Publisher Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer Polyphony Digital
Platform PlayStation 2
Max Players 6
Release Date 07/10/01

15 Aug 01 So it's finally here. Prepare for the panic in the high street - Gran Turismo 3 will have more people rushing out to buy a PlayStation 2 than the thousands who daily flock to their computers to download the latest doctored pics of Britney's breasts on the Internet. You've been frothing at the mouth since it was announced, the recent influx of info and screenshots made you howl at the moon. Now it's time to roll around on the floor then sit up and beg like a cocker spaniel performing for a tasty treat. The racer with a bigger garage of flash cars than Elton John, Jay from Jamiroquai and the Man Utd first team combined - is back!

POUR YOURSELF ANOTHER Gran Turismo has always been a bit of a gaming cocktail. Pour a substantial serving of real cars, add the ability to tinker under the bonnet like a mechanic, stir with being able to race on the tracks like an F1 test driver and serve with more stats and car reviews than Jeremy Clarkson can shake a stick at. It was a winning formula before and will be again, as Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec offers more of the same, with one vital difference - now its powered by PlayStation 2. You might be fooled into thinking that the extra processing power will be wasted on beefing-up the graphics and leaving the gameplay mechanics of Gran Turismo alone, but you'd be wrong. First appearance suggests that this is indeed all that's happened, with many familiar tracks from Gran Turismo 2 revisited, but, the second you pick up the Dual Shock 2 pad and take a car out for a spin, the advancements over its predecessors become more apparent.

BACK ONCE AGAIN Accurate suspension physics cause the car to tilt on corners. Take a hairpin bend too fast and the car will lean violently. Race over rumble strips at the side of the road and the wheels rise into the wheel arches as you fight to regain control.
Brake hard and the car will lunge forward, accelerate and the car tilts back. Anyone obsessed with the technical details of the cars, fretting over whether the car has a mid, front or rear engine will be very pleased as you can now feel the difference when playing. Physics were present before in Gran Turismo, but they were never as accurate as this.Another major difference in Gran Turismo 3 is the number of cars available for you to collect and race. There are over 150 different models from a wide variety of major manufacturers. This figure is greatly reduced from Gran Turismo 2 that offered over 200. Surprisingly, second-hand cars have been removed completely, although you can still sell your used cars.

NUMBER CRUNCHING The reason behind the lower figure is the level of detail contained in each car. Over 3,500 polygons make each GT3 motor look stunning. It took two weeks to design and model each car. Compare this to the 300 polygons, one-a-day production rate for the original Gran Turismo and you can quickly calculate why we've had to wait to get our hands on the new edition.As soon as you see the cars in action and the tracks in all their glory, you'll be pleased that GT3 wasn't rushed for release. To create something that looks this good you need to take time. Particle effects add to the high level of realism. Light reflects from the tarmac, sunlight filters through trees, the sun is so bright on certain tracks that you have to squint when driving towards it. Dust and dirt is kicked-up as cars scratch the sides of the road. In rally mode, where the majority of each track is mud this is very impressive. Then there's rain. Yes - for the first time Gran Turismo has weather effects - driving through a downpour will have you reaching for an umbrella.

ALL GOOD THINGS...Like Gran Turismo 2, GT3 is split into two distinctive modes, Arcade and Simulation. Arcade is for people who wish to pick up a pad and sprint through many races in as short a time as possible, without having to worry about tinkering under the bonnet to get the car ready for each race. In Arcade mode you'll also be able to race very fast cars without having to save up to buy them first. One of the most repeated comments made by people watching GT3 in action is that it looks slow. Well, it does, but that's only to begin with. Once you get to the more expensive cars you'll hear no complaints. Then there's Simulation mode - where the real game takes place. Fans of the series will recognise this section as being the real meat and potatoes of Gran Turismo. Despite offering less cars, this mode has been vastly expanded in the number of races available. Before you get to these though you're required to purchase a car.

CHOOSE WISELYS tarting with a small amount of money you have limited purchasing power and are restricted to the small family runabouts. Entering your chosen vehicle into races and winning - will of course - earn you more money, enabling you to buy bigger and better motors. The race categories are very defined however, with races confined to specific manufacturers and cars, or whether the car has front-wheel, rear-wheel or four -wheel drive. These are just a few of the many different race criteria. GT3 really shines with the multitude of races on offer and the different vehicles you're required to race to win them.Races are also split into various leagues, starting with Beginner, then Amateur and Professional. As you progress through the leagues the competition becomes tougher and the cars you get to race are far more powerful and require greater skill to stay on the road. Before diving into the majority of these races, you're required to earn driving licenses, proving you have the skill and discipline to be let loose with the big boys.

DO IT BETTER The license tests have been changed slightly from the previous games. There are more of them and due to the improved realism in car handling they require precise driving to pass each test. A small video demonstrates how each test should be performed. There's also an Analyse option that presents basic telemetry data, detailing where you accelerated, braked and turned, allowing you to analyse your performance. Challenging you to try again and improve.Not only do the range of cars look fantastic and respond believably, but there's also a very wide choice within the 150 to suit all tastes. From the Mini Cooper and Toyota Vitz, to rally cars such as the Corolla and Subaru Impreza. There's a nice selection of Audi's, Mercs and BMW's and the top end of the scale are tasty treats such as the Mazda 787B Le Mans and the Toyota GT-One Racecar. Many of the motors on offer aren't available in the shops, some are still at the testing or concept stage, yet being a car lovers dream, GT3 let's you get behind the wheel of some of the sexiest cars ever conceived.

LOOK AHEAD Of course, all the options, cars and stunning graphics wouldn't add up to much if Gran Turismo 3 played like a dog. Lucky for us then that it plays as good as it looks. One of the advantages of the improved graphics is the draw distance and the ability to see further down the road. Because of this Gran Turismo fans should find the new edition easier to play as corners can now be seen much earlier allowing you time to prepare.The computer drivers also offer a bit more of a challenge, occasionally straying from the racing line and blocking overtaking manoeuvres much better than in previous games. They're still not perfect as they still like to hog the racing line a little too much, but they are getting better.

THE DARK SIDE Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec offers more depth and play than any other racing game on the market. However we still have a few minor gripes. First of all - why aren't there more than six cars in each race? And why only two in Rally mode? Come to think of it, there should only be one car at a time racing in Rally mode, you should be racing against split times, not another car on the track. Our biggest moan is the reliance on realistic physics and accurate car models means GT3 is not as well balanced as some racers and also has a poor learning curve. It can be difficult to tell if car A is better than car B by looking at the specs and unlocking a new car in race X doesn't mean you'll get to test it in race Y. Due to this it is often difficult to work out what you're meant to do next. This was a minor flaw in the previous GT games, but is a little more evident in GT3 due to the greater number of races.Some people will consider this a good thing, to be fair it's better to have a very large choice than none at all. It's just a shame that you have to search quite hard to find the best cars and to make the best use of your money. Spend poorly and you'll find yourself stuck in races you can't win, the only way to get past this is to revisit completed races in an older, successful car until you can afford a new one.If you like driving games and we know most of you do. Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec is the one to get as it offers more than any other, plays very well and makes the PlayStation 2 finally look like the super console that it was promised to be, if you haven't got one, this is the excuse you've been waiting for. If you've got a PS2, you already know that GT3 is an essential purchase. Well, go ahead and buy it - you have our permission. Alex C

Score 10
Don't worry about it having less cars than before, GT3 is finally the real driving simulator it always proclaimed itself to be. Better handling, more races and brain-melting visuals make it the showpiece title PlayStation 2's been waiting for.

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