Search For Posters!
  Join the SGN staff!
Help Wanted
Release Dates


About Us

The Sports

Partner Links
Auto Insurance Quote
Irvine Moving Companies
LA Moving Companies
Brand Name Shoes

Sega GT: Homologation Special
(DC Import) Hands-on Preview

Think back to 1998. The day things changed in console racing was May 13. If you recall, that was when Gran Turismo on the PlayStation was released. I was one of the many who absolutely had to have GT that very day. The hype was tearing me up inside. The prospect of driving what was deemed an incredibly deep and realistic simulation had me flooring my '94 Saturn. The only bad thing about that day is that I had to go to work first and wait to play this new gem. And when I did I was up to the wee hours of the night taking license tests and racing in a few races.

Fast forward to the year 2000. Once New Year's rolled past and the world was still ticking (much to the chagrin of many computer "experts" and cults worldwide), I knew I could go about my life. So the next day to set on my scope was February 17, the release date for Sega GT: Homologation Special in Japan. This Dreamcast incarnation is intended to be Sega's response to Sony's highly regarded Gran Turismo. From a market standpoint, we will have to wait until later this year when it's released stateside to see how well it sells compared to the competition. But until that time, we'll fill you in on some of the details in the import version.

I hated English courses in high school. I was born a mathematician. Fortunately I had a decent enough vocabulary back then to score well on the dreaded SATs. But in no way was I blessed with genes from Mr. Webster. Back then, as now, I had no idea what the word "homologation" meant. So before we get too deep in this preview, let's define the longest word in a Dreamcast title. Consulting the dictionary, we find that homologation is the noun form of the verb homologate. And before you think it has to do with someone's sexual preference (not that there's anything wrong with that), let's hear what Webster has to say about the verb. The first definition of homologate is to approve, confirm, or ratify. Whatever. Interestingly, the second definition is to register (a specific make of automobile in general production) so as to make it eligible for international racing competition. Clearly the second definition was added well after the first, which date to the seventeenth century. But incredibly that second definition fits this title perfectly.

Enough with the grammar lesson and on to the driving lesson. How does Sega GT play and look? The easy part is clearly the graphics. How can Gran Turismo even compete graphically to Sega GT? It can't, and it's not fair to make comparisons. But based on Dreamcast standards, the game looks like standard fare. The cars have a look similar to Tokyo Xtreme Racer or Sega Rally 2. The body panels don't have the sheen you'd expect, but the cars are detailed, down to readable license plates. The cars must have been cast from the same metal as Herbie the Love Bug, as cars are devoid of drivers. If there's one thing the Dreamcast does well, it is to create beautiful trackside details. The trend continues as signs, which have vibrant colors and smooth letters, from name-brand sponsors litter the borders. Road surfaces range from cobblestone to asphalt, and each looks great down to street markings and the breaks in the stones.

The game runs at a fluid pace and never slows down. In the many hours I have played this game, I have yet to experience one dropped frame or any time when the machine couldn't keep up with the action. The animation is silky smooth and clocks in at around 30 frames per second. If you are a perfectionist, you will find pop-up, but you have to look far off in the horizon. Even then it is minimal. For the most part, hills, buildings, and grandstands naturally grow from the horizon. Unfortunately when the details are at a distance, they are on the grainy side. The track has the grainy appearance at a distance as well, which can make predicting upcoming turns difficult at times. I found reading the tracks on Gran Turismo easier than Sega GT; it seems like GT has a longer range of vision when looking down the course. My biggest complaint with the graphics in Sega GT is with shadows. Because many tracks have walls, hills, or tunnels, portions of the track are in shadows. Driving in the shadows is almost like driving blind, as the track is nearly pitch black. When it's this dark, you'll have a tough time predicting the edge of the road surface.

In the audio department, you'll swear Sega lifted some of the sounds right out of Gran Turismo. We will cut them slack on the car sounds, which all sound great. I mean, it is fine by me if a '94 Civic sounds the same in GT as Sega GT. It is the same car. But the uncanny thing is that the starting chimes sound almost identical to GT. Each car has a unique acoustic signature, and vehicle upgrades impact the sound of each car. On the track tires squeal as they lose grip and cars crunch as they come in contact. What is disappointing is the soundtrack. It's exactly the type of junk I hate - cheesy electronic beats that sound like smooth jazz or funky guitar rock. Make no mistake, the music is electronic, and not electronica. It's hardly driving music, and you will be looking for that GT disc so you can listen to some original tracks instead of this recycled rubbish.

