TGS 2000: Gran Turismo 2000 A-Spec Hands-On

Read our hands impressions of Sony's Gran Turismo 2000 for the PlayStation 2.

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The largest booth on the show floor of the Tokyo Game Show was easily Sony's, and the most popular game was the upcoming racer from Polyphony Digital, Gran Turismo 2000. There were no less than 25 stations running the latest build of the highly anticipated game - the third in the now venerable Gran Turismo series and the first to appear on the PlayStation 2. Sony set up two types of stations at its booth, one that used the standard PlayStation 2 controller and another with the Logitech USB wheel and pedal combination. We had a chance to play around with both setups - here's what we thought.

Using either the wheel and pedal combination or the standard control, Gran Turismo 2000's control feels extremely solid and precise. Steering in most cars is very predictable, due in large part to the feedback through the Dual Shock controller. As your car starts losing grip in a turn, the tires will squeal and the controller will start vibrating slowly. As you approach a total loss of control, the vibrations will get more intense. This is even more effective using the Logitech wheel, which employs force feedback technology that really relays each bump and dip of the road. The wheel, which has six buttons within easy reach of the thumbs and two pedal shifters near the steering column, is small and fits very snugly in the hands. The Logitech wheel isn't without problems, though, as its clamps constantly kept coming loose after only a few laps around the track. We don't know if Sony plans on packaging this wheel and pedal set with a special version of Gran Turismo 2000 in either Japan or the US.

While we preferred using the Logitech wheel and pedals, the standard PlayStation 2 controller felt nearly as precise. The control setup is the same as the previous two Gran Turismo games, with buttons for gas, brake, emergency brake, and switching views. The analog buttons actually work, but they're so sensitive that if you apply any excess pressure at all, they'll behave like digital inputs. You'll most likely be mashing the gas and brake buttons anyway, so the benefit of having analog controls won't really come into play unless Polyphony Digital reworks their sensitivity.

The advantages of running on the latest generation of hardware are quite apparent in Gran Turismo 2000, as the first thing that caught our attention is the gorgeous new graphics engine. Gran Turismo's graphics outshine similar PS2 racing games like Genki's Tokyo Highway Battle Zero in all aspects, including resolution, texture quality, polygon count, and frame rate. The game also makes use of the PlayStation 2's processing power to render flashy visual effects like true reflections and shading, motion blur, and waves of heat that come off the asphalt. Additionally, pop-up is virtually nonexistent, and we were hard-pressed to find any visual artifacts throughout the entire game. The graphics really shine on the Deep Forest racetrack, where each car individually reflects beams of light pouring through a canopy of trees. The game isn't perfect, though, as some of the trees are actually sprites and aren't rendered in 3D. However, you're generally going so fast that you won't even notice.

When it releases, Gran Turismo 2000 will have around 150 different cars to choose from. The demo we played only featured 24 cars, but it offered a glimpse of what the performance spectrum of the game's final roster of vehicles will look like. The cars included in the TGS build are as follows:

  • Subaru Impreza Rally
  • Peugeot 206 Rally
  • Toyota MR-S Apex
  • Honda S2000 Type-V
  • Lotus Elise 190
  • Audi TT 1.8T Quattro
  • Toyota MR2 GT-S
  • Nissan Silvia K's
  • Toyota Altezza RS200
  • Toyota Celica SS-II
  • Subaru Legacy B4 RSK
  • Subaru Impreza WRX STi Version Vi
  • Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV GSR Tommi Makinen Edition
  • Toyota Supra R2
  • Nissan Skyline GTR V-Spec
  • Mazda RX-7 RS
  • Nissan Skyline Loctite GT-R
  • Honda ARTA NSX
  • Toyota Supra Denso Sard
  • Dodge Viper GTS-R
  • RUF CTR2
  • Lotus Espirit Sport 350
  • Toyota MR-S S-Edition
  • Mini Cooper 1.3I
In addition to those listed above, looping footage of the game showed additional cars like the Mercedes SLK, Ford Mustang GT, Honda Civic Type-R, and others from Opel and Lancia. Each of these cars feels distinct and has completely unique statistics for lateral grip, acceleration, braking, cornering, and top speed. Variances like weight, wheelbase, and gear ratios are also quite apparent from car to car.

What's really exciting about the control of Gran Turismo 2000 is that the cars no longer have a set handling characteristic as they did in the previous games. That is, some of the cars in the older Gran Turismo games had neutral handling, some oversteered, and others understeered. The cars in this game, particularly those with more power, are much more temperamental and can go from understeering to oversteering in a snap, depending on your speed and the angle at which you're turning. That's not to say the cars are unstable or even unpredictable, but their handling characteristics will change depending on the situation, making them feel much more like their real-world counterparts. It also seems that Polyphony Digital has found a happy medium between exaggerating the sense of speed and making it feel like you're moving along at a snail's pace. The sensation of speed makes you feel like you're flying down the track, but it's slow enough to make it easy to tell if you're carrying too much speed into a corner, for example.

The version of Gran Turismo 2000 at the show had seven playable racetracks, including real-world locations like the famous Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif. Other tracks included the Rome Circuit, the Seattle City Circuit, Deep Forest, and Trial Mountain. Adding another facet of realism, the computer-controlled cars don't drive each track perfectly. Some of them will occasionally spin off the track and hit other drivers all on their own.

In all, what we saw of Gran Turismo 2000 really impressed us. It remains to be seen whether or not Sony will rush the game out the door for a worldwide launch as it did with Gran Turismo 2. As of now, Gran Turismo 2000 is scheduled for launch in the US and Japan sometime in December 2000 or January 2001.

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