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Game Over Online ~ Sports Car GT

GameOver Game Reviews - Sports Car GT (c) Electronic Arts, Reviewed by - Umax

Game & Publisher Sports Car GT (c) Electronic Arts
System Requirements Pentium 166, 32MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 90%
Date Published Monday, April 26th, 1999 at 04:08 PM

Divider Left By: Umax Divider Right

Every once in a while, a game surfaces that looks to have some real promise. These are usually the games that receive all the advertising, sometimes even making it to TV. Games such as: Doom II, Unreal, and recently Half Life fall into this category. However, there are also very unique and promising games that surface which few people hear about, even after their release. These are usually talked about in newsgroups and drooled over by enthusiasts of the genre. Sports Car GT is by far closer to the later description than the former. Some people will have heard of a game called SportsCar Supreme GT which was destined for the Sony Play Station console a while ago. This is somewhere about where Sports Car GT (SCGT for short) started its life. It has been hard to tell, but after some seriously lengthy email chatter with EA and the developers of this game, Image Space Inc., I think I have figured out the very confusing history of this game. It began back in early ’98 as IMSA Racing, and moved forward from there. It has had some other titles such as SportsCar Supreme GT, and SportsCar Racing, and it seems the only constant was the team of guys developing this game. While its core remained the same, it bounced around between many different publishers before finally making it to the shelves. What was the hold up you ask? Well, the game was initially a project that fell under Virgin Interactive. Not too long after it began to take off however, EA purchased the North American division of Virgin Interactive and many of their projects, including this one, were halted. This purchase was parallel to that of Westwood (Pacific), and they seemed to take over the duties with this game while EA back-peddled on such projects as Thrill Kill. Well, now it has finally been released -- first for PSX, and now on PC.

The first thing I noticed about SCGT when I heard about its unique subject matter. Much like TOCA 2, there are very few, if any, games out there that deal with the U.S. series called ‘Professional SportsCar Racing’. Because of this, and because the series has cars that are unavailable in any other game, I was interested in trying the game out, but it also makes it very difficult to make comparisons. Basically, the series is divided up into 4 categories of racecars. The higher the class you race in, the higher performance the car you race is (Duh.). At the bottom end of the spectrum is GTQ. These cars are by comparison to the others, very low end performers with low top speeds, low power output (about 250hp on average) and low cornering abilities. The next two levels are GT3 and GT2, and as you’d expect each one is made up of higher performing cars than the one before. Once the player has successfully completed each of those series, they get to play in GT1 class. These are the top performing cars that everyone drools over at the car shows. You may have heard of some of the cars in this class: the Mercedes CLK GTR, the Panoz GT1 car, the Mosler Raptor, Porsche GT1 and Lister Storm GT1. As you’d expect, these cars have extremely high performance, and it is possible to push the car’s horsepower beyond 1000 with tuning and upgrades. Now you know how the series is structured, but how does the game work?

As do all racing games, SCGT contains the standard gaming modes; single player, championship (career), and multiplayer. However, unlike most racing games, these different modes of gameplay aren’t as equally balanced as I thought they could have been. The point of this game is more along the lines of Gran Tourismo than Need For Speed. By this I mean that to move beyond the 3 basic cars you can chose from, the player must obtain credits by winning races. This money can be used to purchase upgrades for the player’s car such as turbo-chargers, intercoolers, braking systems, body modifications and more. Most upgrades have different levels: the higher levels cost more, but will put out more of what they do. That is, a 50,000 credit turbo-charger will put out a lot more power than a 10,000 credit one. This is the only major snag in gameplay. The player only has access to three of the cars from the GTQ class, even in single race mode, and only gains access to additional cars by purchasing them after winning races in career mode. This will appeal greatly to some people because of the reward system, but it will annoy others greatly who want to jump in and race the Porsche GT1 car right away. After I discovered this was the only way to access the ‘cooler’ cars, I entered career mode. As I said, the player begins life in the GTQ class, and can choose between the Porsche 911, Panoz Esperante, and BMW M3 (each available in different liveries). Once the player purchases a car from their account of credits, they can choose to upgrade it with left over credits before heading off to the first race. The player spends one season in each class. After every race, the player will receive a certain amount of credits depending upon the place they finish the race in, and at the end of the season, they will receive a fixed amount to put toward a new car in one class up. Depending on how good a racer you are, you will be able to stockpile most of your savings from the first season to put into buying your next car, and then have an adequate amount to purchase turbo-chargers and other add-ons that you will need. During a season, the player will get plenty of chances to tweak the car’s settings from down-force, to the amount of rebound each individual spring in your suspension gives. This game is truly a gear-head’s dream, but it isn’t necessary to adjust settings constantly win. While the cars are completely adjustable, they don’t handle quite as realistically as in some other games. At first, I found that the GTQ cars were so ridiculously easy to control, and they would never spin out, which is not true. However unrealistic this may be, I found that it showed good planning on the part of the game designers because it aided in the learning curve of the game. Once you reach GT3, GT2, and most of all GT1, the cars get very sensitive to your controls. Basically, it forces the player to learn how to drive properly, not just flying through turns at ludicrous speeds. After all, when you’re driving a 900hp Lister Storm that puts out 800ft/lb of torque, you have to learn how to control things like wheel spin, and how to accelerate out of a sharp turn. Overall, the controls are more realistic, and obviously challenging, in the higher class cars, and nearly arcadish in the lower class cars. This is, however, in my opinion evidence of good planning, and enables the player to learn and adapt better as they play.