Like Gran Turismo, Sega GT is all about earning licenses, winning races, upgrading cars, and winning more races. The categories are broken into four levels, the Entry, B, A, and SA classes. As you move up the chain you lose the family sedans in favor of some machines with a little more horsepower. Speaking of cars, there are a little over one hundred cars spread over nine Japanese manufacturers. Expect more when it comes out domestically. The license tests are timed lapped events similar to the IA license in GT. Each class has six courses to master. Fortunately, to obtain a license for any given class, you only need to pass one of the six courses. Once racing, the game mimics GT in that there are races for specific classes, lightweight cars, tuned cars, and so on. Sega GT even uses the same six-car race format and point system as GT. Racing takes place over 10 tracks (20 if you count going in the reverse direction) and a couple of dragstrips.

The courses in Sega GT range from the unimaginative to the truly difficult. Four of the tracks are oval or close to it and allow you to really open up the cars. The nighttime city courses are very technical and reminiscent of the night stage tracks in GT. You'll find most of the courses easier than the ones in GT, with the exception of Sky Peak Hill, which has a multitude of quick turns on cobblestone that quickly puts your vehicle out of balance. For tuning freaks, the drag races are entertaining, although a little boring when it comes to driving (it is a straight line for crying out loud).

As you win races, you win cash, and a lot of it. To fully trick out some of the cars requires around ten million credits (Yen?), which is less than what you earn going through the drag races and winning all four heats. Upgrades come often, and unlike GT, you can go straight to higher upgrades. That is, there's no stage 1 requirement to get a stage 2 upgrade; you can go straight to stage 2. But with the big prize money and quick upgrades, the game tends to get easy. You have to be disciplined to avoid upgrading your car to the max if you don't want to simply blow away the competition.

And that is the biggest problem with the import version. In Gran Turismo, racing had a pack mentality. Races are always close and it's difficult to outrun the competition. In Sega GT, racing in your class with a fully upgraded car is a snap assuming you can handle the car. But in reality, I guess we should applaud Sega for its AI. Each car has its own performance limit, and as such the field thins out as you'd expect. If you put an underpowered car in the field, it will finish way off the pace. Fortunately, the more technical courses don't favor themselves to muscle cars. An 800 hp NSX is too loose to control on courses with many hairpins and S-curves. In fact, I found I could improve my lap times by reducing the power, making the stronger cars more stable. Laying off the gas is a dream with the standard Dreamcast controller. The response of the analog triggers is tight, and steering is perfectly acceptable with the analog stick.

Along with buying new and used cars, Sega GT features a mode called Carrozzeria. In this mode, you build a car from scratch. You start with an engine displacement and work from there, specifying engine placement, drive type, and even the body style. After building a car, you can earn a factory license by completing a few driving tests in the same vein as Gran Turismo.

The real tragedy with Sega GT occurs in the arcade mode. The pack racing in GT can't be beat, especially in the arcade mode. Recall that GT has three levels of difficult in arcade mode. Within each difficulty level, you can race the A, B, or C class cars. In Sega GT, the difficulty levels easy, medium, and hard correspond to the classes of cars. That's not the only difference. Remember the adrenaline rush you experienced on the top difficulty level in GT? In Sega GT it's an adrenaline bust. The racing is totally uninspiring to the point Sega should have just left the arcade (or single race mode as they call it) out. On the hard level you can easily win by several seconds the first time out.

In coming up with my preview comments for Sega GT, I went back and started Gran Turismo from scratch. I remember the first time out the license tests were awfully difficult. But I guess since then my mastery over console racing games has improved significantly, to which I credit GT. So the second time around I found GT to be an easy play. Thus, I can't be too harsh on Sega GT for some of its ease. In reality both games have nearly identical handling characteristics. The big difference between the two titles is a slightly better track design in Gran Turismo and a different application of the AI. The AI in GT emphasizes close pack racing which isn't entirely realistic, whereas Sega GT attempts to accurately model the performance characteristics of each car in the field.

On its own, Sega GT will prove to be a worthy title in its own right. Gran Turismo is simply unfair to the rest of the competition. Sony set the standard for driving simulations against which nearly every driving game since has been compared. Sega GT, looks (and well, it is) like a direct copy of Gran Turismo. With the exception of the Carrozzeria, there is nothing original in Sega GT. Everything else has been done before. I guess Sony should take it as a compliment that their direct competition is aiming to make a game exactly like GT. And like Gran Turismo, you'll find yourself driving for hours on end.

By: James Smith 4/24/00

© 1998-2006 Sports Gaming Network. Entire legal statement. Feedback

Other Links:
[Free Credit Report  |   Car Insurance Quotes  |   Designer Shoes  |   Outdoor Equipment

MVP Baseball 2003
Street Hoops
Mad Catz Xbox Hardware

Inside Pitch 2003
MLB Slugfest 20-04
Tennis Masters Series



[an error occurred while processing the directive]