Sega has long been the leader in online gaming, so it's ironic that their beloved GT racer has come late to the Xbox Live party. Since the release of Sega GT 2002
nearly a year and a half ago, fans have been waiting for the online addition to emerge. After a few delays Sega GT Online
is finally here -- and for the measly cost of $20. For laying down a single Andrew Jackson, gamers get every last ounce of the original GT 2002
, 40 new cars, new parts, and online play over Xbox Live. The price is ideal, but is the game too long in the tooth to be worth it?
Sega GT Online's
- Over 165 licensed cars!
- Buy parts to upgrade your car
- Trade parts and cars online
- New tracks added to sprinkle some variety into your races
- Time-initiated events reward you for playing while on holiday
- Race for parts, cars, and glory online against up to 11 other drivers
biggest boost is the fact that it contains an already great game in Sega GT 2002
and adds online to it. We've previously reviewed the original however, so rather than retread over old ground, I'm focusing on the new aspects of Sega GT
. If you want to learn more about the customization options found in Sega GT 2002 Mode, the awesome Chronicle Mode, or an in-depth look at handling and overall game mechanics, check out our review of Sega GT 2002
. Go on now, make with the reading and then get your ass back in here for what really matters -- does this game rock online or what?
When taking a game online, game customization (altering the rules of the game to fit your liking) and the variety of game modes are two of the biggest issues. Sega GT Online handles both relatively well by offering up nearly a half-dozen game modes (a couple of them novel in idea if not execution) and the ability to choose the type of cars you want in a given race. When hosting your own match, you can choose to race only Mazda's or only cars by Italian manufacturers, for example. Not bad. Neither is the idea of five separate game modes, but unfortunately the majority of the online game modes are just your typical race with little variance from mode to mode.
Free Battle: Your standard racing mode where up to six racers can get on a track and race to the finish. Battle for 12: This separate mode allows up to twelve racers to battle it out for dominance. What's the difference? Uh... no clue. Why are these separated into two different modes? Umm.... no idea. Competition: Sega-sponsored tournaments where gamers choose from a small selection of cars in a standard race. The winner's time is posted and at the end of the competition (the length varies, but you can expect it to generally last one to two weeks) the top time wins a new downloadable car or extra goodie. Smart idea... go Sega! Team Battle: A relay race where one member races to a certain spot and the next team member takes control of the car and continues forward. Nice idea, but it's not much fun and I've only seen it hosted one time in two weeks of online play. Navigation Battle: Sega's answer to rally racing, the driver has a fogged up window so they can see nothing in front of them and the navigator calls out turn directions and warns about cars on your tail -- a gutsy idea that is no fun for either player. Trading: Okay, so this isn't an actual game mode, but in Free Battle, gamers can offer trades to one another for cars, parts, goodies, and straight up cash. If you've got the dough, you can buy a souped up car from another player or swap cars. It's a nice function and the only truly worthwhile online aspect of GT Online.
Even though WOW and Sega have provided a couple of interesting new game modes to the online racing genre, they don't work very well and, frankly, no one online seems to have any desire to play them. If only the other aspects of Sega GT Online were solid, this wouldn't be a bad pick-up, but when looking at WOW's online update, there's only frustrations stacked on top of more frustrations. For those who played and mastered Sega GT 2002 there's a small peace offering for playing the new Sega GT Online. While it was originally thought that you could transfer your entire garage from one game to the other, in truth you can only ship over your cash and any of the goodies (the crap you hang up in your office) to your new Online save. All of your personal records, tricked out cars, and fond memories must stay behind. Pretty stupid, if you ask me. If you can send over the cash, why wouldn't you be able to transfer cars? After all, while GT Online offers over three-dozen new cars, it still has every car from the original.
Once you've sold off all your Sega GT 2002 cars and transferred your money to GT Online you still need to contend with the poor online mechanics. Cars handle just as well online as off, but the online interface is as bad as it gets. Using optimatch shows a list of all available games (you can specify game modes and car models for very specific searches), but the results, which are supposed to show 10 games per page, list every available race all the way down the screen and on top of the menu overlays, making any game past #10 almost impossible to read. Nice to know the testers were overpaid on this game. Games which are already in progress show too, though rarely note that they are in progress. Try to join one and the game will start to load only to kick you back to the main lobby with a simple "That race is already in session" apology. Thanks to this idiocy, I spent my first 40 minutes online just trying to get into a viable race.