Graphically, I wasn’t very surprised when I played SCGT for the first time. I had played the demo a lot when it first came out, and I knew what to expect, so the final was no shock. SCGT contains some very innovative graphic techniques that you won’t find in many other games; these are little things, but overall add to the detail and feeling of realism of the game. One example would be the wheels. When the cars come within a certain range of the camera, the wheels show up as 3D. That is, they aren’t flat on the outside, the rims actually have depth. This looks very good when you fly past the camera at 100mph! Another example of these ‘little’ details would be the track. The pavement for the track isn’t all one colour the entire way around, like a real track it has places where new tarmac or cement was added, and these show up very clearly. As with all racing games, SCGT has the standard set of special effects; skid marks, smoke, dust, and wet tarmac that reflects everything very well. (Another nice touch was that when you drive over certain types of pavement they reflect more than others do when wet.) The cars are all beautifully modeled: the textures are brilliant, and the dimensions of every car appear perfect. Someone I was talking to about this game complained that there were no reflections on the cars, but if you watch an actual GT series race, the cars aren’t very shiny, as in Need For Speed 3+. They are matte, actually I would bet that they are painted with a lightweight paint, and they aren’t glossy. Every track is also very well done, with trees that look good for a change. They are all seemingly accurate, although the only one I’ve personally been to is Mosport. I only have one real gripe with the graphics in SCGT, and that is the views. There is a grand total of 3 views! While this isn’t a hindrance to gameplay at all, it would have been nice to be able to view the action from more than three angles. Overall SCGT hits the mark when it comes to graphics. It has everything that most other racing sims have, and some of its own unique graphic tricks. Everything comes together nicely to give the game a realistic atmosphere.

Sound in this game was a notch above other games I thought. With a really nice speaker setup and a card that can handle 3d audio you can trick the game into putting out something similar. It was really nice to be able to turn off the rear view mirror and tell where the opponent cars were in relation to me just by sound. Sound effects are quite varied in addition to being realistic, which lessens that annoying ‘scratched record syndrome’ that some other games suffer from. Point in case: skidding sounds. In some games skids are a wave file played over top of itself, but in SCGT the skid sounds are a bit more varied sounding, and also differ in pitch on different tarmac surfaces. Multiplayer was very well done I found. I experienced little to no lag while hosting and being a client, a nice change from past racing games from EA. All the standard types of connections are supported; TCP/IP, IPX etc.

Overall this game is excellent. It manages to combine arcade-like gameplay and simulation gameplay through a wide range of different cars with a wider range of capabilities. The lack of enjoyment singleplayer mode offers is more than made up for by the Viper-Racing-Gran-Tourismo-esque career mode in which players can upgrade their cars with money from placing in races. In addition to this relatively unique aspect of gameplay, the never before modeled cars such as the Panoz, Porsche GT1 and many others, and the multiplayer aspect make this game a real winner for value. If you’re looking for a sit down and race till you drop game, this is it!

Highs: Excellent graphics with some actual innovations, well thought out learning-curve, relatively unique career mode with upgrades etc., very unique line-up of cars and tracks, excellent sounds and multiplayer.

Lows: Very limited single race mode, not easy to ‘jump in and race’, some may find the higher performance cars a bit difficult to drive.


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