Sega GT 2002 is an auto racing video game released exclusively for Microsoft's Xbox. It was released by game software development house Sega on September 4, 2002, and written by their subsidiary WOW. It has a very Gran Turismo feel and in fact is similar in most ways. It compares well to its closest competitor, Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec Racing for the Playstation 2. The game's graphics, sound, and "feedback" (through vibration) are all excellent, as is the physics model. I will unavoidably compare this game to Gran Turismo 3 throughout this review, because it is so clearly intended to mimic it. In fact, Sega GT 2002 is so much more like GT3 than Sega GT (Featured on the Dreamcast) as to make any comparison to the latter completely pointless.

As the name implies, Sega GT 2002 is about GT or "Gran Turismo" (which translates to "Grand Tour") racing, also known as "Touring Car Racing". The specifics of GT racing vary from series to series and between various standards organizations (such as JGTC and the FIA) but in this case we are talking about vehicles whose chassis and body are essentially unchanged from their original shape, though various materials can be removed and/or replaced with lighter weight components. In GT racing, multiple cars are on the track at once in direct competition as opposed to bracket racing which consists of competitive time trials. There is also a drag racing mode in which you are pitted against a computer car which is roughly equivalent to your car, and you must make good use of shift technique. Otherwise, there is one oval track (which can mostly be run at full speed) and many tracks which are intensely technical, meaning that one must pay close attention to driving correctly in order to complete them rapidly. (A discussion of "correct" driving technique is outside the scope of this review. Suffice to say that there are several, and which you use largely depends on what kind of car you are driving, and to a degree, personal preference.)

There are four game modes. The first is Sega GT 2002, in which players start with 13,000 credits with which to buy and equip a car, and progress by winning races, making money, and buying or winning more powerful cars. Winning a series entitles you to take a license test, which allows progression to more difficult races. Quick Battle mode puts you in a split-screen two player battle. Chronicle mode puts you behind the wheel of cars from the late 1970s and you can win points (by winning races) to improve their characteristics, while competing with ever more modern vehicles. Finally, there is a time attack mode, in which players attempt to "beat the clock". The drag racing mode is extremely notable because Gran Turismo 2 was originally intended to have a drag racing mode, but it was omitted.

Sega GT 2002 currently (April 2003) comes with the Xbox in its $199 price, along with Jet Set Radio Future, another game from Sega. The two games are on the same game disc, which has a selection screen so you can choose between the two of them, and a number of video clips demonstrating other games. This contrasts slightly with most bundles in that game demos are usually on a separate disc. This makes more sense from a marketing standpoint in one way in that you won't be discarding the sampler, but you also cannot give the sampler content to a friend.

At a glance, Sega GT 2002 supports about half of the features one would like to see. On the (serious) down side, there is no support for Xbox Live. However, in order to make up for an anemic soundtrack, the game supports custom soundtracks, an Xbox feature in which you copy CDs to the hard disk and then later use them for game audio. This is not really a Sega GT feature, but many games do not support it, thus it is worth mentioning. Another feature missing - this is an xbox feature as well, in a way - is a force feedback steering wheel controller accessory. There is no such product for the Xbox in spite of the fact that the same design used by Logitech for the Playstation 2 could be used with little more than a connector change, as that product is connected to the PS2 via USB, and the Xbox uses USB exclusively for the addition of controllers. This is one place where GT3 has a serious leg up on Sega GT 2002.

On the subject of control using ordinary controllers, however, playing Sega GT 2k2 with the Xbox Controller S (The smaller Japanese controller brought to the US with a longer cord and a different sticker on its face) is a distinct joy when compared to using Sony's Dual Shock or Dual Shock 2 controllers, as a result of its use of analog trigger buttons. In order to get analog throttle and brake in Gran Turismo without a wheel, it is necessary to put it on a joystick, which means you cannot use the gas and the brake at the same time - a useful technique in race driving. Even Gran Turismo 2 played through the use of Bleem! on the Sega Dreamcast does not support the use of analog triggers for no particular reason. GT 2002 provides four controller schemes, all of which are fairly reasonable. They make good use of the Xbox controllers' six primary buttons, as well as the triggers.

Sega GT 2002 is of course about racing, which is about cars. Sega GT features over 100 cars from about 20 manufacturers, including (in no particular order) Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Opel, TVR, Ford, Chevrolet, Fiat, Audi, and others. Each car is well-detailed, with a unique engine sound and handling. Car handling generally feels much more accurate to a given car than in Gran Turismo 3, whose physics model often led me to loudly exclaim, "I know this car will do better than this on this turn, because I own one." There is none of that in this game. Tires tend to hook up and let go in a quite realistic manner, something which is quite distressing in the snow. The game has only ten or twelve tracks, but it has five forms of weather (including snow and rain) to mix things up a little bit. The lack of tracks definitely hurts this game, but the tracks are generally more interesting than those in GT3, with more of a mix of turns.

Sega GT 2k2 has an interesting car damage system. As you race, any time you run into anything you take damage. (Presumably, other cars do as well.) Certain portions of your car can become damaged as well; Tires, brakes, the engine, and the exhaust system. If the exhaust system is sufficiently damaged it will fall off, which will lead to eventual engine damage. If you take enough damage, you're out of the race, and the more damage you take during the race, the more money is deducted from your winnings at the end, representing damage repair. The repair costs are quite low, and I have yet to see them top 500 "credits".

The Gran Turismo series really pioneered car customization and upgrading, giving the user complete control over settings, though only limited control over which parts could be installed on the car. For instance, many vehicles can never be fitted with a turbocharger at all, and many turbo vehicles cannot have an intercooler installed. This is ridiculous since there is no such thing as an engine which cannot be modified to support forced induction, and there is always a way to add an intercooler to a turbo system. Sega GT 2k2 gives an additional level of control in that after purchasing and installing a turbo kit, you can separately upgrade the intercooler and turbine. However, there are not as many adjustable car settings. Another excellent feature of the game is that some parts may be purchased on the used market. In addition, when you want to sell a car, you put it on the market (with an asking price) and provided you do not price it too high, it will sell in a few turns. Many cars may be sold over their initial purchase price, but you may only buy one of any given car, so this is a less attractive means for making money than you might think.

The game provides you with a garage which you may personalize by purchasing assorted stuff in the used auto parts shop, such as a couch, posters, potted plants, and occasional tools like a floor jack. These items have no practical purpose in the game except to eat up your money and clutter up your garage, which comes equipped with a workbench (to hold your trophies), a tool chest which looks suspiciously like Snap-On equipment, and what appears to be a MIG welder.

All in all Sega GT 2k2 is an excellent title and well worth its purchase price, even moreso if you get it free with your Xbox. If you like racing titles, you will certainly like Sega GT 2002. It sounds, looks, and plays very well, and as long as you can tolerate split-screen, it should have enough replay value to keep it going into your Xbox for quite some time. I give it an 8 out of a possible 10. It would have a 9 if it had any network support at all, and I'd give it a 10 if it had both LAN and Xbox Live support. Are you listening, Sega?

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