PS2 REVIEW: GRAN TURISMO 4

While I have to admit that Gran Turismo 4 is by far the best of the GT series, and also one of the best racing games on the market, it's still just a racing game. Sure it may be "the" racing game but it's still "just" a racing game. It doesn't cover any new ground - literally.

GT4 is a highly refined version of GT3. Virtually every aspect of this game has been painstakingly overhauled and refined. It's the ultimate version of GT3, but it fails to find its own identity as GT4. Of course this all means nothing if you've never played a GT game before. Taken for face value, GT4 is nothing short of brilliant even if we have seen it all before - we've just never seen it look so good.

With some 50 tracks, more than 700 vehicles and plenty of modes and challenges, GT4 mixes up the gameplay and offers countless hours of racing thrills. The graphics are absolutely stunning. I've never seen a better looking racing game on the PS2. The cars don't just shine and reflect like high polished, glossy plastic, they look exactly as you would expect them to in real life with lots of metal, chrome and glass. There's a mode in which you can take photos of your vehicles. You have to look real close to tell the images apart from real photos.

Realism is the name of the game, although there is an arcade mode for those times you just want some fast, reckless fun. The physics is nearly perfect and the cars handle great. Every bump, turn, curb and surface irregularity affects your performance. You can use the controller to great effect but if you really want to exploit the feel of the game you may want to look into the Driving Force Pro steering wheel. It's not perfect but it's an improvement over the controller. The 900-degree rotation causes for excessive steering movement which can cause you to miss some sharp turns. It's too bad the wheel's rotation isn't configurable to make it tighter. It also cost a fair bit of money so you would be advised to try it out before you buy it.

Races become increasingly more difficult as they get faster, requiring more powerful vehicles. The AI still needs work to keep things more realistic and challenging. As usual they tend to slow down around turns allowing you to take advantage and pass them. They also follow a predetermined path which is evident as they smash into other cars that are stopped along the track and make no attempt to veer to avoid the impact. The licensed vehicles don't display damage nor is the performance compromised by any implied damage.

One of the biggest disappointments is that the online modes have been forsaken. It was announced years ago that this fourth version would include online modes and that was something that I and probably a few hundred thousands gamers were looking forward to. Apparently the online mode was not perfected enough to be included in this version. It's due for release later this year. I don't want to sound pessimistic but I don't really feel like dishing out another $50 for a component that should have been included in this version. How convenient that this game is going to be made into a two-part series, considering that this version is an improved version of the third installment.

HDTV users will benefit the most from the graphics. They are sharp, clean and colorful. The tracks have been revisited and are more realistic than ever as every bump, turn, tree, wall and texture has been recreated to a degree of perfection not seen on this system. The surround sound further envelops you as you can hear the tires rumble on the ground, the wind rush past you and the scream of an aggressive vehicle as it attempts to overtake you on either side.

I should add that you can play this game via LAN but it's such a pain in the arse to organize as opposed to just going online. The two-player mode is fun and satisfying but there's no substitute for an entire course of human-controlled vehicles. Perhaps if the AI were better programmed you wouldn't miss the human interaction so much. The single-player races are more about negotiating the tracks for the best time as opposed to competing against other racers. It's easy to figure out the AI after replaying a course a few times. After a while they just seem to be in the way.

You're probably going to hear a lot about this game if you're into racing. If you're not a hardcore race fan, and you already own GT3, I would advise renting this first to see if enhancements are worthy of a purchase. You might want to wait until the release of the online version.

Preview by Chris
Gran Turismo may just be the best-known racing series out there for the PS2. A few may argue this fact yet without this series many of the other popular racing games we have come to love may have never been made. The GT series has evolved into a "gear heads" dream. Each game has brought new things and pushed the limits of the system with the graphics and the options available to the racing fans. It is true that the GT series is not for every racing fan. This may be due to the fact you need to tune and change major things with the cars. You either need to have some knowledge of automotives or get the strategy guide to do well. Sony has decided to push the limits once again in the graphics department while adding a new B-Spec mode (more on this later in the preview). It is no secret Sony is way behind the slated release date and the game will now be released in early December. It is also true that due to several problems during testing, the game will not feature an online mode according to the last announcement at the Tokyo Game show.

