Reviewed: May 28, 2003
Released: April 1, 2003
Competitive horse racing is one of mankindís most ancient sports and can be traced back to the nomadic tribesmen of Central Asia who first domesticated horses in 4500 BC. For thousands of years, horse racing has flourished as the sport of nobility and kings; however, modern day horse racing exists primarily as a major venue for legalized gambling.
Horseracing is the second most widely attended U.S. spectator sport after baseball, and is equally as popular in Europe and Japan. Leave it to the Japanese to think of turning this sport into a computer games. Actually, Gallop Racer 2003: A New Breed isnít the first horse racing sim to come along. The series actually got its start back in 2001, but after two years Tecmo has seriously upgraded the franchise with new game modes that will appeal to a larger group of gamers.
After about a week of racing, betting, and breeding (horsesÖhorses!) Iím only starting to get the hang of things, and while I probably wonít be dropping this weekís paycheck on the ponies Iíll certainly have some fun wagering virtual dollars on virtual horses.
Gallop Racer 2003 is a simulation first and foremost so be prepared to do a lot of micromanagement. The actual racing isnít what you might expect if you are coming from any other type of racing game. Horse racing, or at least horse racing as represented in this game is all about getting off the line, maintaining that perfect pace, and saving enough energy for that extra burst of speed on the homestretch.
Much like real horse racing the horses will run on their own and follow the natural path of the track. All that you need to do as the jockey is creatively use that riding crop to urge your steed to victory at just the right moment. While this level of non-interactivity may turn off a lot of gamers donít worry, there is plenty to do before and after the actual race.
More than half of the game is devoted to what goes on behind the actual race including buying, managing, and eventually breeding your horses in hopes of getting the next Citation or Seattle Slew. A New Breed is a great subtitle since there are more than 3,000 horses waiting to be discovered and raced. If you play nothing else for the next year you probably wonít complete this game. Even more amazing is that each and every horse has their own original (and often wacky) name.
If you are a stranger to horse racing or even horses then you will appreciate the mandatory tutorials that will walk you through all the basics. Most of these concentrated on simpler aspects of horse racing as a computer game, but I would have enjoyed and benefited from some more expert instructions geared toward the actual sport.
Gameplay is pretty straightforward but navigating the complex menu tree could prove to be your biggest challenge of the game. There were times I was going back and forth looking for the screen where I needed to be. It just wasnít very well organized, but itís nothing you wonít figure out eventually.
Since this is my first exposure to the Gallop Racer series or even horse racing as a game Iím not sure how to qualify the visuals. I never played the first but I checked out some screenshots and I can say with reasonable assurance that A New Breed look significantly better than its predecessor.
The horses look amazing, and considering they are the focus of the entire game I would expect no less. They are beautifully modeled and textured, and the animation is flawless. You would swear you could see the powerful muscles rippling beneath their velvety skin texture. The tracks look really good, complete with populated grandstands, trees, and realistic textured grass. Even the jockeys look good bouncing up and down, leaning with the horse and using their crops.
If you enjoy hanging out at the mall listening to hours of soothing Muzak then you can lose yourself in the easy-listening tunes found in Gallop Racer 2003. The rest of the game is pretty much your standard horse noises. Having never stepped foot near a stable I canít vouch for their authenticity but they all sounded pretty convincing to me. They even throw in some realistic crowd cheers during the race, but the racing is oddly silent. Some exciting commentary would have gone a long way toward recreating an authentic racing experience.
If you never play another PS2 game you may finish this one before you die. If you quit your job and become a recluse you may even finish Gallop Racer 2003 before the 2004 version ships Ė assuming there is a 2004 version. With 3,000 horses and an assortment of gameplay modes and mini-games you wonít be looking anywhere else to satisfy your horse fetish.
Obviously, Gallop Racer 2003: A New Breed is about horse racing, but it also includes diversionary games for those who want to simply bet on the horses or perhaps try their hand at selectively breeding the next Triple Crown winner. There is something here to interest anyone who cares about horses or horse racing; all others may want to steer clear of this unique, but delightful title.