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Posted: May 18, 1999
Written by: Dan "Tweak Monkey" Kennedy
If you are a PC gamer that has played Gran Turismo on the Playstation, you are probably wondering why there are no games like it on the PC. Gran Turismo combined great graphics with realistic physics, a huge selection of fast and slow cars, and the option to customize each vehicle for speed and performance. It's time to rejoice: Sports Car GT offers a lot of your favorite Gran Turismo features and plenty more.
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As I mentioned above, the features in Sports Car GT rival Gran Turismo on the Playstation. The developer, Image Space, worked very hard to polish this game, and it shows.
Although many of them are similar, there are over 50 cars available in the game. There are several Porches, BMW M3s, McLaren F1 GTRs, Saleen Mustangs, and many others. If you play the "Career" mode, you start with a small budget which you must use to buy your first car. After a few races you'll have money to add headers, turbo chargers, and tires, etc. to ensure that your car smokes the competition. The upgrading features are much like Gran Turismo. Everything you buy will add to your horsepower and torque, decrease weight, or increase grip. Your car will be customized to your liking and budget. After you've won a season (a series of several races), you'll have money to buy a higher class car. For example, my first car was a Porsche 911. After winning a season I bought a Saleen Mustang that had plenty of horsepower and weighed a lot less.
There are eight tracks to keep you busy. But these aren't simple tracks; they're congested, twisting, mazes that challenge your racing skills. Each turn will keep you on the edge of your seat, and slightly overestimating a turn will leave you in the gravel or dirt. The tracks are very difficult for beginners, but after a while even the most challenging courses will be a breeze.
The game controls very well and the the controls are accurate and responsive. Of course I was using Logitech's Wingman Formula Force steering wheel, but I'm assuming that if you're a racing fan you probably have some sort of similar input device. Also, the excellent physics add a whole new definition to racing games. Unlike Need for Speed III or even Gran Turismo, if you take a turn at 140 MPH, you'll certainly wipe out. You need need to slow down and carefully turn your wheel. If you give the car too much gas, you'll spin out and end up burning up the tires. Some might complain that the physics make the game too difficult, but I approve for several reasons. First of all, it forces you to pay attention. If you lose concentration for even a few seconds, you may end up taking a turn too fast and smashing your car. You can also use the physics to your advantage. You can drive behind the first place car during a turn, and push them aside. By smashing your car into the computer cars, you'll ruin their chances of winning. They will probably spin out and hit a wall or fly off the track out of control. In my opinion, the physics and controls in Sports Car GT are the best I have seen to date.
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The weather and setting play a major role in the game as well. When the track is covered with rain, the road becomes as slick as ice. The computer players will drive much slower and more carefully. You can slowly ram them from behind or on the side, then watch their car spin out of control as they struggle to maintain grip on the slippery cement. The night levels are also very well done. It's fun to play a "Quick Race" against the computer, at night, and select 15 opponent cars. Just about the only visible objects will be headlights and brake lights.
Cars in Sports Car GT handle much like the true $100,000 to $5,000,000 actual cars probably would. They're sensitive, extremely fast, and fragile. The damage code adds a lot to the game's overall fun factor, because one hard wreck can mean the difference between winning and losing. Often times you can trigger a five car accident in the first lap, that ensures an easy victory. Also, the time spent in the pit stop can greatly effect your chances of winning. You will need to learn what to repair and when to repair it, including tires, gas, and body damage.
Overall, the features in Sports Car GT rival or beat just about every racing game I have played to date.
Play and Re-playability
You have to be a fan of racing games in order to truly appreciate Sports Car GT. If you are a fan, you'll most likely love this game. It plays flawlessly, but there is one issue that needs to be mentioned. When set to the shortest mode, each career race is at least ten minutes long. Often times the races will be twenty or even thirty minutes long. If you set the races to medium, long, or very long, expect races to last between one and two HOURS. Some may enjoy playing a game for two hours straight, but Sports Car GT will wear you out, especially since the action is so constant and you must pay attention at all times.
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The game has a high playability and re-playability due to the countless combinations of upgrades and tweaks that can be applied to your cars. This is rewarding even in multiplayer because you can use your fully tweaked car in a race over the Internet or LAN. The hard work (as mentioned above) pays off when you leave a guy who only has a GT3 car in the dust (I have a fully tweaked and upgraded GT1 car: McLaren F1 GTR. It has about 1000 horsepower and weighs only about 2300 lbs.). I tried SCGT over LAN and was impressed. There were no issues to be worked out. The game was in synchronization the whole time and it ran fine.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics in Sports Car GT are outstanding. The cars are perfect in every way. They are smooth and have very detailed textures. The headlights and environment mapping are incredible. Even the smoke effects are undoubtedly the best I have ever seen. The track, side, and off-track objects are highly detailed as well, especially at night or in the rain. Camera angles can be changed with the V key. There is a TV style view (mounted cameras from a distance) that allows you to show off for the camera, or to show off the graphics. You can tweak the standard chase-cam view using the Insert, Delete, Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys. The angle, zoom, etc. can be adjusted to your liking. My jaw dropped when I saw this game in action. Don't judge from these highly compressed screenshots: either download the demo or buy the game to see for yourself.
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The game supports Direct3D, Glide, and software rendering. It supports 640x480, 800x600, and 1024x768 resolutions. You can toggle E-mapping (environment mapping or real time reflections), MIP-mapping, and other effects in the Graphics menu. The game ran perfect on my Pentium II 450 system with an Ultra TNT2 graphics card. My Pentium II 266 system with a Voodoo3 3000 graphics card had no problems either.
Even the sounds are great in SCGT. The engine noises, crashes, and of course, sounds of burning rubber are all realistic. One complaint I have about the sound though: there is no support for A3D or EAX, which would have been quite cool for a racing game like this. The music track is an excellent 11 song mix of techno and dance style music that really gets your blood pumping for serious racing.
Sports Car GT is my favorite PC racing game to date. The graphics, sounds, music, physics, controls, and cars add up to a hell of a combination, that makes an excellent title for any racing fanatic's collection.