Gran Turismo 4 Prologue
Gran Turismo 4 Prologue Reviewed on PS2
visuals and the accurate racing system, so there are no problems here. But what is instantly noticeable is that this game is almost a demo of what is to come later this year. All that is present is the school mode which is basically one big license test which will see you improve your driving skills and an arcade mode.
Each of the tests in the school mode are drawn out for you with a nice little intro video of what you have to do while Vickie Butler Henderson explains why and what you are learning. The school mode is broken down in to four sections, green, orange, blue and red. Each section consists of about 6 tests. Once you have completed all the tests in the green section you are awarded with a little plaque. Then you must progress until you have completed all four sections. For fans of the series these tests are just a little bit too easy and the first few tests, especially the green section, just take's the piss. For example you have to drive a car around the track for two laps, but your car has been fitted with a speed restrictor that doesn't let you move above 50 kph. For me this is just boring and I wanted it to end before I had started. As the school mode progresses you will see the challenges increase in difficulty and the cars you win will become more exotic. Depending on how well you have performed in each test you will be awarded either a bronze, silver or gold medal. You will receive a fail for not completing the test in the required time or for crashing or even leaving the circuit. In some cases, the bronze medal does not even require you to complete the test in a set time which makes bronze medals extremely easy to come by. The silver medals require a little more work but they are still achievable, while the gold medals will usually require a number of attempts to save off the vital tenths of a second needed.
Some people may be disappointed having to complete these tests which most of us have been doing since the first game. The whole thing feels like “Been there, done it and got the badge”. Fortunately the arcade mode does make up the difference, well almost.
The arcade mode features five tracks of which four are tarmac based and the fifth is a dirt track for rallying. These tracks have probably been picked for their diversity as each track has a varied challenge. For example the Italian street course features tight blind corners and dipping roads that will test your nerve. The New York track is basically made up of loads of right angle corners and long straights while the Tsukuba and Fuji Speedway tracks feature some high speed corners mixed with some tricky hairpins and s bends that will test your concentration. There is of course the Grand Canyon track which will provide a completely different driving experience again. The main thing is all of these courses contain challenging elements which are extremely satisfying once you find the correct lines.
The arcade mode features a good number of cars to race. Well 64 in fact, of which loads of these cars are locked until you start passing the school tests. To start with you will unlock small slow cars such as MPV's and the like, but the further you progress the better the rewards. Each of the cars require very different driving styles, some under-steer quite heavily, some are unbalanced on hard breaking and others require a little finesse when hammering around the tracks.
In general the handling is different to the previous GT games although it is not that easy to put your finger on what exactly has changed, but if I had to I would say the whole physics and racing system is stricter than ever, even more punishing on mistakes yet more rewarding for prefect driving. I would even go as far to say GT4 Prologue demands even more concentration, especially in the racing environment. I do have one nag though, if you select the Impreza on the rally stage the car take can eternity to change from 1 st to 2 nd and 2 nd to 3 rd gear, it greatly affects the driveability of the car and the time lapse if far too long and unrealistic. I even thought my controller was broken at one point on the slow sections of the track. Other cars do take a while to change the lower gears but these feel realistic compared to the Impreza gear change.
The actual racing in GT4 is a great experience but I found that the challenge was not good enough. Even when the difficulty setting is on pro and you have switched off traction control and driver aids you can find yourself disappearing into the distance. The main problem is that most of the cars are not matched up properly, for example if you pick the Merc SL55 you will be racing against Scooby's, RX-8's and Mitsubishi Evolutions. These cars are just not fast enough to keep up with the SL55 even with very sloppy driving. One way to ensure a close race is to pick a car like the Polo racing car which will pit you against five other Polo racing cars. Obviously you need to increase the skill setting to pro and remove driver aids but the racing is second to none.
This is the only real problem I found with GT4 Prologue, the racing was just not challenging enough with all the cars available. The only other thing I can say I disliked was the penalty for hitting scenery or other cars. If you do hit anything your speed is limited for a time of 10 seconds where you will not be able to exceed 50 kph. In a racing situation with other cars you can nudge opponents and force your way through which is fine as there is very rarely a time when you will receive a penalty for good driving. If you hit the road or track side hard with the side of front of your car you will get the 10 seconds slow down. This is demonstrated perfectly on the rally stage, if you so much as breathe on a rock on the inside of a corner with the front of your car in a drift you are penalized. It is alright penalizing for bad driving and crashes but when you don't even know you have hit anything that is a completely different matter. Strangely if you slide into the scenery with the back of your car hitting the object first you will not incur a penalty. If you ask me this penalty system is unrefined and it can ruin a good race.
As with previous GT games GT4 Prologue doesn't disappoint on the visuals. The Italian, New York and Grand Canyon tracks all look fantastic and contain a great level of detail, probably more so than previous titles. The other two tracks are lacking a touch just because there is little road side scenery but that can't be helped. The cars all look just as gorgeous as before and even more so when you see the reflections of the scenery bouncing of the paint work, but for me the best looking part of GT4 Prologue is the tarmac. When the sun shines you can see every last bit of detail. New to GT4 Prologue on the rally stage are spectators that stand in the road to catch a glimpse of your car before running quickly out of the way. On close inspection they look like crap 2D models but they provide a great effect and distraction when you travel at some speed.
I have notice that the sound effects have been improved too, the cars have always sounded great but the wind tearing past the cars at high speed sounds fantastic. The music on the menu screens is the same GT theme which reminds you just how many hours you have spent on the series in the past. The in game music is pretty much what you would expect mainly comprising of dance beats.
Our version of GT4 Prologue didn't contain the making of GT4 disc which means I cannot give a complete review of the whole package, but it is a review of the bit that matters, the game itself.
GT4 Prologue can only be classed as a teaser or demo of what is to come, and whether you buy it depends on how much of a GT nut you are. There is plenty of game for the money you pay, which is about twenty quid. There are a couple of new additions that don't work quite as well as they should do such as the penalty system, but on the whole GT4 Prologue lets you sample what is to come in GT4. If you are new to the Gran Turismo series this game will give you a decent amount of training for the full game that should arrive in November . One sure thing is that GT4 Prologue provides lots of promise for GT4.