Ever since Gran Turismo came out on the PSX, gamers have boldly proclaimed the next Sega GT game to come out as a Gran Turismo killer. To date, no other series has yet to come close to the depth and following of Gran Turismo. Sega attempted to take Sony on with the Dreamcast, but the original Sega GT was met with less than glowing reviews. Now a few years wiser and targeting a new console, Sega GT 2002 targets the Xbox. With over 100 licensed cars spanning 5 decades and several game modes, Sega GT 2002 may be a serious GT contender.
Presentation/Graphics : 75
The vehicles in Sega GT 2002 look pretty darn good. There is more than adequate detail, though the cars don't approach photo quality. There are a variety of older cars that are rarely seen on the road that are modeled in perfect dimension. For example, the awkward looking Lotus Europa (looks much better in person by the way) carries that unique look, and the American muscle cars recreate the 1970s to perfection.
Unfortunately, the off-track detail doesn't hold the same quality as the vehicles. In fact, the trackside graphics are downright disappointing. I popped in the old Sega GT for the Dreamcast and was amazed at how much better looking the Dreamcast textured graphics were over the bland Xbox versions. We've seen NASCAR games on the Xbox with 43 cars on track, so we know the threat of slowdowns are not an issue--it just seems like sloppy programming. What's worse is that as you drive down the road a wavy look appears in front of you. It's hard to describe, but I compare it to Jet Li's movie The One. Picture Jet Li's body fragmenting and traveling through space in the movie. In Sega GT 2002, the road in front of you kind of goes through its own transformation. At first it was very annoying, and only after several hours did I learn not to focus on it.
Sadly, there are only a couple of views available in the game. The only first-person view is a bumper camera. The graphical layout is full of every imaginable item. You have a track map, a set of gauges (speedometer, odometer, and turbo boost if applicable), time, and more.
Presentation/Audio : 100
The Dolby Digital surround sound is spectacular. The cars sound incredible and lifelike. If you like music when you drive, there's a nice selection of packaged tunes or you can bring in your own songs. Either way, the audio in Sega GT 2002 is just plain good.
Interface/Options : 60
There are four main modes in Sega GT 2002 - Sega GT 2002 mode, Quick Battle, Chronicle, and Time Attack. Time Attack and Quick Battle are self-explanatory - take any available car and go against the clock or others on the open tracks. In Chronicle mode, you take a classic car and race it. As you win or place in a race, you earn points that can be used to upgrade the car and unlock the next level. Each classic car has a total of 6 races to complete. In the GT mode, you progress through a series of races and license tests over 2 seasons. Winning along the way earns money and cars. With the money you can fix you car (there is a crude damage model in the game), upgrade it, or buy a new one. For upgrading, Sega added a unique approach in that you can buy used parts. The only downside is the part may fail during a race.
The game options are few. Aside from options affecting presentation, there isn't much to concern yourself with. Fans of Gran Turismo will be disappointed at the lack of car tuning parameters in the game. The top-level menu allows you to play with traction and spin control, and as you buy parts there are some tuning options. However, the number of options has decreased since the original Sega GT, and you can't even play with gear ratios! After completing Sega GT 2002, I went back to the original Dreamcast game and realized just how much gamers have been shortchanged in terms of available options. I miss things like multi-race cups and the wonderful Carrozzeria mode.
Gameplay : 70
There are a few things I look for in a racing game. If the game promises to be a simulation, there must be attention paid to making the handling realistic. Next, AI must be solid. I don't want rubberband racing; nor do I want pushovers. I want a game that challenges my driving abilities. Finally, I look for good track design. All other things, such as upgrades, damage, or car variety, are icing on the cake.
Sega GT 2002 certainly has the handling down. Thankfully the cars don't exhibit as much roll in this version as they did in the original. Playing from the first person view in the original Sega GT was akin to a ride on rough seas. The "graphical suspension" has been stiffened up quite a bit so the screen doesn't move all over the place. That in itself is a huge improvement. Since the cars are more drivable you can assess the performance of FF, FR, 4WD, and MR car easier. What you find is that each class of car exhibits the appropriate vehicle response. The FFs have noticeable understeer while the rear wheel drive cars can be finessed through the corners better. A few test cars that I hope are in every racing game are the Lotus Elise and Dodge Viper. These two cars are on opposite ends of the driving spectrum. The Elise, with its MR setup, small engine, and light weight, won't win you any top speed contests, but its acceleration and handling are exceptional. In Sega GT 2002, you can force that car through corners and chicanes at will thanks to the weight distribution of the car and modeled physics. On the other end, the Viper, with its ample supply of torque is a beast to drive in person and in gaming. The massive V-10 sits up front making the weight distribution of this FR racer ungainly. Great top speed but you have to be careful about putting the throttle down in the turns. Too much and you can easily swap ends.
The AI in Sega GT 2002 is disappointing. At first the AI cars give you a real challenge. But once you start winning, earning money, and gaining new cars, the challenge quickly fades. The way the GT mode is structured, you race over two seasons comprising a total of around 40 or so races. About midway through the first season, you begin to dominate every race. At first you may win the races by only a few seconds, but in the end, victories of 30 seconds or more or not uncommon for races as short as 3 or 4 laps. Like I said, I hate rubberband logic, but the competition in this game is too weak. Sega produced the absolute best driving sim on a console, Ferrari F355, which featured great AI competition. The same here would have made this game something special. The entire second season I never lost a race, and I ended up completing the game in a weekend. All the while I was going through the motions, not really enjoying my dominance. I wonder if Michael Schumacher feels that way. Even the hardest levels of the Quick Battle mode are easy. The one positive thing that can be said for the AI is that they aren't as mindless as the Gran Turismo series.
While driving in Sega GT 2002, I was never really inspired by the track design. Even with weak AI I can appreciate a game more if the track design is good. For example, I love driving solo in games like F355 on the Dreamcast, Grand Prix Legends on the PC, and even the Gran Turismo series on the PSX/PS2. Sure most of the tracks are based on real courses, but they are better racing and driving tracks than most found in Sega GT 2002. The ones here seem to be more arcade oriented.
Not all is bad with Sega GT 2002. There is a great car selection, and each car can be upgraded. Once upgraded, you can make adjustments, though unfortunately you can't customize gear ratios - a real tragedy considering there is a drag race session in the game. Also, Sega attempted to put a damage model in the game. The damage isn't visual, however. During the race a damage meter tracks your wall scrapes and bumps against other cars. After the race your winnings are diminished based on the damage you accrued. You also suffer damage when buying used parts, which may break during the race.
Replay Value : 60
There are two huge strikes against this game - longevity and ease. With only two seasons of racing, there's not much incentive to keep playing the game considering how easy it is to win races. Further, the game concentrates on single races only. There are no multi-race series as in the original Sega GT or the GT series. The Chronicle mode is unique, but even that ends too soon. The expected expansion disc for the game could make the game a better value.
Overall : 67
Sega GT 2002 misses the boat if you are looking for a tough, competitive racer on the Xbox. The AI is a pushover, the course design is rather bland, the trackside graphics are blander, and the game length is too short. The game does have some bright spots - great sound, a crude damage model, and a car selection that includes some prototypes and rarely seen production vehicles. Ultimately, though, the game did not meet my expectations.