When Sega GT 2002 rolled out for the Xbox, gamers were plenty excited. The Xbox finally had a racing title that might just compete with Sony’s Gran Turismo series. Or would it? After all the hype, most of us found it to be a slightly above average racer that could’ve used a little more time in the shop to make it road worthy. Some aspects of the game, such as the vehicle selection were good, while others, especially the physics and handling, were not so good. When held up against THQ’s MotoGP, arguably the standard for Xbox racing at the time, GT 2002 looked like a not-quite full-hearted effort. After just a few months, it seemed to fade from memory as we all started our countdown to Project Gotham Racing 2 and Need for Speed: Underground.
So now we have SEGA GT Online, the Xbox Live-enabled version of GT 2002. This updated GT comes with quite a few new cars and new parts to tune them with. Along with the three-dozen plus new cars are a handful of new tracks to race them on. Outside of these updates, this is the same game we played two years ago, and it shows. And if you’re thinking of buying it just because it’s online-enabled, you’d best spend your $20 (U.S.) elsewhere, as Sega GT Online’s online mode is a pretty un-fun experience to say the least. We’ll cover that in a bit, but first, here’s a quick overview of what you should expect in general.
First and foremost, Sega GT Online should be praised for having plenty of cars and plenty of tracks. The problem is, they physics are sub-par. Cars tend to handle either too sluggishly or to skittishly, with very little in-between. Sure you can tweak the cars as you win races and earn money, but it’s frustrating to start the game with really boring cars .The AI routines are even more annoying, as one moment you can be a half a lap ahead of everyone else, then suddenly watch as the entire pack shoots past you. It’ll have you scratching your head as you run through your mental “what the heck?” checklist. Bump a wall? No. Hit the brakes too hard? No. It just seems the AI decides it doesn’t like being so far behind and so the magic teleporter appears and puts those cars right behind (or directly in front) of you.
The graphics in Sega GT Online are dated by today’s Xbox standards, especially when held up against something like Project Gotham Racing 2 or Need for Speed: Underground. They look good, but they definitely can’t hold a candle to anything that’s come out in the last year. There’s also weird distortion effect that can really be a pain. It seems that it was meant to simulate heat coming off the track, but many times it just looks like everything has gone into super-soft focus and throws your view out of whack. The cars, while holding true to their real-world designs, lack any real pizzazz. The tracks are equally lifeless, which means they’ll get boring real fast. The same holds true for the sound, which simulates engine noise between various cars well, but otherwise feels so generic that you’d swear it was from an audio clipart package.
The online component of this game is where it really falls apart. The net code doesn’t seem to have been tested very well, as even small games seem to be laggy, with vehicles jumping all over the track. Fire up something like MotoGP 2 with the same group of friends online, and you won’t see anything like the lag you’ll see in GT Online. The lag’s not the only issue; the lobby system is pretty scattershot, too. You’ll join a game and just get randomly booted. I’ve never been booted so many times from a Live game before (actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been booted from one). When a race finishes, and it will finish the minute the guy in first crosses the finish line (no second, third or any other places), you’ll more often than not get booted back to the main screen. This “finish and boot” system will have you pulling your hair out as you try to hunt down those guys you were playing with for another match.
While the $20 price tag might seem like a great reason to pick up Sega GT Online, it’s not. If you’re a fan of SEGA GT 2002, then you probably still have it sitting around the house. In that case, just play that, since going online with it won’t add anything to the experience. If you’re new to the series, I’d suggest renting GT Online first to be sure you’re not throwing $20 away that could be put towards MotoGP 2, Project Gotham Racing 2, NFS: Underground or any of the other quality racers available.
- Gameplay: 6.5
- Graphics: 7
- Sound: 7
- Replay: 6
- Overall: 6.5
- Save your $20 to pre-order something better.
— Craig Falstaff