Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (GT3) is an anomaly for me. It is the only Gran Turismo I didn’t buy shortly after its release and it is the only title in the franchise that I didn’t overtly obsess over. There are some very good reasons for this.
First, Gran Turismo 3 was released for the PlayStation 2 (PS2) console in the spring of 2001. I was just wrapping up the end of my second year of university and wasn’t in a place to be able to afford a new gaming console.
In the summer of 2002, I moved into a new house with a few good friends. It was a tiny two-story, three-bedroom house that looked directly at the Windsor/Detroit border crossing. It had no actual driveway, but we could park in the backyard by hoping the curb at a nearby public pay parking lot. There was no air conditioning, a real problem during the summer in Windsor, Ontario, and every time there was a large thunderstorm, the basement would flood.
An Opportunity Arises
About to enter my final year of university in the fall, I was the only student left in house as everyone else had graduated and worked full-time jobs. That allowed them to afford a few luxuries, like my friends who had a plethora of video game consoles, including a PlayStation 2. They said if I bought GT3, I could use their console.
I didn’t need to be told twice.
I scrounged up every penny I could find, sold a kidney and cleaned the gutters of elderly neighbours until I had enough cash to by the game. Already blown away by the graphics and physics of PlayStation 2 games like Grand Theft Auto 3, I couldn’t wait to try the game out.
It’s Finally Mine
I arrived home and decided it was best to go full recluse and take the PS2 up to my room. None of my roommates would be interested in my fawning over vehicle specifications, racing set-ups and track configurations.
It was a typical summer day; my room was probably bordering on 40 degrees Celsius. The one window in my room was painted shut, offering no relief. But I didn’t care. I was about to once again immerse myself into the world of Gran Turismo.
Immediately I noticed how much better the graphics were with this new game. The level of detail in each car, the realism of the shadows and reflections were mind blowing. I immediately declared it can’t get any better than this (spoiler – it has, significantly. Look at the Gran Turismo 7 trailer). The soundtrack was good, but not the absolute banger that was featured in Gran Turismo 2.
Less Cars, More Focused
Gran Turismo 3: A-spec only featured 185 cars. I know, only 185 cars while most games at that time were lucky to have over 30. But Gran Turismo 2 had included 650 cars so this was a big decrease. The main factor was the level of detail in each new car for this new platform restricted the number that could be included.
This led to some curious manufacture lots in the game. BMW offered a singular 328ci and Chrysler proudly showed off the PT Cruiser as it’s loan entry. I was happy that the C5 Corvette and Pagani Zonda were included in the game as well as those not-really-F1-cars-but-yeah-they-were-really-F1-cars.
Only 19 raceways were on tap with a mix of original and new tracks. Other features had been pulled out of this game as well like the used car lot which made me sad, as I loved checking in to see what new deals were available in Gran Turismo 2.
A lot of my university days are a bit hazy, but I do remember immediately finding the gameplay slower compared to previous versions of Gran Turismo. I don’t mean the game was actually slower, but the sensation of speed was dialed back to better reflect the real-world performance of each car. It was now more crucial to be precise in every braking and cornering movement. This was a more refined racer.
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec was less about automotive obsession and more about actual racing.
But for me, it never caused the same obsession the previous, and subsequent, Gran Turismo titles did. Maybe it was the fact I got into it late and could only play it when able to borrow my friend’s PS2. But I did get my own console six months later, yet I still never continued play. It is the only game in the entire series I do not still own a copy of.
What’s Old is New Again
Looking back on things, GT3 was the closest game in the Gran Turismo franchise to the current Gran Turismo Sport – a game with the purpose of making Gran Turismo more about racing and less about car collecting.
Just like Gran Turismo Sport, the internet is torn about GT3. Some absolutely love it, but others like me, find it one of the weakest entries in the series. My fun with Gran Turismo has always been collecting as many cars as possible. I spend hours comparing their performance to each other on various tracks. I couldn’t care less about generic online racing or head-to-head competition. I want to test cars (solo or with friends) at various levels of tune against each other.
Luckily, Polyphony Digital has always understood their fan base; their entire fan base. After producing the hardcore racer GT3, a car collectors dream appeared with Gran Turismo 4. And now it looks like after Gran Turismo Sport, the upcoming Gran Turismo 7 will be a spiritual successor to Gran Turismo 2 and 4.
But back to Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, I did. I still completed all the races, challenges and licenses. I just spent less time playing after that was complete.
As I was researching and refreshing my memory on this game, aspects came back to me that I had forgotten about. Aspects I remember thoroughly enjoying. Maybe it is time to find a copy of GT3 and give it another try.
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