Gran Turismo 4 First Impressions

I no longer can remember how long I have anticipated the release of Gran Turismo 4, so last night, opening the wrapper on the game was pretty anticlimactic.

I put in the game and was greeted by a kicking intro sequence with beautiful graphics, Panama by Van Halen blearing. That got my blood pumping.

The game allows you to do a one time import of GT3 game save info for licenses and credits (to a maximum of 100K). I decided to do this to save me some license time. I have no idea why, but only my “a” and “b” licenses were imported. It looks like I have to earn “ia, ib, and s” for GT4 gaming goodness. It has been so long since I did a license test in a GT game that I do not remember how many tests had to be passed to earn a given license. In the case of GT4 it looks like you have to pass 16 tests. I quickly did the first 4 or 5 for “ib” status and earned bronze for all. It looks like I may have some work in store.

The license test yielded a glimpse of what is in store for the much hyped improved physics. At first glance, the physics have been overhauled; weight transfers were easily noticeable and the in car camera does a great job of providing a feeling for what it is like to get jerked around in a car. To this effect (I have not read the manual) it looks like there is some sort of g-force gauge meter at the bottom of the screen. I assume the ideal is to keep everything nice and centered, but the indicator moved left and right, I suppose simulating lateral weight transfers. I will have to investigate further.

Over recent weeks I have played a decent amount of GT3; racing for trophies, buying cars, and generally working on my “completion” percentage. I did not think about building up a cash reserve to import into GT4, so I pretty much had nothing for the GT4 import feature. Too bad because I could not start rally racing or even buy a new car. More on that later.

GT4 features this world map crap (for lack of a better description) that has you going all over the place to find car dealerships (both new and used), places to race, places to tune your car, and special events. It has been a while, but it is rather like GT2 – I like the GT1 and GT2 model better.

I have never liked buying used cars. I play GT to live out for the driving experience – why would I want to play with used cars? I find the concept rather aggravating. I can see having to take license tests because you have to learn how to drive to race, but there is no reason to have used cars. Personal preference I guess.

I started off the game by purchasing a Honda PRELUDE Si VTEC ’91. The car was slightly less that 8K, only had 49K miles, and had a robust 194HP. I figured that the car was not my ideal, but it had a solid bang for the buck, was fairly upgradeable, and had good power to get me through the initial round of races.

So I quickly took off the beginning racing section, and won the 5 Sunday Cup races to win a prize car. I do not think this is too much of a spoiler, so I will name the car: Autobianchi Allz Abarth ’79. Doubt I will use it much; it is not interesting, has almost no HP, and does not look fun to race.

After that I needed something more fulfilling, so I found some Family Cup series that allowed me to race on the wonderful Nurburgring. Wow! What an amazing course. I’ll say this – in real life I would have been dead several times over. Thankfully, GT4 allows me to safely live out my fantasies of racing on the ‘ring. I can only imagine that racers back in the day had nuts the size of Texas, or were plain insane. What a traffic course.

It looks like these Family Cup races give you an option to “handicap” the AI. I adjusted to -5 (figured my car sucked) and easily won by 19 seconds. I will have to experiment more to see if the CPU field is adjusted based on the type of car entered in the race, or if it is always the same lot. At any rate, there are plenty of real-life tracks that should be a ton of fun once I have a better car.

Noticeable in all the races I entered, especially the Nurburgring race, was tire wear. I am not sure if it is always on, or if I just happened to pick races where it mattered. Tire wear did not play a big factor in the Sunday Cup races, but I could tell a difference on my second lap at the ‘ring. The car handled noticeable different my second time around. Of course I became more brash as I adjusted to the physics engine, but it is nice to see tire wear becoming such a prominent part of the game at this early stage.

I need more time before I comment on the legendary lack-luster CPU racing AI. I am not sure if it is the same, better, or worse. Hopefully I can make some sort of conclusion on this issue after a few more hours of game play.

Overall the handling of the cars is amazing, the visuals are stunning, and the sound effects are suburb. The GT series has always been noted for great presentation, and GT4 does not look to disappoint in this regard. The new visual effects of shaking the screen when you collide with off road barriers, and the nice way the screen seems to “dip” under braking are all welcome additions to the series.

I was very disappointed that I could not initially race in the rally dirt and snow courses. Tires for dirt and snow cost a hefty 22,250 credits, which is a lot when you are only winning 600 a race in the Sunday Cup. Hopefully I will be able to accumulate enough money in the next couple of days to see if the rally mode is enough to replace CMR2.0 as my favorite rally game.

After a couple of hours of playing I am .8% complete, I have accumulated 48 A-spec points, I have logged 42 A-spec racing miles, I have a 6/6 win ratio, I have earned 6 trophies and 1 prize car, and I have accumulated 3,500 prize credits. GT4 is a wet dream for anyone that demands they get countless hours out of a game.

At this point I think it is fair to say that fans of the series are going to be enthralled with the game. Others are going to have a serious “been there, done that” feeling. Me? GT4 makes me want to finally buy a decent wheel, and setup a racing cockpit in the den – my wife will never allow that (big ass racing cockpit in the den), but one can dream.

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10 thoughts on “Gran Turismo 4 First Impressions”

  1. JC,

    The early reviews over here (release date is apparently now March 9th, which is a Wednesday, which is very odd since all our games release on a Friday…GT4 ain’t that special, surely?) suggest that the AI isn’t that much of a step forward, if indeed it’s a step forward at all. Look forward to seeing what you make of it.

