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April 18, 2005
Gran Turismo 4 - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
10/3/2005SonyPolyphony Digital1-2GHard
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Driving around the city.
This is it. The biggest racing game since Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec is available now and promises to be bigger and better in every regard. If you love your cars you're certain to love Gran Turismo 4 which takes the word simulation and pushes it to a level never seen before. Not only does the game include over 50 tracks but the developers have included around 700 cars to get to grips with. Put it this way - if you spend only 1 minute with every car on every track you'll be playing Gran Turismo 4 for 583 hours, or just over 24 days non stop! Then of course you can reverse all the tracks...

As expected the development team have included many new courses to race on. While many are based on real circuits some are not, but they have one thing in common, they are all spectacular to look at and brilliant to race on. One of these new courses is Citi Di Aria which translates from Italian to City in the Air. The course is set high in the Italian Alps and was re-created from over 50,000 photographs of the region. The developers have used GPS (Global Positioning Satellite), topography maps and typically between 20-30,000 photographs to recreate circuits as accurately as possible. Other new courses in the game include Grand Canyon (which looks stunning - see pictures), New York (which also looks impressive), the Japanese Tsukuba Circuit.

As previously mentioned, the developers have included over 700 cars in total. These aren't all modern day cars either with the developers looking to re-create the history of cars. Each car has been accurately modeled from hundreds of photos and to be honest, I haven't seen a game with better looking cars yet. Australia is well represented with the 2004 Holden Monaro CV8, 2004 Holden Commodore SS, 2000 Ford Falcon XR8, 2004 FPV GT Falcon and 2004 FPV F6 Typhoon.

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Gorgeous night time...
So Gran Turismo 4 is one monster of a game. There's no denying it and the game modes are just as impressive. When you start out your best bet is to head to the Gran Turismo Mode and straight into the license tests. You will need to complete these, at least to Bronze level, in order to enter proper races. These license tests, of which there are several categories are pretty easy to complete to the lowest standard but to achieve Gold will take some superb racing. For people who have played earlier titles it's possible to import your licenses to save the hassle (as well as up to 100,000 credits) - a nice touch.

After you finish the licenses you can then start to enter the races. Not only are they split into different car categories but often require your cars to be fitted out with certain equipment such as snow tires or dirt tires and so on. Manufacturers also put on their own races which are restricted to certain vehicles and so on. There are literally hundreds of races to compete in but the rewards, often new cars to add to your own garage, are more then worthwhile.

B-Spec is a new mode to the Gran Turismo series. Essentially this is a "hands off" game where you effectively act as the pit crew manager telling the AI driver when to drive aggressively, when to pit or when to overtake. It's fairly entertaining however the big drawback to this mode is that it almost puts the game on autopilot allowing you to sit back and let the rewards roll in. The B-Spec mode gives you the same credits as when you sweat it out doing the actual driving - perhaps some form of penalty or restrictions.

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No, this is not a photo!
Another new and heavily promoted addition in Gran Turismo 4 is the Photo mode. Much like it sounds this allows you to take a virtual photo of your favourite car. Not only do you select the car, but also the location, camera angle, zooming and so on. Once take you can save the image to your memory card (about 70kb) and even print it out if you have a USB printer. It's quite fun but we can't help feeling that it would be a lot more enjoyable if you could send pictures to your mates through the internet.

If that wasn't enough there's also the usual Arcade mode. Any cars which you've unlocked in the Gran Turismo mode are unlocked but you can't use the cars from your garage which have been modded and tuned to your liking.

All these features and game modes would count for nothing if the gameplay and car handling wasn't up to scratch and as expected there is absolutely nothing wrong in this area at all. All the cars feel and handle very differently, and the support for Force Feedback (and especially the Logitech Driving Force Pro wheel) is impressive. If you only have the Dual Shock 2 controller don't despair as the analogue sticks do a wonderful job.

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Classic game, classic cars.
Unless you've been living under a rock you would have already heard about one massive disappointment with Gran Turismo 4 - no online gameplay. It was a late exclusion and given the number of titles now including online support really is missed. On a slightly brighter note the developers have kept in support for up to 6 players via LAN setup. Perhaps a year or two ago it could be forgiven, but not in 2005. Another major disappointment is the lack of damage to the cars. Yes, you can still slam into a wall at 200km/h and bounce off it without a scratch, although there is now a five second penalty in some races restricting your speed to 50km/h for that period of time. Apparently series producer Kazunori Yamauchi has promised car damage will appear in the next generation. The final disappointment is the AI of the computer controlled cars. They still seem to follow an invisible line around the tracks, rarely veering off course, and certainly not showing a different in aggression levels.

When I played Gran Turismo 4 Prologue I mentioned that there was some pop-up and draw in through the levels. Fortunately the vast majority of this has been removed with only the occasional pop-up which is certainly no where near as distracting. The trackside detail itself is simply astounding, and although not quite up to the best on XBox (read: Project Gotham Racing 2) it's certainly not far off and demonstrates the power of the ageing PS2 better then any other title. Even those tracks which appeared in Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec have been totally reworked and given that extra bit of spit and polish. In terms of frame rate, well I don't think I counted more then a handful of missing frames in our nearly constant playing over the last two weeks. My only complaint is the omission of the 480p or 1080i video modes which were included in the NTSC games. What gives?

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More Grand Canyon scenery.
As expected the developers have put just as much effort into the sound as every other aspect of the title. While it doesn't include commentary, which I would like to see in the series one day, it doesn't need it. The emphasis here is on the engine noises and they are superbly recreated for this game. As in real life you should be able to tell the revs in each car by the noise rather the looking at the tacho - and you can. Collisions still sound a little tinny, but hey, if you aren't going to include damage why bother anyway right? Finally the music provides a great backdrop to the racing. With over 100 tracks the developers sure haven't skimped on quality acts with the likes of Spiderbait, Van Halen, Apollo 440, Queens Of The Stone Age, Jet, The Hives, Mozart, The Crystal Method, James Brown, Franz Ferdinand and Feeder just to name a few. If you can't find something you like you obviously don't like music!

There's a reason this review is being completed a bit over a month since Gran Turismo 4 was released - it's that big. But I am a bit surprised. I never thought that Gran Turismo 4 would create so much conflict within me. Is it really as brilliant as well all expected? On the one hand it's a technical achievement unlikely to be matched again on Playstation 2, with more cars and tracks then you'll likely ever see again on the system. On the other hand there are some major omissions that should have been included in the game. Perhaps the PS3 will provide everything we want. In the end I still lean to the side of brilliance, and a must have title for every PS2 owner.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSThe PS2 never pushed so many polygons, or looked so awesome.
SOUNDMusic is OK, no commentary but the car noises make this special.
GAMEPLAYSimulator really applies - although lack of damage these days hurts.
VALUENo damage, no online gameplay, more simulation racing. Needs more.
OVERALLGran Turismo 4 feels like a roast dinner with all the meat and gravy, but someone forgot the potatoes. The lack of damage and online gameplay is bitterly disappointing. Still, this is a stunning title which should be in every collection. A true "must have".

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