Aftermarket Parts on a Solid Chasis
Polyphony Digital's ground-breaking, expansive Gran Turismo series has defined the racing simulation market for the last eight years. Director Kazunori Yamauchi takes pride in mechanical detail and realism, and Gran Turismo 4, out now for the PlayStation 2, takes the series to the next level.
For immediate racing action, GT4's arcade mode allows players to choose from an array of cars and tracks in time trial, versus and single race events. But the core of any Gran Turismo game has always been its simulation mode -- GT4's exhaustive track, car and race roster is incomparable. Fifty different courses keep races fresher than previous series installments, and automotive enthusiasts are sure to find their favorite rides amongst more than 700 modern and historic cars.
Over 80 manufacturers contribute in-house tune shops and make-specific races, which revive new and classic championships such as the Aston Martin Festival and the "Type R" Honda race. Unlike Gran Turismo 3, players can purchase used cars as they get started in the racing world. Used car showrooms are a great place to save money and find vehicles no longer in production.
The Gran Turismo series has always trained players as skilled and technical drivers, and 4 features the most comprehensive in-game license tests yet. Gran Turismo 3 players need not worry about the first two licenses, however, as GT4 imports both B and A licenses from GT3 save file. GT3 players also have the option of transferring up to 100,000 credits to their cash reserves at the beginning of GT4.
Unfortunately, GT4's racing physics haven't advanced much since 3, though new game mechanics are marginally more realistic. While heavily modified cars can win earlier races with ease, "Extreme" events and newly created "Driving Missions" require precise driving. Some races now begin with a rolling start, with videos that are often too long, and load times, while sometimes slow, are not unbearable by any means.
GT4's graphics set the new standard for the PlayStation 2. Side-by-side comparisons with GT3 show a remarkable attention to detail. Distant scenery looks realistic and natural, while lighting and reflection effects compliment breathtaking views. Cars also have slightly more detail than GT3, though some auto bodies show no significant visual improvements.
GT4 boasts a number of new features, though not all prove successful. Photo mode gives players a chance to memorialize their car collection. Photos are still cars posed amidst beautiful scenery or action shots from individual races. While there's not much to do with photos saved to the memory card, players with USB thumb drives can download high resolution jpegs to their computers.
B-spec mode, also new to GT4, is interesting but frustrating, allowing players to instruct drivers to maneuver positions and negotiate the race track. Limited commands are imprecise, and simple races are easily lost. On the upside, players can relax during longer races and earn easy money if their car is significantly better than the competition.
Polyphony Digital chose not to include online racing in GT4, but dozens of race tracks and hundreds of cars are enough to keep players busy.
Despite flaws in the new, inadequate gameplay modes, series fans will not be disappointed by Gran Turismo 4, and new players will surely marvel at its size and detail.