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Gran Turismo 4

Developer: Polyphony Digital | Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 02/22/05 | Genre: Driving

There's a monolithic weight of expectation surrounding this game, as much as Half Life 2. Some games come with so much baggage; so much anticipation that is seems almost odd to be here now simply talking about the final game itself. There's also that expectation of a certain score. Certainly there's the feeling that this franchise is the pinnacle of automotive gaming. Well it's not quite that. In-fact GT4, like its predecessors, is flawed in some very important ways. It's also amazing fun at times. As we'll see, it's sometimes a technical marvel, at others an embarrassment, but still a very important videogame.

Once past the stunning introduction you are met with a game that feels as sub-stantial as Polyphony's first Gran Turismo game. Long time fans of the series will know that GT2 was something of a unfinished mess at times and the third game didn't really feel like the full Gran Turismo treatment.

But in Gran turismo 4 you get the works. we have 3 second hand car lots, a ton of more tracks that felt missing from GT3 and there's a feeling of a game that's pushing the Playstation's hardware to the limit, just as the first GT did for PSone. The play of GT4 basically brakes down into its two main modes. Arcade mode is much less important now, but also a bit more fun in a way. There are so many cars ready to play here, so while you may have a modest garage in the games' main mode, you will find plenty of play with here too. It's a feat mode for just pick-ing up and playing and I'm glad that there's less emphasis on unlocking here - Just driving and having fun.
The main Gran Turismo mode has a much better menu system than last time. With events, garages and other options scattered around a map that scrolls around. I really do like the look of the GT4 interface, but with loading screens every 2 pages you feel that much of your non-racing time gets wasted. But I also like the way that certain key pressed will take you to the home ion or the manu-facturer icon fro the car you are currently using. And the car settings/upgrades screen is easy to edit with its drop down menus. Though, the upgrades purchase screen - which has not changed, is still slow and laborious for upgrading all as-pects of a car at once. I'm sure if your reading this you know what GT racing is like. What makes it unique is that there is no real goal; it's a sand box for you to play with any way you like. To do this your going to need lots on money, money for cars and up-grades. You of course race to win the cash, sometimes against five other cars, sometimes against the clock, and other times there will be special conditions that have to be met. But the events brake down even more. There will be times when only a certain model of car can be raced in a series, and you will need to earn money else-where to get that car if you want to compete. You don't just win money; there are new cars on offer too. But these are less useful, Polyphony has made the odd choice of rewarding you with just the car you needed to win the race you already beat, instead of a car that would be of much use in future races.

Also, the concept of license test carry on to GT4. There are five different license tests to complete, each featuring sixteen tests. Some of these tests require you to negotiate one corner, but another will require you to complete a whole lap of the Nurburgring without flying off the track.

I don't know the kind of people who enjoy these test, who will try to get gold medals in the tests. Me, I can't take much of it any more. After four GT games I'v spent ages passing those tests. Since the first Gran Turismo I have had to re-peat getting the A, B, IB and IA licenses over and over with the requirements left unchanged. The fact that you can go on and win many of the toughest events without having the skills to get all gold show how little use they really are as you spent most of your time in a race trying to maneuver around the simple AI con-trolled cars.

The problem with the past GT games is the poor quality of the AI cars. They be-have as though they are unaware of your presence. And that's still the case here. Races are a chore because there's no real involvement. You can't brake sensibly for corners because you will be rear-ended by the AI; instead you have to enter corners and brake last, making your tactics unrealistic.

Its also isn't that the opposition isn't known until entering the race. There's no clue if your car is going to be under of overpowered. And the �match making� can be faulty at times too. Pitting your cute Mini Cooper agents stuff like a monster chunk of metal like a Dodge Ram truck.

Got a race that's too boring or one sided? Well a new element to Gran Turismo is b-spec driver. You can choose to enter most races in b-spec mode where you give orders to an AI driver rather than manually drive the car yourself. There are five speed options, push the driver too hard and he may crash, and also tell your man when to overtake or come into the pits.

As the game progresses the skill of your b-spec driver improves. But remember, its still based on the same computer controlled racers YOU play agents. There are just some cars and tracks that will confuse him, making it impossible to win a race without driving the even manually.

Your selection of cars is truly amazing. Yes the lack of Ferrari and Porsche is very sad, but still, the 600+ cars presented offer a fine selection. Though the number of seems artificially inflated by the shear number of freaking Nissan Sky-lines and Lancers.

The real beauty of Gran Turismo 4 lays in picking your favorite cars and taking them out on the track. And nothing can beat GT4 in the pure joy you get from racing the clock or your own skills on its amazingly detailed levels. Gran Turismo 4 looks amazing. It supports your new HDTV and the car models look as superb as ever, something thats highlighted in the surprisingly entertain-ing photo mode. Here you can take pictures of your cars in various static loca-tions or during replays and save them to your memory card or USB device. The tracks too are real works of art. From the neon lit streets of Hong Kong to the rolling German countryside of the epic 14 mile Nurburgring, each track is a piece of painstaking design. All to have your whipping through those circuits with nary a glitch, it's all so smooth.

For such a good looking game the sound is something of a let down. the external sounds emitted from the cars are spot on, but the choice of music from GT3 has gotten even worse. Just a disappointing miss-match of badly selected music.

You know you will be playing GT4 fro a ling time to come. I'll be picking my favor-ite cars and playing the rally tracks and be continuously addicted to �photo mode�. But you will get a fair bit of hell in the way of all this, GT4 has more limita-tions than previous games on what you can and can't do, too many locked menus until you'll reach certain criteria.

Think of GT4 as a wonderful Toy-Box, where you can play around with your car collection for hours. as a game where you make the fastest laps it's superb. But the racing isn't good, and the format is beginning to show its age now. If Polyph-ony isn't interested in fixing the racing, giving us smart opponents and realistic car damage, your paying nothing but a, �If I had a million trillion dollars simula-tor�. All too often I found myself in events that weren't fun just so I could get the money to go back to the playground. The inclusion of b-spec mode shows Po-lyphony knows that allot of the events aren't fun, but didn't want to speed the time to fix this.

Well, there it is. An amazing game in so many ways. And if all you want to do is worship automobiles though �Photo mode� or blaze around in one of a kind con-cept cars in locals you'll spend a lifetime visiting this game is a A+ 100% best awesome! But the game structure really needs a rethink next time. It's a fantas-tic game, but let down by too many problems, making it the best B+ you'll EVER PLAY.

By Dominick Fleres - 03/18/05
ESRB Details: Mild Lyrics

Screenshots for Gran Turismo 4

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