Sega GT Online
Sega serves up the latest edition of its racing sim for Xbox, with full online capabilities. Is now the time to get into Sega GT?
Sega is famed for its addictive arcade racers, dating back to Outrun all the way to Crazy Taxi - games that are easy to play and offer five minutes of fun. Apart from Yu Suzuki's deep and challenging Ferrari F355 Challenge Sega isn't all that famous for simulation and technical depth when it comes to racing games.
When the first Sega GT was released on Dreamcast it arrived to a rather small fanfare, with many commentators citing hot competition in the form of Gran Turismo as the reason. Nobody was disputing the games overwhelming technical prowess, but it just wasn't that exciting. After the improved release of Sega GT 2002 for Xbox, does the latest edition, Sega GT Online, deliver the essential package that racing simulation fans crave?
The offline modes haven't changed as much as anyone would hope but there is still an overwhelming amount of content to explore, so this part of the review is mainly for those who never played the 2002 version.
In the visual stakes Sega GT is a mixed bag. The cars look as fantastic as they should on Xbox, but the courses are slightly less stunning. You'll find yourself noticing the flat trees and cardboard bushes a little too often, although when you're battling for the number one position in a heated race you really shouldn't be taking your eyes off the road should you? There isn't much else to fault though, the menus look great and your garage is a very cool touch - especially when you get to buy all manner of decorations to liven the place up and frame the photos you take during race replays. In fact when you're not out racing it's the garage that you spend all your time in, decorating, viewing your trophies and cars while doing some upgrades. It's a very nice personal touch that helps to separate your copy of the game from everyone else's.
The level of technical detail available to you in Sega GT is unrivalled on Xbox. Many have tried to compare SGT to Project Gotham 2 but the two couldn't really be farther apart. In PGR2 you buy a pre-tuned car and participate in style challenges around the world where as in GT you buy a car and get given the option to race for cash and prizes, go for licenses, participate in special challenges or spend hours just working on your car to get it exactly to the specification you want. You won't find this amount of tweaks and tuning options anywhere else until Gran Turismo 4, and somehow we don't think you'll be playing that on the Xbox.
Probably one of the best features in GT is the number and variety of cars, not only do you get to choose from many of the biggest manufacturers in the world, you also get to browse through their back catalogue to find some of the coolest vintage cars ever made. As soon as we made enough money we went straight to Chevrolet's door to buy a cherry red 1970 Camero Z28, the car of dreams for many.
Before you do anything you have to start a 'career' in Sega GT 2002 mode - this gives you starting funds to afford a respectable vehicle to get into the many other modes. In most of the other modes you need a career car first, so this is the best place to start
When you enter into Career Mode's race section you must win your C Level License by taking part in a timed run around a fairly complex track, keeping to the straight and narrow to get the best score possible. Another six races will offer up the B Level License. It doesn't take to long for the Career mode to become a fairly tedious affair though, racing for money to buy new cars and upgrades is only interesting for so long. Fortunately you can take a break to try some more abstract and enjoyable races in the Event Race section.
In Event Race your car type defines the races you can enter, much like the different Series in PGR2. The rules vary in almost every race; while some are three laps with six drivers, others allow you to gamble your winnings on the outcome to up the ante. This mode lets you can participate in the Sega Drag Race and the incredibly challenging Winding Road Cup, in which you take on a rally car on a dark snowy mountain in your regular car - which if nothing else will teach you how to control your vehicle in any and all conditions.
The 2002 mode also offers Time Attack and Quick Race modes as well as the more interesting Gathering and Chronicle modes. Gathering mode is really just a good practice ground for your main game. In Chronicle mode you choose a vintage car and take part in decade challenges dating from the 70's to modern day, and as you start the challenge you're treated to some automobile history of that decade such as the riveting story of the 1970's Air Pollution Act! Skip that and get in the race - if you're skilled enough to beat a group of cars from each decade you'll get a pretty special reward.
You'll notice that the opponent AI advance in skill as you go through the game and get better sets of wheels. But after you spend all your time saving for a new car to beat a tough race, only to find the other contestants have now been turbo charged in AI and just as touch as before, it loses a bit of appeal. During races you have a damage meter which you must watch at all times, if you take damage the cost of repairs will come out of your final winnings and if the bar hits zero you could lose almost half your winnings, so drive with care. We were pleasantly surprised with the AI in this aspect though; we had expected to see them plough carelessly into the side of our car just to get ahead, but it seems they want to pay repair bills just as much as we do.
In the front end you can explore the Garage Tunes section where you can browse through all the licensed songs in the game, watch music videos, and read band biographies which is a very cool feature especially as many of the bands are somewhat underground punk heroes and the chances of finding their albums and videos outside specialist music stores are pretty slim. If you aren't a fan of American punk music this may prove to be a pointless addition, but there's always the custom hard drive soundtrack option.
That covers the offline mode for those who never picked up the original Xbox Sega GT, but what about the online mode, and the new upgrades?
The most interesting and fun parts of the game are the Xbox Live features. You're offered a whole host of new modes and challenges, not to mention downloadable content, which includes new cars and goodies for your garage. There is so much scope for improvement through downloadable content - we hope Sega can get some upgrades available. Once you get online you can participate in huge gamble races where the bet's as high as it gets: your own car! Winner takes all and loser goes home to an empty garage, a great idea but something that must be thought out long and hard before entering.
One obvious with the races is the abrupt endings as the game will only wait for the winner to cross the finish line before cutting the game so if you see someone heading for the finish line on your map and you're third you might as well just give up. Combine all the new modes, the possibility of new ones via download, and voice communication, and you have a pretty sweet online experience in Sega GT.
If you haven't played Sega GT before this is the perfect time to grab it. Not only is it sporting some upgrades and an online mode, it's selling at a much lower price. The game isn't without its flaws, but it's an excellent technical game that you can easily lose yourself in while working on cars, doing a bit of interior decorating or battling through the hundreds of available races.
If you have played Sega GT before, we recommend that you think carefully about this one - if you don't plan to go online too much there really isn't enough new content to warrant another purchase.
(See Latest Videos & Video FAQ Here)
|PLEASE DO NOT DIRECT LINK TO ANY MEDIA FILE ON KIKIZO|
Sega GT Online
Direct feed promotional video from TGS. [480x360, 1228kbps]
Sega GT Online
Racing around beautiful courses in what promises to be a sequel that improves over previous outings.