Gran Turismo 4
Gran Turismo 4 - Review PlayStation 2
Daddy, the Gran Turismo Mode, which will have you buying/selling cars, travelling the four corners of the globe to participate in races and championships, earning credits to buy bigger and better cars, or simply modifying one of your current cars.
When you actually switch on GT4 and start the Gran Turismo mode you will spend a lot of your initial time thinking about which car to buy with your 10,000 credits. A new car will undoubtedly be out of your price range so you will have to get one of the used motors on offer. However, If you have a save file from GT3 you will be allowed to import up to 100,000 credits to GT4 which will give you huge boost and allow you to buy a very good car, straight off. The only problem then is deciding which one. If you bought yourself a copy of GT4 Prologue you will also be in for a treat as you can import you're A and B racing licenses. All of this is a great help for previous GT fans as it will give you and the game a kick start.
Virtually all races will require you to have a license of some sort. So to progress you must take the license tests to enter the high spec races. In total there are five licenses to earn National A and B, International A and B and Special. The National A and B licenses are very easy to attain and should prove to be a problem. The difficulty level starts to increase quite quickly on the last three licenses. First you will find you start getting more and more bronze passes and then you will find yourself trying very hard just to pass a license. The tests themselves have changed a little, the older tests are there such as cornering and advanced cornering etc. New tests are the hot laps which will involve you following a pace car. You are not allowed to overtake or touch it. While it's not that easy to overtake, it can happen especially when you are breaking hard for a very tight hairpin. Also worth a mention is the coffee break mid license. This usually involves knocking down cones as fast as possible. Thankfully there is no time limit on this test as you will nearly always get a bronze pass. Silver and Gold passes will take quite a bit of skill and speed.
Once you have bought a car and passed some licenses its time to go racing and earn some decent cash. All races are organised in a number of different ways. On the map you will see various categories for races such as beginners and professionals and races are also organised by country such as American, European and Japanese. Each set of races has a number of different championships with various requirements to complete such as license type, country of origin, manufacturer, power, transmission layout and even car length. Car manufacturers also have their own race championships which usually consist of car specific races.
When you have found a race or championship to take part in you will be able to change the car set up for the race. Most of the settings will only be changeable if you have any spare parts for your car. For example you can only change the transmission if you have either a fully customisable box, or if you have a standard transmission and a short ratio version. The menu system used for changing parts on the car is very nicely laid out and very easy to use.
Once you have your car set up it is time to hit the track and race. It is now that Gran Turismo 4 shows some of its greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses. Firstly you will notice the cars feel solid, the physics are running in perfect harmony with everything else, you feel like the car is actually making contact with the road surface, you can feel when the car starts to loose traction in the corners. At high speeds the car will become increasingly instable and twitchy to every movement you make. Hit the breaks at high speed and you feel the tyres scrambling for every single ounce of grip available as the car has to be kept under control from the violent change of speed. This is what Gran Turismo is all about, convincing the player that what he is doing if is fact a replica of what would happen in real life. All the cars will provide the player with substantially different challenges. In simple terms some cars will under-steer while other will hang the tail out in a hand full of over-steer. The snow and ice of the rally races will provide ultra realistic driving experiences that will test the upper reaches of your skill.
Everyone knows that the Gran Turismo series is the genre defining game that offers unparalleled levels of simulation. However the racing aspect of the game doesn't always stand up at the same high level. Gran Turismo has never had a damage system to penalise drivers for crashing or cutting tracks over rough terrain. So this can cause problems as the best driver, or car doesn't always win. Other problems are manifested in the games driver AI which can be poor. AI cars will always follow a certain path whether you are in the way or not, in fact the AI can seem completely oblivious that you are even on that track. These problems are not too serious, and definitely not serious enough to ruin the game, just spoil it a touch.
