Think of a time before the introduction of the Gran Turismo series. Racing games were either based on arcade thrills or simulation racing games that was generally rather uninteresting. Options were limited. Then Gran Turismo burst onto the scene in 1998. Everything changed. It was simulation racing perfection… and then Gran Turismo 2 somehow improved on that.
Gran Turismo 2 launched on the PS1 towards the end of its life cycle in January in the year 2000. It had the impossible job of somehow topping the original Gran Turismo and succeeded by launching with more cars, tracks and various other options. The game came bundled on two discs. One disc contained an Arcade Mode. Here you’d battle it out against your buddies in split-screen mode, or you’d just race in some single player events. Arcade Mode was basically regarded as the Gran Turismo 2 for people who did not have time to invest, but would like a quick fix. Gran Turismo Mode is where the real fun parked.
There were many things that made Gran Turismo 2 a way superior game over the original. One such aspect was the fact that you could transfer your licenses, some of the cars in your garage and overall save data to Gran Turismo 2. It was not a complete free ride as you would still have to take part in some license challenges, but the Class B and A license was unlocked if you already did so in the original. You see, Gran Turismo 2 continued with what worked in the original. You’d have to earn your license before being allowed to take part in an event, depending on the restrictions.
You’d also only started with 10.000 credits that would buy you a semi decent car. Buy a car that’s around 5.000 credits and you had another 5.000 to upgrade something on the car before entering your first race. That’s the real beauty about the Gran Turismo series. Seeing an ugly duckling piece of rust being turned into a turbo charged swan is a rewarding feeling. New to Gran Turismo 2 was the availability of used cars. Though there were no visible damage features at the time, you would still have to replace the oil and upgrade your car accordingly.
Cars were divided into four regions – East, South, West and North. East stocked Japanese cars (the biggest chunk of the lot), South hosted American cars, West was the place to buy Italian and French cars (both Ferrari and Lamborghini was missing because of license issues) and in the North region you’d find British and German vehicles. Just about all the big name manufactures were represented in GT2. Once you bought a car you’d have to return to that manufacturer to tune your car. Your muffler, brakes, engine, drive train, turbo, suspension, tyre and others (including weight reduction and more) could be altered, changed, improved, decreased or replaced as required. Fit a custom gearbox and you’d be able to change up your gear ratio to work for a specific track. You could also visit the wheel shop and buy some spiffy rims and take it to a car wash after a race to make it all shiny and clean – though I never quite understood that as there was no visible detail changes on the car in-game anyway. It was just something cool to do I guess. But there was something else new to the game that took centre stage at the time – Rally events.
In the late 90’s and early 2000’s there was a massive demand for rally games. Colin McRae Rally and V-Rally were selling well and it was time for Gran Turismo 2 to get in on the act. Tracks and official cars were limited, but what was there was an enormous amount of fun. You could also take just about any car for a rally drive. As long as you could fit rally tyres you were good to go, though it was not always the best of plans. Overall there were 27 tracks to race on, whereof the Laguna Seca was the big new real-world inclusion. Of course the classics like Trial Mountain and Deep Forest Raceway were hits, but the Seattle and Rome circuits brought a new style to the series.
To complete the game 100% took many, many hours and is still regarded as one of the best in the series to date. Play it today and you’ll find that the game has definitely aged and that it’s not quite as realistic as you remember it being. What it has not lost is the fun you’ll be having while doing any of the above mentioned stuff.
Gran Turismo 2 can be picked up for next to nothing these days and if you want a trip down racing simulation memory lane there is no other sim racer that’ll quite match this classic.