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Gran Turismo 4
Score: 100%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 6 (LAN)
Genre: Racing (Simulation)

Graphics & Sound:
Gran Turismo is known to be unparalleled in its graphical presentation and simulation accuracy. This is the expectation I hold for a Gran Turismo title. GT4 lived up to this expectation and added in an interesting photographic element.

The models in GT4 are fantastic – photorealistic models that can get dirty with use (of course, there’s still no visible damage – license issues, you see). The photorealism is not restricted to the vehicles, however, but include the tracks and environments as well. Crowds that would be simple paintings in other games take the form of simple models that watch and cheer as racers go by – even standing in the middle of the track to take photos, then rushing out of the way in the Rally races. J.R. Nip did manage to illustrate that the crowd goers were not very highly detailed, but they weren’t intended to be driven up to (and into) and scrutinized to such a degree. For the speeds you’re intended to pass them at, they look more than believable.

The music available in GT4 is as varied as it is plentiful. You have the ability to go into a menu and select which songs you want to have in the playlist and whether you want the song to be in the gameplay or the replay. I tried deselecting all of the songs except for the classical songs and raced around to classical music. That is an interesting experience in contradiction; the sound effects and visuals are fast-paced and intense, but the music is calming and relaxing. This contributes to a very surreal racing experience.

GT4 is, as it claims to be, “The Drive of Your Life.” You can race in more than 650 cars, spanning a century of automotive history, on more than 100 photorealistic tracks from around the world. The physics are extremely realistic and the tests for your licenses are as challenging as ever. However, if you have old licenses saved from GT3, you can import those to get right into racing.

The races are nicely divided into different proficiency levels, and many are restricted to certain makes, eras, or drive type (FWD/RWD), allowing you to race similar vehicles. The rally tracks are much improved over GT3, with beautiful vistas and the nearly total lack of traction to be expected when taking gravel roads at high speed. (I lived in the country for quite some time, so I know of what I speak.)

There are a couple of new aspects to Gran Turismo 4 that weren’t in previous Gran Turismo titles. First are the B-Spec level races – a bit more advanced than the A-Spec races, to offer more challenges for the more advanced player. Also, the new photographic elements allow you to take amazing images as if taking a snapshot, and then save and even print them out on a photo printer.

GT4 played with a normal controller is deserving of a very high score. It’s just that good. However, playing GT4 combined with the Logitech Driving Force Pro Force Feedback Wheel raises the bar, taking the experience to a higher level. If you can throw in a VRC-1 Virtual Racing Chassis, you’ve got a genuine racing simulator on your hands. (Icing on the cake? Use a head-mounted video system such as the Olympus Eye-Treks for an even more immersive experience.) If you like racing, you won’t want to leave the house again...

GT4 is not an arcade racer. There is an Arcade mode with a lot of fun tracks to be raced and a lot of cars to choose from, but even with less concentration on the “little things” such as tire wear, the gameplay is still more accurate and realistic than the typical arcade experience. If you’re looking for a game with nitro boosts and “power-slides,” GT4 is not what you’re looking for.

The trick to playing GT4 has got to be paying attention to instructions and practice, practice, practice. That having been said, a lot of your performance can be boiled down to selecting the settings that you feel most comfortable with (view, transmission selection, vehicle selection, etc.) and having the proper feedback so you know what’s going on. Specifically, playing GT4 with Logitech’s Driving Force Pro is likely to increase your performance. The wheel has differing resistance based on your traction and realistic forces based on environmental events such as bumps and collisions. This force-feedback makes the simulation more real and allows your normal reactions to work in your favor.

Game Mechanics:
GT4, like the previous Gran Turismo games, is extremely high-quality and state-of-the-art for its time. GT4 is a simulation, with appropriately realistic physics. You’ll nose down when braking hard and slide if you attempt to turn at excessive speeds. If you’re playing in Simulation mode, you’ll also need to worry about avoiding damage to your tires during the race, and upgrading and maintaining your car(s).

The physics are spot-on and the realism is amazing. If you want a truly arcade quality simulation experience (or better), try it with the Logitech Driving Force Pro Force Feedback Wheel. GT4 and the Driving Force Pro together are a racing gamer’s wet dream.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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