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.