    I’ve read criticisms elsewhere saying, quite correctly, that the series hasn’t moved on since 1998, that you’re better off playing the original GT than any of the updates and that GT4 is nothing more than a group of extra tracks and cars tacked on to the same old game. Sadly, that’s exactly why I’m buying it – the ‘Ring in a pukka race car with the GT physics engine can’t be anything other than glorious. Same for Sears Point (Infineon Raceway, if we must) and Le Mans. By the way, how long has it been known that they were in the game? I had no idea until yesterday…

    Apparently, GT4 owners with a GT4 Prologue save on their memory cards have to complete fewer of the licence tests – presumably the tests are the same in some cases so we aren’t made to complete them twice. Some of the new tracks were featured in GT4 Prologue too – the Italian hilltop circuit (Citta del Aria, I think) is just fantastic, almost like driving around your living room with some of the faster, wider machines.

    Nice impressions JC, keep us posted. Oh, and if you need any tips for the ‘Ring, give me a whistle – as well as knowing the layout and lines better than many, I can point out all the accident blackspots, mainly because I’ve tested them all extensively through GPL and PGR. The scrap metal collection I’ve built up…

    Cheers,
    Adam

  2. Adam, I can see where people are coming from, but I think the jump between GT1 and GT3 was worth the purchase of GT3 – the basic game formula has not changed, but many would argue that the physic changes and graphics overhaul where worth the upgrade. Now GT1 to GT2 was not that significant – I did not put in very much time in GT2, but I did finish GT1. Unlike other franchises, it seems like GT games are released every three or so years, which makes updates to the cars, tracks, and physics engine worth the wait. It is not as if they are trying to push yearly roster updates on us.

    On the AI front; I am going to post more later (hopefully today). It may be marginally better, but not enough to write home about. Do fans of the series even care that the AI sucks? It seems to me that we accept this and move on to playing the game for different reasons.

    Are you saying that Le Sarthe (Le Mans) is in the game? I better pay more attention! You remember back in the CG days when we had banter about GT4 being worth the price of admission just for this track? The ‘ring is fabulous – I cannot wait to get a proper race car on that circuit.

  3. I was certain I saw a picture of it in a magazine review I glanced at the other day – something about two versions of the Le Mans racetrack and a picture of a Bentley EXP Speed 8 exiting the Ford chicane at the end of the lap. Now, since you own the game and I don’t, I thought I’d better check if Curcuit de La Sarthe was there…

    http://www.tuninglinx.com/h… says this – ‘The Best Tracks… GT4 boasts a 52 track line-up including world-famous circuits such as Suzuka and, for the first time, the notorious Nurburgring Nordschleife and La Sarthe at Le Mans.’ I’ve never pre-ordered before and I’m certain to get a copy anyway but I think I’ll be toddling off to GAME this afternoon, just in case…

    I remember all the banter, in the thread where I said there was no chance of the Nordschleife being in GT4…you have to say that La Sarthe with Polyphony physics and a Le Mans-spec sportscar like that Bentley can only be driving heaven. That’s the reason I play these games – racing is secondary with GT. Last time out I got to take a Panoz Esperante GT1 round Monaco for 2 hours and then thrash it around the streets of Seattle, all the while convinced that if I could do it for real it wouldn’t be a million times removed from what I was already experiencing.

    The driving is what I play for. Show me the press release that called it ‘The Real Racing Simulator’.

  4. One last note – I can spell Circuit, but my fingers are cold. I assume if there are two versions of Le Mans in there, the short Bugatti circuit must be the other one.

  5. Adam – very cool about La Sarthe – I guess I just have not had enough time with the game to either notice the track, unlock it, or see where it is on the stupid gaming map. I am going to have some fun this weekend!

    You are so spot on about the driving. GT4 = best driving experience.

  6. Adam, if La Sarthe is in the US version, It is not available right away in the standard simulation mode (I have not played arcade mode yet). I have not searched for cheats and secrets yet, so maybe La Sarthe is included. I hope you are right and I am wrong.

  7. Adam, Circuit de la Sarthe is in the Japan version of GT4, so I assume it is in the US version (somewhere). That is great news – if it is the game. In general I do not "cheat" but I may have to break down and try to find a way to open this track sooner rather than later.

    Reference: http://www.gtplanet.net/for

  8. JC, Lexbur at DSP made reference to a licence test involving the Bentley at Le Mans so it has to be in there somewhere. My understanding at the minute is that it may not necessarily be called Le Mans – not certain on this but a magazine I flicked through earlier today suggested that it was much like Monaco from a naming viewpoint.

    Either way, it should be in there. Seems like the PAL release is receiving a few added features, hopefully Le Mans is a carry over from NTSC rather than something especially for us.

  9. I hsve been playing GT4 for pretty much 4 days straight now. The addictivity (made up a word there..) is through the roof. I have never had this kind of experience befoe. Im only at 15% completion! This is going to take a lot of my time and I would have it no other way. The one thing I would change is once you have saved up enough for the toyota Gt-One, the games pretty much over…

  10. jphillips – thanks for the comments, and for reading the blog!

    I am only 5% complete; just need more time and there never seems to be enough to go around.

    Are you saying that the game is over after you get the Toyota GT-One because it is so damn good (i.e. one of the best cars in the game), or just because by that point the races get easier? Hopefully you can still have a good time without a car that is balls-out solid, because I would be pretty bitter if the game is no longer fun less than 25% complete.

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