I understand fans of the series wanted an online mode. Sony is promising either to release an updated expansion disc or another game just for online play early in 2005. Sony has also suffered a few set backs with the new modes and the B-Spec mode. In case you have not heard, B-Spec is going to be a brand new mode where players can opt to let the CPU drive the event while still offering the gamer choices to make during the event. This new style will do 2 major things. First, it will make the game less intimidating to those who are not very familiar with gear ratios and other parts of a racing car. Secondly, it will add a mode that will allow the more experience players to sit back and act as the pit captain so to speak while bypassing some of the easier events for the more experienced with the game. In the B-Spec mode the CPU will actually make mistakes like a human driver. Players will follow the action through several cameras or as Sony is calling it the Racing Monitor. When your racer makes a mistake, you can tell the driver a list of commands and the CPU driver will listen and adjust to the style or instructions you just gave them. I am very interesting in seeing this in action for myself. Sony also has a few other things in mind and has not released a full list of features. Sony has not been giving out press material and it may be due to the problems they have encountered while making this one.

Graphically, the game looks amazing and will certainly run smooth while offering the racing fan a very realistic look and feel. GT4 will have a staggering 50+ tracks and over 300 camera positions. They are also making the game to work with most steering wheels out now in the stores. With Fans can expect the same great sound effects and even more added in GT4. I have read rumors that the game is not shipping and Sony does not want to announce this. I can assure you this was started by someone and spread like most rumors out there. Yes Sony has had trouble with certain modes and there have been delays. It happens every day with many games being made. The only reason you may hear about it in this case is that the GT series is popular and many are waiting to get there hands on it.

Take a look at the screen shots and you will see the detailed and polished graphics. If Sony releases any confirmed features or new modes, we will update the preview. It looks like Sony is adding options that will allow you to learn while still having fun. Sony looks to have a solid game here even though it may not have the online mode, but I am betting this one will have big sales during the Christmas season.

Press:

The biggest initial difference you'll notice between Gran Turismo 3 and Gran Turismo 4 is the graphics. Gran Turismo 4 has substantially upped the amount of trackside detail for some of the courses without sacrificing the quality of the car models. Gran Turismo also features better force feedback steering wheel support and a new online racing mode to make the next edition of Gran Turismo the best yet.

Features:

General

New physics engine adding a higher level of realism in cars, which allows for cars to be handled easier.

  • More than 5,000 polygons per vehicle capture exceptional detail, right down to the disc brakes behind the wheel.
  • With an all-new AI engine, race opponents posses advanced artificial intelligence, which allows for behavior that captures human-like emotion.
  • Refined replay mode with broadcast-quality graphics.
  • Compatible with the Logitech Driving Force Pro Wheel – To further enhance the automotive racing experience, in lieu of the DUALSHOCK2 analog controller, the Logitech Driving Force Pro can be used for the entire game. Available in black with brushed aluminum accents, the Gran Turismo branded GT Force Wheel provides a shifter for manual transmissions, 900 degrees of steering rotation and force-feedback.

Game Modes

GT Career 'Simulation' Mode – Via the GT Universe, players start from the bottom and race to earn money, unlock cars and courses, buy and sell cars and upgrade parts while competing in more than 200 various championship races. Upon entering the GT Universe, players have the option to visit the following Gran Turismo resort facilities:

  • My Home – the player's home and garage
  • Dealership Town – divided by continent, players can visit dealerships representing over 80 manufacturers from around the world.
  • Tuner's Village – players can visit famous tuning shops to upgrade their car(s).
  • Race Event Pavilions – players can visit and join various races.
  • License Center – players will have the opportunity to participate in various driving tests to earn licenses for access to various race formats.
  • Music Theater – players will have the opportunity to enjoy various music from around the world.
  • Circuit Racing – players can visit the "suburbs" and enter races at various circuit tracks.

Mission Races – To experience the drama of racing at a new level, a new race style will be structured as a mission-clearing based race event offering numerous variables for the player to capture the checkered flag.


New "High Score" System – The player who wins a race is not necessarily the one who captures the checkered flag, but graded on how well they drive and challenge themselves among the competition based on their car type, horsepower and modifications related to the race field.


GT Director Mode / B-Spec: Players take the role of a race team manager and provide direction to their driver (A.I.) to compete in races while viewed and directed through the classic "broadcast-style" replay screen, on-board camera and race monitor screen. In B-Spec mode, the player will have the opportunity to adjust various car settings for proper race setup, choose the difficulty level, which is also known as the "Pace Command," followed with direction on when to overtake competition and take pit stops where a variety of car settings can be adjusted to further progress in the race – from tires to the volume of fuel for refueling.


