To say that I am a fan of racing games would be an understatement. I have beaten the Gran Turismo series to death, and the simulator doesn’t exist that I can’t master inside of a half hour. In real life, it isn’t much different. I have had the distinct privilege of having had the doors blown off the car I was in by a Ferrari F-50. I have met personally, and had the doors blown off the car I was in by Lamborghini’s chief test driver in a Diablo 6.0. Which says a couple of things: for one thing, my car isn’t that fast; secondly, I’m a car nut extraordinaire. Now, digressing from my credentials to the subject at hand. I had laid my hands on an X-Box some time ago and have pretty much mastered two of its handful of racing titles. Project Gotham Racing (PGR) by Bizarre Creations was the second game for the X-Box that I played, right after Halo. Sega GT 2002 (SGT) is a more recent conquest, holding me over until one of my friends got Brute Force. For two games that both involve driving production cars at high speeds, these titles would have a hard time being any more different. Honestly, you look at some feature that both games address, and odds are they are polar opposites.
PGR: Car models show damage in the form of paint scrapes, crumpled body panels, and broken lights and mirrors.
SGT: Cars look spotless but damaged parts can affect performance during a race, and any repair costs are subtracted from that race’s winnings. A Monetary bonus is given for completing a race with no damage.
PGR: One can select which pretty color they want on their car as they race
SGT: Customization options include adding aftermarket engine and suspension components as well as weight reductions and tires. One can also adjust suspension settings and boost pressure on turbo cars.
Item: Car selection
PGR: No grocery getters in this lineup. Notable marques include Ferrari, Lotus, Aston Martin, TVR, and Porsche. Quality makes up for the relatively short (29 cars) list.
SGT: You have probably seen 80% of these cars on the street around your town at some point. Only notable exceptions are some 80’s concept cars, the Ford GT-40 and GT Concept, and Lotus. Quite a few cars are available on the game, but only a handful are really worth considering.
Even the physics engines are nearly completely different. The SGT engine is pretty unforgiving of improper turning and braking maneuvers. If one panics and yanks the thumbstick while braking, they will likely slide straight into the wall/gravel trap/ car in front of them. Unfortunately this is taken to the extreme and will happen nearly as readily at 50mph as it will at 140mph. PGR on the other hand is tailored to allow just such shenanigans. While panic steering and braking at 140 still has the aforementioned negative result of sliding, doing so at say, 50mph and then liberally applying the right trigger produces a nice power-slide which is rewarded with “kudos” which are the Bizarre peoples’ version of money. From my experiences with real cars, PGR physics are more accurate. The SGT physics would be accurate if you were on nearly bald tires in the rain. Furthermore, the behavior of individual cars is somewhat suspect in SGT. The viper, corvette, and GT-Concept all don’t handle well at all without modification, while other cars like the venerable 240-Z and 300ZX act like they are on fly-paper. Just so everyone gets this straight: The Viper and Corvette are a couple of the best handling cars in the world despite what all the Gran-Turismo geniuses would have you believe. Basically, if anyone tells you that a Viper handles like crap, he or she is an idiot and you should ignore anything further they say about automobiles in general. Or, you could play PGR and become a believer in the fun one can have with a powerful front engine rear drive car, since it treats most all of the cars as they should be.
The one aspect of the games that likens them are the retarded A.I.s, but even those differ on their levels of retardation. The PGR opponent A.I. ranges from shady to downright malicious. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been punted or pinched into a wall, or spun into a barrier on the last turn of a race. The only thing that kept me from wanting to throw something was the fact that the computer cars would also do the same things to each other, often with spectacular results. The SGT A.I. is about the reverse. If they weren’t playing at being Michael Schumacher and driving off on you they were literally stumbling over themselves to get out of your way. Throughout the game I maybe twice got knocked around to the detriment of my finishing position.
As for my personal likes and dislikes, I tend to favor PGR on the whole by a decent margin. It has a better physics engine, better graphics, has more multiplayer modes, a better car selection, better music, better sound*, and is generally more enjoyable to play.
*The sound in both of these games is severely lacking, but PGR sounds at least passable with the use of a good sub. I use the bumper-cam when I drive, so I at least want the car to sound good if I’m not going to be able to see it.
The one thing that I liked about SGT that left me hanging a bit in PGR is the amount of time that a particular car remains useful. In SGT once you purchased or won a decent chassis (a Lotus Esprit V-8 in my case) that car can be used for nearly the duration of the game with proper tuning and good driving. This allows the player to pick a car they like and just go with it. PGR, however, forces the player to trade up every few thousand Kudos or so. Starting when the Ferrari 355 is unlocked, you cannot unlock more than two cars without trading up and still make progress in the game. So, for instance, if you are a hardcore fan of the Skyline GTR, and you unlock it, it will remain useful for about two levels of the kudos challenge before you need to go win the quickraces and unlock the 355, or try your luck beating the Corvette in a woefully underpowered car on a hilly course. Now, I’m not suggesting that PGR allow customization, since that would defeat the purpose of the game, but a little more car longevity would be nice.
Final analysis: If you are really jonesing for some Gran Turismo action, but don’t have a PS-2, then Sega GT is at least worth a rental to see if it is something that you could play. But if you don’t care about customization, and all you want is a quality racing title, PGR is the game for you.