The bad design doesn't end there. For whatever reason, when some games end you get booted to the main lobby and others, like Battle for 12, return you to the game lobby with all the people you just raced with. Why would some instances boot you to the curb (a practice every online developer appeared to have learned to avoid by now) and others let you stay with the group you just raced with? I'd understand if WOW just made a stupid mistake and always booted you to the main lobby after each race, but the fact that sometimes you don't get the boot makes for a heavy head scratch.
Ah, but none of these complaints compares to the worst mistake of all. In any race, when the first place finisher earns the checkered flag, the race immediately stops. That's right, the race stops. There is no jockeying for second place, no battle to avoid coming in last, no chance to at least earn some personal satisfaction by finishing strong. When the race is won, it's over in an instant. It's really annoying, especially because it puts all the emphasis on coming in first. There's no reward for second place. Consider that there are records kept on each race. Now, if I'm in second, just barely behind the lead car, and we are both doing better than the record mark, even though I come in second place, my time (which is faster than the previous best) should still be allowed into the prestigious top ten as the second best time recorded online by anyone else. But since the race ends immediately after first place is determined, my chance at getting some online recognition is squashed.
So that's a hell of a lot of negatives for this game, but there are a couple of sunny spots. For one thing, racing online is fun. It's nice to get in there and try to punch past a half-dozen other real drivers. Since you can use your garage cars, with all the upgrades purchased playing the Sega GT 2002 mode, racing two of the same cars against one another still offers a unique experience. One may have a few different upgrades than the other, making for a more dynamic race. For those people wanting something closer to Gran Turismo than the more arcadey Project Gotham Racing 2, this is a decent alternative. And, of course, it's priced at a mere 20 bones. But be aware that there's a lot more drawbacks than pluses here. Graphics
Remember when I said this review would focus on online? Well, now comes the tricky part. See, I still have to judge the overall merits and value of Sega GT Online as a whole as a new Xbox title in 2004 and that requires a re-examination of the graphics. Unfortunately for WOW, Project Gotham Racing 2 came out late last year with eye-popping, realistic visuals. Even without the beauty of PGR 2 for comparison, Sega GT looks outdated. There are so many jaggies and so much shimmer, it seems like Sega went out of their way to be as much like Gran Turismo 3 as possible. The cars still look fantastic, but the environments remain rather ho-hum and lacking in any personality and the textures lack any of the real-world grit that's becoming standard for an Xbox racer. This one's an aging starlet that's lost a lot of its shine.
As for online, the good news is I never experienced any lag when controlling my car, even with twelve cars on the track. The framerate remained steady for my car, again even with a dozen people playing, and the environment streamed past perfectly. However, even with only four people racing, every one of my opponent's cars would skip frames like crazy. Racing behind the lead car was like watching an epileptic time traveler. There was never a smooth moment watching another car. They jumped forward, backward, left, and right, even though the driver's themselves had no problems controlling the cars, my perception was screwed thanks to a less obvious case of lag. And all of the other drivers, every last one of them, experienced the same problem when I passed them. As long as no one else is on the screen with you, everything is honky-dory. But, well, what's the fun of racing online if you can't enjoy going neck and neck against another driver?
Just as with Sega GT 2002, the sound here is fantastic. Each car engine hums a different tune and sounds change as you upgrade the parts of your car. The screeches and clunks from hitting walls come off with the perfect amount of realism. Any time you're in your car, the sound is good enough to eat. However, in the menus Sega GT Online sings a bit out of key. The default menu songs are pretty cheesy and not worthy of anyone's ears. Fortunately, there are a number of extra tracks, including a bevy or great indie songs, and you can rip soundtracks from your hard drive to the game with ease.
Online, there are a few sound blips worth mentioning. Often other voices break up from some audio lag. Otherwise, the game sounds remain intact, except when you play in a Battle for 12. For whatever reason, every game I played with more than eight people suffered some sound effects dropouts. Playing with a full dozen lost every screech of my e-brake turns and the thunk of bumper-on-bumper action. With that exception, things go smoothly online.
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