This review will be more about my early obsession with car racing / simulation games than the game itself. Because to understand my disposition towards this game you need to know the story of how I first played it.
It began close to 25 years ago, when in an IT TV show I saw a racing game. And I was blown away by the complexity of it and the real-time 3d graphics. I later found ot that it was Indycar Racing (1993) by Papyrus. Until then all I known was the Test Drive series, and Stunts, those were great games too, don't get me wrong, but they were a stone axe compared to Indycar.
There were some other games that influenced me early on, like Car & Driver from 1992 by no other than Looking Glass Studios. Which was considered a terrible game by almost everyone, with it's wonky controls, and physics, but I loved it because it offered Driving in it's purest form, no restrictions, no strings attached. And the first game that dared offering more than 320x200 resolution with 3d graphics. The concept with this was very similar to Need For Speed. Take a well known car magazine, and sell a driving game with it's name. Only in 1992 the technology wasn't quite ready to make it a success, unlike three years later when EA released Need For Speed with Road&Track. Amazing how fast technology advanced back then. The earliest racing game with an open world and 3D graphics I think was Vette! from 1989, another game considered terrible by regular people, but I played it like it was the best game ever.
Of course there were racing games before these as well, but mostly 2D over the top view ones. But I don't want to bore you with those, rest assured I played a lot of those too, and loved many of them.
But being from a former soviet block country, you had to be in the elite to have a PC that could run games decently in the early 90s, before the fall of the iron curtain the best you could hope for is a Commodore 64 from the black market. After that you could get everything if you had the money. And I mean big money. A decent PC went for about 3 years salary of the average job holder. No kidding. Thankfully in a few years prices normalized not to western standards, but you could get a PC from 2-3 months worth of salary instead of 2-3 years.
Then came the PlayStation aka. PSX. And Ridge Racer which seemed amazing to us kids back then, and unattainable at the same time. But thankfully we didn't have to wait very long for thing to even out, or even turn back in favour of the PC camp. With games like Destruction Derby, Need For Speed, Screamer, Arcade racing games were at their heyday and we had lots of fun, in the mid 90s until...
Came a game called Gran Turismo in 1998, which was unrivalled and continues to be unrivalled on PC, there is simply no match for it, not that anyone tried to beat it. At least until MS decided to offer Forza finally, but I have my reservations about that, but that's another topic. Noone even dared to take the challenge up. So all we had is a longing, buying a PlayStation was out of the question, any money I could muster up as a high school student went immediately into some hardware upgrade, to be able to play new games, advancement back in the day was much faster than nowadays. Nowadays an upgrade means a few more FPS, back then it meant slideshow vs actual acceptable gameplay, every 1-2 years.
Thankfully due to that quick advancement of PC performance it far surpassed the PSX by the time Gran Turismo was released. And that opened the door for emulation. And by 1999 there were emulators that could run Gran Turismo at a playable level. By mid 1999 I was really happy to be a PC owner, playing Gran Turismo with better graphics than it had on the actual console.
Of course the appeal of the game was the classic career mode, you could buy an used car, from a small amount of starting money and race it, to get better cars and enter more advanced races.
I played the crap out of the game, I started dozens of careers, and never could have enough. Why is it so addictive? Because of the freedom it offers. With a choice of hundreds of cars, many of which are not untouchable supercars, but real-world vehicles that you can see on the road daily driven, but never get the chance to push to the limits, or upgrade / tune and test it as a race car.
The races in the game have only a power limitation so it's completely up to you what car you enter in them. You can buy a second hand sports car, tune it up a bit, and if you're lucky and skilled you can beat opponents with cars costing 10 times more than yours. And the satisfaction that comes from that is enormous.
To me this is the true appeal of a racing game. The driving itself is important too, but the preparation for races getting the best deal out of available credits, and then bringing the underdog to the top spot, that's the real thrill.
But don't get fooled by the marketing tag "The Real Driving Simulator" Gran Turismo is very far from being a true simulation. It's a well behaved arcade racer.
To me it's one of the most addictive games I came across, I couldn't put it down, there always was a race I wanted to do. So eventually I finished it, all races, all challenges, all trials to gold medal level.
- Great choice of cars
- Racing for credits and upgrades
- Endurance races with real tyre management
- For every race the game chooses the music and plays that one track on a loop, on longer races my head hurt after hearing the same (no matter how good) tune the 50th time.
- Sometimes you can enter races with cars that are too fast, which makes winning very easy.
- Catch Up : In shorter races you can't get rid of opponents even if you have a car 10 times faster they can't fall behind by more than a few seconds, making every mistake you make fatal. So in turn a long endurance race is much easier than a short sprint race, because you can open a gap to the opponents and don't fall back even when you make a mistake.
Scoring card: (not by today's standards)
graphics : 8/10
Gran Turismo 2 came out not much later, which basically is the same game, with loads more cars (about 600 compared to 150 of the first one), more tracks, and more races to complete. It's more like a Deluxe edition than a real sequel, so everything about GT1 applies to GT2 a hundred percent. There are only minor differences. And a few upgrades.
The greatest testament of how much a liked the game is that I bought a PS2 twice for the sole reason to play Gran Turismo 3 / 4. Yes I first brought one, finished the game, and sold it, then in a year I did it again. I never owned any other game for the PS2 ever.