Gran Turismo 4 ReviewCain Dornan
There is no denying that the Gran Turismo series is the most highly praised racing series to ever hit the videogame scene. Ever since the debut of the original Gran Turismo on the Playstation, gamers around the world have been captivated by the unrivalled accuracy of the realistic simulation of each individual vehicle, coupled with the extensive library of playable vehicles and track accuracy to the finest detail. We anticipated a stunning, highly realistic racer, and in some aspects we got even more than that.
GT 4 is huge. Over seven hundred cars from eighty different manufacturers are available. Cars throughout the decades, ranging from the original Model T Ford through to the latest Ford GT are on offer, further stabilizing the fact that the Gran Turismo series offers the largest number of cars than any other racer currently available. Although manufacturers from Japan, America and the UK contain the largest amount of vehicles in the game, other countries, such as Australia, Spain and the Netherlands also make an appearance with a reasonable number of vehicles available.
GT4 also offers a large number of tracks from around the world. Numerous city courses, speedway and old inventive Gran Turismo favourites are on offer, combining to form a considerable number of courses.
Developer Polyphony Digital has spent a great deal of time ensuring that each individual vehicle controls almost exactly as it does in real life. This fact is clearly evident, as each vehicle controls almost entirely different from another.
Vehicle modification has been improved considerably since Gran Turismo 3. The inclusion of aftermarket parts, such as those from the famous HKS brand, make for a welcomed addition, offering a pleasing alternative for modification rather than being forced to use manufacturer-specific parts. Modifying your vehicle now affects your vehicle in a more realistic way, further improving the overall accuracy to the real world.
The Gran Turismo mode is the core of Gran Turismo 4, containing the main gameplay factors that combine to form the key attraction for gamers. Like its predecessors, the Gran Turismo mode is essentially the story mode, pitting you into the world of professional racing as a beginner who is eventually moulded into a world-class driver. In order to compete, you are required to complete specific tasks in order to obtain licenses. Each license enables you to race in specific events, with the higher licenses allowing you to compete in more difficult races. The tests that are conducted in order to obtain a license successfully teach increasingly more complex racing skills, allowing new gamers to acquire the skills required to successfully compete and win.
Those who have played the previous Gran Turismo titles will notice a significant change in the layout of the Gran Turismo mode. The menus and sections have been better sorted and is now easier to navigate. The central menu is displayed on a large, map-like basis, allowing easy and quick navigation through the numerous sub-menus on offer.
In the Gran Turismo mode, Home plays as your key area, in which you are able to switch between vehicles that you currently own, view photos that you have taken of your vehicles (which will be explained later), view your progression and other statistics on the game and trade vehicles between different memory cards. The key areas of the Home area have been considerably upgraded since GT3. You are now given the ability to search through your collection of cars by country, manufacturer and drivetrain. You are also able to separate your collection by the cars power and ride history. It is now possible to sell your vehicles directly from home, which is a definite welcomed addition considering the numerous cars that you will receive as prizes whos only real use is of monetary value.
Purchasing both new and used vehicles is now simpler than in previous Gran Turismo incarnations. To purchase a used vehicle, simply go to the sub-menu for the era that you desire, such as a late 80 or early 90 model. Purchasing a new car is as simple as going to the country of your desired vehicle and then selecting a manufacturer of your choice.
Once you have acquired your licenses, you are ready to participate in the numerous single-race and championship competitions that are on offer. Each race and competition is sorted by Beginners, Professional, Endurance Events and Special Conditions. Various other competitions also limit the type of vehicles able to enter, such as the cars country of origin. This allows for varied racing, with each race containing almost entirely different styles of competitors.
The Gran Turismo mode also offers a photo mode, which allows you to take pictures of your ride in numerous sceneries, such as atop a high cliff at the Grand Canyon or on a neon-lit street in Japan. Full control of the camera allows you to take pictures of your cars at almost any angle you wish. You are then able to save your favourite pictures and view them through your photo album, as mentioned earlier in this review.
