Summary: Living life a quarter mile at a time is for the dull and uninspired. Life should be about carving through twisties, hitting those apices, and maintaining the perfect line. For most of us, this life began with Gran Turismo. Read on to learn more about the fourth generation Real Driving Simulator.
North American gamers may be the most thirsty for a new Gran Turismo game, as we were deprived of the GT Concept games that were released in Asia and Europe. Those games were like standalone arcade expansion packs that used a slightly upgraded GT3 engine but featured six tracks (one new) and the latest concept vehicles, such as the new Skyline GT-R. When GT4 arrives this winter, it’s quite likely that any grudges against Sony for holding out on us North American gamers will all be water under the bridge.
Super Information Speedway
If GT3 was the game that made us all run out and buy a PS2, then GT4 could be the game that will make us grab a Network Adapter. That’s right, online play. You’ll be able to hop online and put your ham-fisted driving technique to the test against up to five other players. While few details were revealed about GT4’s online play, we can probably expect a stat tracking system. Sony’s current flagship online game Socom features a ranking system, so GT4 should have at least that. Whether or not you’ll be able to race against the top players’ ghost cars is still unknown to us, but it’d definitely be a very cool feature. Rumor has it that Sony wants the GT4 Online experience to be more than just racing – a community of car enthusiasts they claim.
SIDEBAR: There are two versions of Gran Turismo Concept. One was a 2001 edition featuring cars from the Tokyo Motor Show. The other is a 2002 edition which added new cars from the Geneva Auto Show.
If you want to know more about the GT games North America never got to play, look out for our hands-on review of GT Concept 2002 coming soon.
Polyphony Digital has gone to great lengths to provide realistic driving environments, especially in the “showcase” street track New York City, which will feature real landmarks down to the billboards. That doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to hop into your Evo and play the most realistic Grand Theft Auto 3 driving sequence yet (i.e., mowing down pedestrians), but rather it’s similar to what we’ve seen from games like Project Gotham Racing – closed streets, enclosed areas.
Authenticity and attention to detail is what sets Gran Turismo apart from other racers. Polyphony Digital is constantly looking at ways to improve the breed. GT3 set the standard for car-game physics (drafting, anyone?), and this new game is looking to take realism and accuracy up another notch. It all starts with getting exact data and specs for each of its featured cars. Polyphony Digital made many special “field trips” out to capture data. Hundreds, if not thousands of photographs are taken of every vehicle. Cars are ‘mic’ed’ and their sounds from idle to redline are recorded. Numerous measurements of dimensions are made. In fact, one bloke who owns a 1971 TVR Vixen Series 3 had his car inspected and probed by Polyphony Digital. He wrote up a little piece on the experience, which you can inspect and probe for yourself.
SIDEBAR: Tsukuba and Laguna Seca are nice and everything, but I would just love to be able to take a GT run through the famous Nurburgring.
The ‘ring, as it is called, is located in the Eifel mountains of Germany and features some of the most challenging 13.5 miles of track in Europe. Plus, the Nurburgring uses BMW M5’s as taxi cars!
Their driving is real, but they are not
The artificial intelligence is supposed to be significantly different in GT4 when compared to the older games. The AI-controlled cars will now be more mindful of their surroundings, avoiding bumps and nudges where possible. Hopefully this means that your rear won't get mindlessly humped by the cars behind you – they'll swerve and avoid if you enter a corner too hot (but in the E3 demo this was not the case).
Races will now be closer than they have been in the past because of the new AI. In GT3, you could finish a race tops and waaaay ahead of some of the lesser competition. In GT4, no car will lag behind to the point of embarrassment. While more formidable competition is always a Good Thing, this new AI “feature” worries us because we don’t know exactly how it will work. Does this mean that all slower cars will receive a small amount of “catch up boost” as a handicap adjustment? Some of the fun in racing games is completely obliterating everyone else in lap times. Those familiar with Mario Kart 64 should understand what a “cheating” AI can do to fun factor. But we’re going to give Polyphony Digital benefit of the doubt and assume that this won’t be some simple “cheating” AI.
SIDEBAR: I wonder if Gran Turismo’s car model is detailed enough to take into account small, model-specific things such as Nissan’s HICAS (High Intelligence Control Active Steering) system found on Skylines and Silvias.
What about other active, trick differential systems like Mitsubishi’s AYC/ACD or Subaru’s DCCD?
The metropolitan track of New York City we saw was also quite impressive. The developers have managed to squeeze a little more out of the PS2 hardware and now the textures are of a higher resolution than in GT3. We’re still dealing within the confines of PS2 memory limitations, however, so texture detail is still shy of matching some of the new Xbox racers. Unfortunately, aliasing continues to plague GT4 in the same manner that it did GT3.
Car modeling and reflection are supposedly improved, but we didn’t notice the extra effort. It’s a testament to how good the models were in GT3. Contrary to early rumors, GT4 will not feature any vehicular damage. No matter how many times you introduce Mr. Bumper to Ms. Guardrail, your car’s shape will remain perfect.
SIDEBAR: Mitsubishi sponsored the brainless Hollywood flick 2 Fast 2 Furious. That would explain the Eclipse and Evolution VII placements in the movie.
When it comes to car fiction, Initial D is still the only one for me.
If it ain’t broke…
From our initial impressions, GT4 played much like the GT3 we are used to from home. That should surprise no one, as this is the series that touts itself as the real driving simulator. GT3 was already pretty darned close to reality. Perhaps it’s better to think of the Gran Turismo series as an automobile – a new platform comes out every few years, but in-between those are small, detail oriented “freshenings.” GT4 seems to be an evolution of GT3, just like GT2 was in relation to GT1.
All that matters is that a new Gran Turismo game is coming this winter – and that’s enough to excite any racing fan.
SIDEBAR: Are you counting the days until GT4 hits store shelves or are you still waiting for a PC port? Chat with others about Gran Turismo and PC racing in the news comments!
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