When I finally got my hands on an Xbox one of the first games I bought was Sega GT 2002. Although Sega GT wasn’t perfect, I still have fond memories of all the time I spent playing it on the Dreamcast. I figured Sega GT 2002 could only be better since it’s on the Xbox, right? Well, I can’t say it’s a masterpiece but nor can I say it’s trash, it’s just different. I’m not sure where the development team was going with this one, but Sega GT 2002 feels hit or miss in many of its attempted aspects.
This time around the player is presented with Official races and Event races. Official Races are a prerequisite to unlock a license test, so yes licenses are still a thing, except they’ve become even more odd. In Sega GT you had a list of time trials to choose from, but only needed to complete one to acquire the license. In Sega GT 2002 you’re given a set amount of races that will unlock a single license time trial. During this license time trial you can do all the crazy wall banging and off track skidding you want, but this time there is a judgement bar on the right-hand side of the screen that will slowly reduce with each infraction. So while you can drive like a complete maniac, it’s ill advised to do so as once the meter is empty your attempt is disqualified. Even though these are a bit more restrictive than Sega GT, it’s far more lenient than Gran Turismo while still teaching us to watch out for small missteps. This is the way license tests should be done.
Event races are your basic races for money and prizes. The roster for event races isn’t very large, but most of them change up what track they’re at, giving the illusion of there being more content than there actually is. One thing that does excite me about event races is drag racing, something that even Gran Turismo couldn’t do. In terms of racing, in general, my only frustration is the fact that there is a damage meter on the right-hand side for all normal races that ticks down the amount of money you earn as prize money. You would think as long as you race a clean race you should be fine, right? Wrong! The AI in this game aren’t programmed to acknowledge your existence, causing them to crash into you and ruin your chance at a full payout in any given race. So you may run a very clean race, but you will rarely, if ever, come out unscathed at the end of a race thanks to the AI.
One thing that Sega GT 2002 tries to push, and if you ask me pushes it too hard, is the idea that the player is an amateur racer. The main menu screen, where you’ll spend all your off time between races, shows your car in your garage. A modest domicile with a modest garage, but once you step foot inside the garage, where you keep a bountiful amount of hidden cars apparently, you can decorate and show off all your race won trophies. To go a step further some vehicles can’t be sold at dealer ships, they have to be placed outside on your lawn with a For Sale sign in front of them. You can ask whatever price you want, but that doesn’t mean you’ll ever get it.
Despite the amateur racer ideology, the AI that refuses to acknowledge you exist and the sometimes frustrating lack of variety of event races to compete in, Sega GT 2002 isn’t all bad. This time around the car models and the textures look really good. The vehicles handle as to be expected from a simulation game of the early 2000s. The game seems fairly well balanced in terms of progress. I love to grind races over and over and earn money to buy better cars and upgrade them before I actually take them on the track to compete, but the game doesn’t force the player to do that. I’m really impressed with the drag racing too! I know drag racing isn’t that impressive compared to circuit racing to most people, but the fact it’s here, it’s done well and it’s actually pretty fun is impressive.
To paraphrase what I said at the very beginning: Sega GT 2002 isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s not trash either, it’s just different. That’s the best way I can put it. The Xbox was filled with great racing games such as the Project Gotham series, Forza Motorsports, the Midnight Club series, the Rallisport series, the list could go on and on, but Sega GT 2002 held its own. I don’t like the frustrating AI. I don’t like the lack of variety being swapped out for the race track changing when I exit and re-enter the Event races menu. I don’t like the forced amateur racer aspect that feels tacked on at the last minute, but you know what? I do genuinely like Sega GT 2002. It brought some of what Sega GT had to offer to the Xbox and while I feel it failed at trying to do its own thing, I think it’s still a good enough game to play through. After playing this game for a few hours to write this editorial I found myself hooked all over again. If that’s not a good enough endorsement for this game, I don’t know what else I could say. There is a Sega GT Online, but I’ve never been able to find a copy. From what I understand it’s a bit beefier version of 2002 with a more online focused style.