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Gran Turismo 4 PS2 Review - -

Gameplay 9.0
Graphics 9.5
Sound 8.8
Value 9.0
Distributor: Sony
Andrew B


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Gran Turismo 4

The Gran Turismo series is easily the most definitive car racing in existence and nothing has ever come close. Even on the PC which is considered the most powerful system for simulation games has not even touched the potential of this series and fortunately for us racing fans, Gran Turismo 4 has finally arrived on the PlayStation 2 and before this review is even finished, this is easily the best racing simulator that I have ever played. Right off the bat, Gran Turismo 4 improves just about every aspect of the game that include the graphics, physics, tracks & to make things even more exciting, gamers also have the option of managing a racing team and even have the ability to print out ultra realistic photographs of the cars by using an Epson printer.

When it comes to graphical beauty, Polyphony Digital went all out. A 70 person staff was assembled and sent around the world to gather data on the cars and tracks featured in the game. The result is a new level of visual accuracy never before seen in a racing game. They didnít stop there though. They added a more human feel to the game by introducing the number and realism of the people on the track. Remember, the traditional shadowy figure inside the cars? GT4 has added convertibles that feature fully animated drivers that react realistically depending on what youíre doing with the car. A realistic pit stop experience where you can watch as the crew actually changes your tires. Finally, around the perimeter of the track, instead of cardboard cut-outs, there are fully animated three-dimensional spectators that also react to you. Photographers even sprint out onto the track to snap action shots.

To top it all off, they added support for high definition televisions (not that you would know it from their sorry excuse for a game manual). Under the options menu, in screen options you can specify either a 4:3 or a 16:9 aspect ratio and you can specify normal, 480p or 1080i screen resolutions. The difference between 480p and 1080i is unfortunately only slightly noticeable, but the difference between either of those and 480i is quite dramatic. Depending on your television, the screen may flicker in between races because the menus are all in 480i. Something that should have been easily overcome considering they are capable of rendering the races themselves at 1080i and 60 frames per second. These are only minor issues though and do not detract too heavily from the game experience.

In addition to completely remodelling each car model, Polyphony Digital revamped the physics engine itself and gathered data specific to each car in the game. Where in Gran Turismo 3 you could only tell the difference between different classes of cars, in GT4 each car has its own physics model and handles exactly like it does in the real world. When accelerating and braking, the weight shifts backward or forward respectively and the camera view raises or lowers to different degrees depending on the make and model of the car youíre driving. The customizations you can make to the cars each affect the performance of the vehicle to varying degrees. You can drop weight or add high performance engine parts to eek every last horse you can out of that car of yours. This version of Gran Turismo even lets you add Nitrous Oxide to your car to give it that extra burst of speed you need when you get behind.

The only negative comment that can be made about the physics implementation is the lack of realistic collisions. In GT3 and remaining in GT4 is the ability to drive full force into another carís door pushing them out of the way, and aiming your car nicely into the turn. What should happen in a so-called ďReal Driving SimulatorĒ is damage. If you hit another car in the side doing 150 miles per hour, you donít glance off nicely into the turn. Most likely, the race would be over for you and the person you ran into.

The AI may technically be an improvement over the original game, but I donít see it. Computer opponents do not attempt to pass each other, nor do they try to keep you from passing them. They will bump into you from behind if you are going too slowly, but they basically just follow the invisible line around the track. They donít get pissed and try to run you off the road or do anything remotely like real competitors.

Overall, the game plays a lot like Gran Turismo 3, with a few improvements that can be difficult to observe without playing the two games side-by-side. Where the game is a true gem for racing fans is in the sheer volume of content. Gran Turismo 4 has over 700 cars to choose from each with upgrades specific to the make and model of the car. Thatís more than four-and-a-half times the cars in GT3. Each one can be customized with different types of rims or rear wings to give them a look unique to your style.

There are more than 50 tracks in this iteration of the Gran Turismo series including some well-known circuits like Tsukuba Circuit in Japan or Nurburgring in Germany. There are street tracks that take you all over the world from Italy to New York to Hong Kong, each one meticulously detailed based on actual surveys of the real world locations. They even included several tracks from the original game, tracks like High Speed Ring and Mid-Field Raceway.

In addition to the A-Spec mode that puts you right into the driver seat, Gran Turismo 4 includes a new B-Spec mode that lets you play the role of a racing team manager. Instead of driving yourself, the gameís AI drives your car for you and lets you influence it through simple commands like speed up, slow down, overtake or pit stop. Though this mode is not as exhilarating (fun) as A-Spec mode it can be quite useful when trying to complete the twenty-four hour endurance races.

There is also an interesting photo mode that lets you take different photos of the cars in your garage. You can set them up in several locations around the world with different camera angles to get the picture you really want. If you are photographically inclined, you can even customize the camera settings like lens size, shutter speed and type and manually focus the camera. Once finished taking these photographs, you can print them out on certain Epson brand printers by connecting them to the PS2ís USB interface.

Gran Turismo 4 is finally here and it is absolutely worth the wait. While it hasnít made very much advancement in terms of AI or collision handling, it has evolved significantly in all other aspects. The end result is an awe-inspiring representation of what it must be like to be a professional race car driver. If you own an HDTV, this game is a must have. Even if you donít like racing games, you have to buy it to show off that nice expensive television to your family and friends. They will be impressed. If you own one of the supported Epson printers, you need this game because hooking up printers to PS2s is cool. If you are a Gran Turismo fan, you have the game already so I wonít bother. If you own a sports car this game is for you. If you want a sports car really, really bad and canít afford one, this game is for you. If there is anyone I missed, get in your car, do a few donuts and get to your nearest game rental store to find out if itís for you too. 


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