When you eventually make some cash you will need to be generous when spending on a new car or upgrades. Getting the best in everything for you car is important for you to win races. While most championships will have restrictions, very few have maximum restrictions for BHP. The more horses you can get under the bonnet the better. Something that is new to GT4 is the tuning shop which features companies like Blitz and HKS who specifically make 3 rd party race parts for specific motors. You can even buy cars from these companies which are ready tuned and maxed out with all the best kit. Most notable of these if the Golf with an enormous amount of BHP for as little as 32k credits. If you have used some of the credits you were allowed to import from GT3 at the beginning of the game it is very easy, as you can afford a car that will blow the early competition away. However the difficultly and competition will increase as you make your way through the game.
GT4 features the B-Spec mode which can be a diversion and change of pace if you have had enough of racing for the day. You will take the role of a race manager and your job is to radio instructions to your driver on the track. You can make him pace his race by telling him to speed up or slow down, tell him when to try and make overtaking manoeuvres and when to pit. There are a couple of nice tools at your disposal such as the race management screen that will give you sector times and distance to the other drivers. That is about it really, it's a nice little distraction for the most part but you will feel like you are not attached to the race itself. Good for a quick play or some cheap credits but that is about it.
The one thing that everyone will notice about GT4 is the beautiful visuals. Gran Turismo games have always pushed the limits of both the PSOne and the PS2 but this time they have excelled to a point no one would have thought possible from the PS2. The developers even manage to get all this graphical performance without any slow down. Yes there are only six cars on the track at any one time, but this is a real feat by any ones standards. One of the most notable differences are the lighting effects which were impressive in GT3, they are outstanding in GT4 as the reflections down the side of the cars is real time reflections rather than the false trickery that has been used in the past. It's not just the cars that look incredible; it's the scenery too which varies massively from the countryside scenes to the inner city neon of Hong Kong . Other points you will notice are the 3D crowd models which are most noticeable during the rally stages. Spectators will stand in the middle of the road right until the last moment when they will jump back into the crowd. Their presence can make some of the rally stages more difficult as they will obscure the track ahead until the very last minute. You can't hit the spectators, but as a result there is an invisible barrier right around the rally tracks which will stop you from leaving the track and falling down huge cliffs.
The sound in GT4 has also made some great improvements since its last appearance. The cars sound extremely authentic, as you increase the BHP on some cars it will cause the exhaust to exude mini explosions as you change gear. The engines also sound very realistic and as you would expect. The only other real sound effect is the tyre screech as you hammer around the track. The screeching is very good and not too loud or high pitch to irritate over time. Unfortunately some of the music on the sound track is awful and just what you don't want to be listening to while driving. There are some good bands featured but it almost feels like they have missed the point when it comes to driving music. Thankfully the menu screen music has been changed as have the select sounds I just don't think I could have handled the original background music in this instalment. Thankfully it has gone and the new sounds and background music is much more amiable.
Perhaps one of the greatest things about GT4 apart from the driving model is the huge amount of choice and the number of things you can do. The number of car and track combinations would be enough for most game developers, but not Polyphony Digital. They have almost created the life of a racing driver in one game. You can even take pictures of cars in different locals and place them in your gallery. GT4 also has a mission mode where you must meet specific challenges such as overtaking on a certain section of track.
As GT3 did, GT4 has a wheel shop, but this time the GT Auto shop sells a bit more than a few wheels. Here you can customise your car to make it stand out from the crowd. A huge array of wheels is available plus a good selection of wings. You can also give you car an oil change here which will increase your horse power slightly and as before you can give your car a wash to make it look new again.
GT4 was a hugely anticipated game and expectations were very high as each release before it has been a huge leap forward. Despite the omission of the online function and the slight problems with the driver AI GT4 still comes out on top. The next instalment will demand some new additions and improvements. GT4 is a huge game with so much to offer it will keep you busy for a few months to come. Graphically it's a masterpiece and this certainly will help win over a few new fans. For me it is still the best driving game as it delivers so much more than anything else out there and it does it in fantastic style.