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Platform

PlayStation 2

 

Genre

Racing

 

Publisher

SCEA

 

Developer

Polyphony Digital

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

March 2005

 

- Amazing graphics

- Over 700 cars

- Tons of tracks

- Trucks now included

- Physics improved

- Top notch sound effects

- Improved AI

 

 

- Hit-and-miss soundtrack

- Some of the winnable cars are not all that useful

- B-Spec mode is boring

- Faster tire wear will be troublesome for some players

 

 

Review: Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec (PlayStation 2)

 

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Gran Turismo 4

Score: 9.4 / 10

 

Many a racing fan has been eyeing Gran Turismo 4 all throughout its development, wondering how it would out do its predecessors.  What cars would be in it?  Which cars would be in it?  What sorts of new tracks would we get to race on?  There are just so many expectations set upon this franchise that its hard to envy the developers that have to try to live up to them.  Thankfully, despite GT4 dropping online support at the eleventh hour, what can be found in this game is highly rewarding, from the selection of cars, new tracks, improved AI, better physics, and, well, just about better everything.

 

gran-turismo-3-a-spec-1.jpg (48892 bytes)          gran-turismo-3-a-spec-2.jpg (55923 bytes)

 

The first thing to jump out when playing through Gran Turismo 4 is just how much the graphics have improved over the last game.  All through its development, the gameís developers have really emphasized how much they would be pushing the PlayStation 2 in terms of visuals, and it really shows in the finished product.  The light reflection off of the cars, and the detail in the scenery (especially the mountains and trees) is phenomenal.  Looking at the graphics in Gran Turismo 4, itís really surprising just how much Polyphony Digital was able to squeeze out of the PS2ís hardware.  The frame rate, too, stays very steady.  When racing in first person mode, the sense of speed is very impressive while soaring along a straightaway.  As a note about the view modes, they have been improved over that found in GT3 as well.  In the last game, the view where the camera was placed behind the car gave a somewhat awkward perspective when driving, as it was placed a little too low, consequently causing the car to obscure playersí view of the track.  In Gran Turismo 4 this has been corrected by placing the camera a tiny bit higher, thus making it much easier to see where one is going.

 

Besides the drastically improved visuals, Gran Turismo 4 brings a very impressive stable of cars for players to drive.  What makes the variety of vehicles so impressive is not only the sheer breadth of manufacturers, but the different eras of cars players can choose from.  There are the usual mix of classic muscle cars, and early model European rides, but what is particularly nice was the various classic family cars, coupes, and what not that are available.  Players can get behind the wheel of early Nissans from the 60s, some of the first Honda Civics, and a number of other cars that, while not the fastest cars youíll ever see, bring a retro kitsch that is hard not to enjoy.  Nothing spells fun like going head-to-head with a friend where both of you are driving incredibly slow first generation Civics, slowly jockeying for position.  Besides these classic rides, a noticeable improvement to Gran Turismo 4 comes in the inclusion of trucks.  Players can now choose from a number of pick-ups, and SUVs to control as well.  They take some getting used to, as their weight distribution is noticeably different from that of a car given these vehicles tendency to have a higher center of gravity, and sometimes having very little weight in the back in the case of pick-ups.  Once players get used to the slightly different physics, though, these trucks are a pleasure to drive, and a welcome addition to the series.  One area where players may be a tiny bit irked about the cars available is that some long-time favorite models are few and far between.  In past editions, there has always been a healthy supply of Toyota Supras, Mitsubishi GTOs, and certain other super cars that donít really have much of a presence in Gran Turismo 4.  Granted these cars are not in as heavy production by their manufacturers these days, but it would have been nice to have a few more models available.  Usually players can find them if they dig around the used car lots, but the lack of new-ish, undriven models is a little disappointing.  Other than this, the only other disappointment in terms of cars in the game comes from the vehicles players can win when playing Gran Turismo mode.  There are quite a few cars to be won, but most of them are not very useful.  A lot of times players will be finding themselves selling off these cars so to use the cash for improving other cars that they own.  Compounding the problem is that several of the cars that can be won are either classics or concept cars that have no retail value.  These cars are neat to own, but for those looking to make some fast cash, this will prove somewhat annoying.

 

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Nonetheless, driving through the countless tracks in Gran Turismo 4 is immensely satisfying.  Helping this is the sheer number of courses available this time out.  There are several long-time favorites present in GT4, such as Leguna Seca, Grand Valley, Trial Mountain, and the Clubman routes, as well as quite a few new courses, like Hong Kong, New York, and Costa di Amalfi.  The new tracks are very rewarding, as they provide a nice range between courses that let players really open up

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their carsí engines on straightaways, and other tracks that have a lot of twists and turns, requiring a strong grasp of braking and cornering techniques.

Regardless of what car or track a player is on, though, one thing that quickly becomes apparent is that in Gran Turismo 4 tire wear is much more noticeable than in previous games.  Even on a two to four lap race that is only four or so miles long, the amount of tire wear that happens is quite a bit more than in previous GT games.  That being said, this feature will cause a lot of players to drastically adjust their race style for GT4, especially those who have traditionally favored drifting techniques when navigating corners.  Now, finding the perfect racing line is more important than ever.  No longer can players drive hard into a corner, then swing the back end of their car around the corner.  Doing this could prove disastrous on more advance tracks and championship circuits, as it will necessitate more pit time, possibly costing players first place.  With GT4, it is imperative that players adopt a more traditional race style, slowing for turns, and finding the perfect race line.  This may be a bit disappointing for those who like to buy something like a Viper as fast as they can, and fling it around corners in GT games, but overall, itís not hugely terrible.

 

gran-turismo-3-a-spec-3.jpg (37482 bytes)          gran-turismo-3-a-spec-4.jpg (43453 bytes)

 

Another new feature that will catch fans of the series attention while navigating the courses in GT4 is that there are tracks with snow and ice on them.  When doing rally races in the past, it was fairly challenging to keep control of a car when zipping along dirt paths.  Now it is that much more of a challenge thanks to far slipperier white stuff being all over the track.  It will take some time to get accustomed to the snow on the track, but after some time, understanding the nuances of the situation becomes easier.

 

Regardless of what sort of track one races on, it quickly becomes apparent that the AI in Gran Turismo 4 is much better than in previous games.  When competing against cars of similar horse power and handling, races are almost guaranteed to be neck-in-neck.  Gone are the days of the wolf pack, where it didn't take long to get past everyone else on the course, and cruise to an easy victory.  Now, the computer-controlled cars are much better at making players work hard for a win.  The only time a player can tear apart the competition is if their car has significantly more aftermarket parts on it.  This quickly becomes a non-issue as players get to the top-tier races, however, as the competition's cars will be just as powerful as the player's.  As such, it will be crucial to have a basic understanding of how to tweak car components for the best possible results during a race, tweaking for straightaways, hills, corners, and so forth.

 

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