GRAPHICS: Disturbingly realistic, right down to the glint of the sun on your windshield.
ADDICTIVENESS: Full throttle.
ANTI-SOCIAL FACTOR: Horrifying, unless your friends also have the game.
PROXIMITY TO THE REAL THING: Don't try this in your Civic.
sony's gran turismo series is the most popular video game line on the planet for a reason.There are thousands of driver simulators out there, most of which use real cars and real circuits and duplicate the sensation of driving at 150 miles per hour as well as possible, but nothing comes close to the GT.
This is a driver's game with the obsessive player in mind. Yes, there is an arcade element to GT3: players can instantly plug themselves into a race and play. But that's not what the game is all about.
The essence of GT3 is its race simulator mode. You begin with a cheap car and have to build yourself up over time.
This involves getting various driver's licences -- harder than it sounds -- and placing well in races so you can win the cash to buy better cars and build up the ones you have.
That can take months, but the deeper you get into the game, the more you realize how close it is to the real thing. The cars offered are precise replicas of the actual models, and they all handle differently depending on what you've done to them and where you're driving.
You could spend days at a time tweaking settings to shave a second or two off your time, and it's a sign of how seriously this game is taken that there's an entire section of the manual given over to practice techniques, complete with geometrical drawings on cornering speed and appropriate turn angles.
GT3 isn't the easiest and most accessible driving game out there, but it is the best. Say goodbye to your summer.
GRAN TURISMO 3 A-SPEC for Sony PlayStation 2, $70. Rating: NNNN