GT Photo Mode – Divided in two formats: 1) "Photo Drive" – players have the opportunity to photograph their car during the race where they can take advantage of zoom, depth of field and motion blur. 2) "Photo Travel" – Players can take their favorite car and travel around the globe to conduct photo sessions in exotic locations through a variety of angles. Once the photo is taken in the game, the player can save it to their memory card (8MB) (for PlayStation 2) and have the option to share with friends or print out a color copy via a USB printer. Up to 50 photos can be taken at one time. 15 locations in total that include: Gion District – Kyoto, Japan; Nanzenji Temple – Kyoto, Japan; Sagano – Kyoto, Japan; Tsumago – Nagano, Japan; Piazza San Marco – Venice, Italy; Shibuya – Tokyo, Japan; Tokyo International Forum – Tokyo, Japan; Shiga Kogen – Nagano, Japan; Brooklyn, New York; Times Square, New York City; Asian Fish Market; Fremont Street, Las Vegas; Louisberg Square, Boston; Grand Canyon, Arizona;


GT Arcade Mode - Players compete against each other or the artificial intelligence with select cars on select courses. More cars and course are available in the GT Arcade Mode when they are unlocked in the GT Career Simulation Mode.


Automobiles

  • More than 650 automobiles representing more than 80 manufacturers from around the world representing historically significant vehicles to popular cars of today and tomorrow.
  • All vehicles are fully customizable from racing tires to gear ratio.
  • New driver assist functions: In addition to anti-lock brakes, traction control systems and active stability control, Gran Turismo 4 will include active steering as well, further enhancing the safety features.
  • Reflecting the latest car tuning trends, superchargers and NOS will be available.


Race Courses

Up to 100 courses that encompass rally courses, closed-circuit courses and city courses covering both real-life and fantasy-based locales. Some courses can be played in reverse mode. Some courses include:

Closed Circuit Courses

  • Fuji Speedway '80 (Japan) – The original Fuji Speedway, which was known as one of the fastest tracks in the world.
  • Fuji Speedway '90 (Japan) – The current Fuji Speedway.
  • Tsukuba Circuit 2000 (Japan) – Known as a sacred ground for testing various production and sports cars in Japan.
  • Twin Ring Motegi - Full Course and Oval Track (Japan) - Both and International road course and the only 1.5 mile oval course in Japan built for Indy Car racing.
  • Suzuka Circuit - Full Course (Japan) – This track is also host to the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix.
  • Laguna Seca Raceway (USA) – Located near Monterey, California, this track returns from Gran Turismo 3 A-spec, this track returns with a higher level of realism. The time setting has changed from sunset to mid-day clear skies.
  • Infineon Raceway (USA) – Located in Sonoma County near San Francisco, Infineon Raceway is a unique road course that plays host to NASCAR, NHRA, LeMans and various other auto racing competition.
  • Nurburgring Nordschleife (Germany) – The world's most challenging and difficult course is approximately 13 miles long and contains 176 turns. This track is known for a proving ground for many sports cars from around the world.

City Courses

  • Tokyo R246 – Returning from Gran Turismo 3 A-spec, this track returns with a higher level of realism.
  • Seattle – Returning from Gran Turismo 3 A-spec, this track returns with a higher level of realism. The time setting has changed from sunset to mid-day clear skies.
  • New York City – This track is in the center of Manhattan and includes Broadway, Times Square, Fifth Avenue and Central Park. Hong Kong – Developed and created with full support from the Hong Kong Government Tourism Department.
  • Las Vegas Drag Strip – A quarter-mile drag race down the Las Vegas strip.
  • George V Paris – Race course through the streets of Paris including popular sites such as the Arc de Triomphe and Les Champs-Elysees.
  • Opera Paris – Additional course through the streets of Paris.
  • Cote D'Azur – Race course through the streets of Monaco. Special Stage Route 5
  • Citta di Aria – Race course through Italian city.

Nature and Fantasy-based Courses:

  • Grand Canyon,
  • Swiss Alps,
  • Ice Arena,
  • Grand Valley
  • Trial Mountain
  • Midfield Raceway
  • Snow Lake
  • High Speed Ring
  • Costa di Amalfi (Race on the island of Capri in Italy)
  • Motorsports Land
  • Tahiti Maze
  • Autumn Maze


Human Element

In addition to expressing cars and the surrounding environments, Gran Turismo 4 will express people to a new level never seen before in racing videogames – from the driver, to the pit crew in action, to the movement of the spectators.

Previous Preview

Yeah this game is coming, but you already knew that. Yeah, it'll feature a ton of cars but you already knew that. Expect online play, but you already probably, kind of knew that. It won't feature real time damage because the real world car manufacturers don't exactly want to show their merch with dents and scratches, but you maybe knew that already. What else do we know? Not much yet, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words and we've got, like 9 of em, so think of this as a 9046 word essay on GT4.

Click For Media
System: PS2
Dev: Polyphony Digital
Pub: Sony
Released: Feb 2005
Players: 1 - 6
Review by Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.0
GRAPHICS
5.0
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
5.0
VALUE
3.0