The Arcade Mode has also received a huge facelift. Like the Gran Turismo mode, the Arcade Mode is now easier to navigate, with both the course and vehicles being more clearly displayed. Arcade is also home to the split-screen two-player mode, in addition to the new LAN event, allowing you to connect multiple Playstation 2 systems, which is more or less the replacement for full online support that, unfortunately, is absent from GT4. As you progress through the Gran Turismo mode, numerous additional tracks and vehicles will be unlocked for use in the arcade mode.
Considering the amazing realistic visuals, sound and gameplay, one would expect the AI competitors to be almost life-like. Unfortunately, this is not evident. It appears that the AI has not been enhanced in any way since Gran Turismo 3, which is a huge disappointment as the AI are considerably unintelligent in adapting to changing conditions. The AI will blindly smash through you, showing no attempt at slowing or swerving to miss you, even if your vehicle is parked stationary on a long straight. The AI sticks to the exact same route with each lap, only changing when bumped by a human player, although the AI-controlled vehicle is quick to return to its normal route. This lowers the challenge and excitement somewhat, as each lap feels extremely repetitive and artificial.
A Mission mode has also made a debut in GT4, requiring drivers to complete strict challenges that gradually increase in difficulty. The challenges usually require you to perform specific tasks such as overtaking an opponent on a limited amount of track or successfully drifting through a series of turns.
Polyphony Digital has also included a race manager mode, known as B-Spec. Rather than driving the car yourself as you do in the A-Spec mode, B-Spec takes you from out of the drivers set and into the control panel of a race manager. A range of options and commands are on offer, such as instructing your driver to increase or decrease their speed, overtake opponents or perform a pit stop. Although it does offer a relaxing change from the gameplay offered in the A-Spec mode, the B-Spec mode is quite boring, with the only real use being an easy money earner.
The attention to detail with each individual vehicle is simply outstanding. Ever small feature has been included for each and every car that is available. Pushing the Playstation 2 hardware to its absolute limits, Polyphony Digital has managed to make the cars look absolutely stunning; you would be hard done to find another racer whose car detail is this stunning. The lighting effects on the cars are jaw dropping, reflecting the surroundings perfectly and generally making the car fit in flawlessly with the surroundings.
On the negative side, the track sceneries are significantly less impressive. Vegetation remains to look like simple paper-cut-outs, with buildings and terrain being covered in jagged edgings and blurry features. 3D crowd models have managed to improve the look of the crowds somewhat, with the spectators on the rally stages gathering the most attention. Although they dont offer clear, realistic features, they have been significantly improved since GT3.
As with the previous Gran Turismo titles, GT4 offers a varied selection of mostly forgettable tracks. Some of the tracks are acceptable; some are even unnoticeable, whilst others quickly become an annoyance. Thankfully, Polyphony Digital now gives you the ability to freely modify your play lists, selecting which songs you wish to hear and how often you want them played. Although it doesnt make up for the ordinary line-up of songs, it significantly helps to rid the game of the numerous other songs that distract rather than adding to the atmosphere. Sadly, there is no ability to edit the menu playlist. With the Arcade Menus music being one of the most annoying songs that I have heared in a game for a considerable amount of time, being able to edit the menu music would have been very much appreciated.
Unlike the music, the sound effects are simply amazing. Everything from the unique growl of each engine through to the squeal of wheels sounds stunningly realistic. Once again Polyphony Digital has taken a large amount of time to ensure that everything sounds as close as possible to the real thing.
Despite Gran Turismo 4 feeling rather old and too similar to the previous titles in the series, once looking deeper into the game it is quite noticeable that GT4 offers considerably more depth than any of the previous titles in the series. Naturally, GT4 offers significantly more features, enhanced graphics and sound, huge selection of cars and tracks and an unprecedented realism. The simple fact is, GT4 continues the tradition of being the king of simulation racing.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.