Most people would be put off by the ugly graphics, anyone who can see past that will probably throw the controller out the window when trying to drive the cars in a straight line. Me? Well, I got past the graphics, I handled the handling and was rewarded with a consistently thrilling and challenging racing game. That turned out to be rather short. Ah well, such is life.
The most bemoaned aspect of this game has always been the handling. All contemporary reviewers rightly talked about the unique handling and you could just hear their eyes rolling. Question is: is it unique good, unique interesting or unique useless?
Note: I am playing the European edition of the game which, as I understand it, had the handling adjusted after virulent complaints about the Japanese release.
I'd like to call the handling 'unique interesting.' While it is certainly different from all other console racers, it is consistent, responsive and learnable. It does take a while to get right up to speed but once you do you'll be zipping around and drifting with the best of them. You do feel in control of the car and that it is taking a good deal of skill to get good lap times. It is satisfying to learn and master and extra satisfying to see the results in the game's excellent replays.
Graphics are eye-catchingly poor with clumsy visual effects and mountainous jaggies on every object. As with all games, however, the impressiveness or disappointment of the graphics diminishes rapidly after you load and the races are so challenging that you'll have no time to wonder why your shiny PlayStation 2 is playing a game that looks like it should be on an original PlayStation. On the subject of graphics, however, this game does feature some wonderfully directed replays. The lighting effects and choice of camera angles make your driving look better than in any other replay system on any other game.
- Division 3 completed.
- Division 2 completed.
- Division 1 completed.
- GT Division completed (game completed though this opens the One Make race on all tracks).
Driving Happy Type-S
- Outstanding lighting effects for rendering car headlights, sun glare and trackside lights.
- Funky depth-of-field effect that exists in-race and in replay and does help the replays look more convincing. If only the jaggies weren't there.
- Replays are good, energetically directed and generally make your good driving look amazing. In particular, opposite lock moments (frequent in this game) look better here than in, I think, any other game (up to 2005).
- Handling aside, race difficulty is very well-pitched allowing for challenging and close races (until the GT class where your first car is super-fast).
- Super-smooth in-race graphics.
- Excellent track design (shame there are only five original courses in three locations).
- Almost every car you receive as a reward, you are pleased to get. (The exceptions are the estates and people-carriers.)
- Dashboard modelling for all cars (sadly the in-car view is extraordinarily difficult to use).
Driving Sad Type-S
- Huge loading times to get into the race for the first time, I'm talking enough time to go the toilet or grab a drink.
- Eye-catchingly awful jaggies everywhere you look.
- Clunky in-race car models, they are good enough but only just.
- No auto-save
- No auto-load
- Doesn't remember your favoured driving view, it always starts with in-car
- No widescreen mode
- Line Training mode not needed and Autocross challenges (4 of them) therein are impossible to complete thanks to funny handling.