least, it seems, was the Rome at night track which was a new one for this game. Some of the tracks I ended up racing on the most was a mixture of both old and news tracks. While nice to have the old tracks returning, they can wear out their welcome a little after a while. Little wonder why some people might consider this game an upgrade rather than a sequel (which was a feeling I got while playing the endurance races). Back off some of the older tracks and bring forward the newer tracks I say.

The final complaint I would have with this game echos a lot of other peoples complaint about this game – the excessive pushing of instant replay. I know I won the race, if I wanted to see the replay, I would happily find the option for it. This game forces you to exit the instant replay after you win each race. Definitely a nuisance after a while even if you’ve masters escaping it quickly.

Generally speaking, I thought there was plenty to be impressed in this game. It was vast game that became the first I consider “long”. There were many different ways in which this game does keep things fresh. Whether it’s car specific races, drive train specific races, or the rally races, this game does constantly change things up over time while at the same time permit you to master each different mode. While there were glitches, nothing was all that serious to hamper play. Probably the biggest gripes with this game were the somewhat too heavy reliance on tracks from the previous game while not emphasizing newer tracks. The other criticism was that cars can be a bit on the overabundant side of things, forcing some players to just rely on guides to help them decide which car may be appropriate for which race (even then, it’s still a challenge determining the ideal car for specific restrictions). The arcade mode can end up being an afterthought once you load your garage over from the simulation mode disc and stomp on the competition with your super car, though the old racing footage in the end credits was neat to see.

Graphics were probably the biggest weakness for this game. You still have that warping textures from nearby scenery – not to mention heavily pixelated textures on everything else including the distant scenery. This is likely more of a commentary on the limitations of a Playstation at the time compared to games released in the N64 at the time such as Donkey Kong 64 and Turok 2 – Seeds of Evil to name two examples. The effects were quite basic and were equally pixelated. It’s more than possible to ignore the warping and pixelations throughout the races, but the close up camera angles and the camera fade in and outs wind up being a stark reminder that the graphics are not exactly the worlds greatest. It was a great attempt for the console in question, but never stood a chance when compared to other games on other consoles at the time. The different speedometers and gauges in the demo was interesting, though.

A stronger aspect of this game was the sound. This game does feature licensed music. While the racing music was decent, it was arguably weaker than the previous game. For one, there was actually one less track than the previous game for in-game races. For another, while some of the tracks in question were great on their own, some of them don’t quite mesh well with the racing environment. The Rob Zombie track works only because it’s more than possible to mishear some of the lyrics (i.e. thinking you heard “world” when the lyrics say “worm” of thinking you hear “burn” when the lyrics say “purr”). The only other track that does work in the racing environment was the Garbage track partly because of the rebel undertones and the fact that the track in the previous game worked as well (better in my view). Understandably, there was less dealership music. Instead of each dealer getting their own track, there is now only four tracks (for each city). This was a cut that I didn’t mind so much. There are two more additional hidden tracks found in the credits, but I thought they end up being a waste because you had to track them down in the arcade disc and are only available after you complete the disc in question before you can see those credits. That only leaves the arcade menu music which was decent. The sound effects, meanwhile, were an improvement over the previous game mainly because of the vibrating sound of driving over those red and white bumper (?) sections in the corners. Unfortunately, I thought the race entry music was a step back from the first game. While it was great to hear three different fanfares, the single fanfare from the previous game was much better in my view. Was sad not to hear it when the race of an old track opened up, actually.

Overall, I thought this game had plenty to be impressed by. The vast number of races, the immersive play as you played different cars and form strategies to earn credits, and the improved beginner section all worked out quite well. A few minor glitches didn’t hamper play too much, but the constant push for an instant replay as well as getting lost in the ocean of cars does pull this game back a bit. The graphics were impressive for the system, but falls short compared to other console games at the time (mainly N64 juggernauts released in the same year). The music was a slight step back, but the sound effects besides the intro fanfare were an improvement. Overall, despite some of the shortcomings of this game, this is definitely a recommended game.

Furthest point in game: 100% in Simulation mode. Beat every race on Professional on the arcade disc.

General gameplay: 22/25
Replay value: 9/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5

Overall rating: 82%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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