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Gran Turismo 4

This is the one everyone was waiting for. This was the game that was going to be the definitive auto racing experience. People expected a lot from GT4 and when the release date was pushed back and then pushed back again, the expectations only got bigger. I know mine did. Any game with this much hype is bound to be at least a little of a let down. But even so, GT4 had a lot of potential and made a lot of promises. But it doesn't live up to them. Admittedly, there was a lot for GT4 to live up to, but it didn't just fall short be a little, it fell short by a lot. Especially for a game that's been 3 over years in the making.

The Gran Turismo series has always been held as the best driving simulator on home consoles. The driving model of the previous 3 were all top notch and GT4 is more of the same. You can 'feel' the weight of the cars cornering and the steering gets floaty at high speeds. It's a great feeling. And watching yourself on the high quality replay makes you look like an even better driver than you probably are. When you're alone on the track and hiting the apexes, all is right in the world. But if you have to share the road with the computer AI, the realism facade quickly disappears. Cars will bounce off of you to take their preferred driving line. There's no damage in the game so you won't think twice about scraping a wall. Why call it a simulation if there are so many factors that are removed from reality. And it's not like these are impossible tasks. Most other racing games include better AI and some sort of damage model.

I'm not saying GT4 is a bad game. It's not. But it's not a whole lot different from GT3. And with so much innovation in the racing genre lately, I'd hoped that GT4 would bring something new to the table. What it does have is a solid driving model and incredible graphics. There are 700+ cars available and they all look great. But the car count falls short in diversity. There are numerous different versions of Honda Civics and Nissan Skylines, but no Porsches or Ferraris or Lamborghinis. It's not just Europe that gets shortchanged in car choices. There are a ton of notable US cars that are nowhere to be found. I'm not just talking about missing Ford Fiestas or Chevy Cavaliers. But important/legendary cars like the Thunderbird, or the GMC Syclone or how about the Cadillac CTS-V. No Monte Carlo SS, no Firebird, no Impala SS, etc etc. But Sony managed to pull in over a dozen different RX-7's, and more than 20 variants of the NSX. The more I played the game, the more limited I felt because of lack of car choice. Everone has a favorite car, and with such a large car count, you'd think that it'd be easy to find your boyhood favorite. But I didn't see the underrated Mustang SVO, or any Maserati to speak of. I know it sounds like I'm criticizing GT4 for what it doesnt have instead of praising it for the 700 vehicles it does. But you'll know what I mean when you go searching for a car that you know they just HAD to include, only to be disappointed. The large car count seemed more like and illusion than a feature.

The graphics are stunning. Dozens of tracks come alive with detail and the cars look better than any other game available. Gran Turismo 4 even includes the Nurburging, a 13 mile long German masterpiece of a track that was one of Project Gotham Racing's claim to fame. The 'ring looks great and it seems more detailed than in PGR2. Not only is every turn and bank included, but even the bumps on the track were simulated. Flying down a straight at 150mph is a lot more nerve racking than it was on Project Gotham.

But with that one step forward, GT4 then takes 5 steps back by not including online play. Honestly, a racing game these days can't be competitive without the ability to play against a bunch of other people online. Especially since the AI in GT4 isn't exactly ground breaking. I would love to race against other people on some of GT4's beautiful tracks. And with many of the cars being laughably underpowered or just plain wierd, the only time you would really want to use them is in a novelty race with friends. How many times would you drive a Model T around Sebring? After half a lap I was bored senseless. But with 8 other people in Model T's it might be fun. But I'll never know. Without online play, GT4 is crippled.

And since you can't play online, that leaves the single player mode to hold up the entire game. But it's essentially the same as Gt3. License Test, Race, Upgrade car, repeat. This time they included a few PGR style driving missions to spruce up things but it's too little to make a dent. If you lose a race, go dump another turbo in your car and race again. Repeat until you win. This means you never really have to improve your driving skills. You can bump pass all day long. Head into a corner too fast and hit a wall. Doesn't really matter a whole bunch. It would have been interesting if you had to pay to get your car repaired after each race. Then there would be some incentive not to drive like a maniac. But this brings up another fatal GT4 flaw. No damage. No matter what you do, you car will not show damage and it won't drive differently. This really hurts the 'simulation' part because once you realize that you can do whatever you want, you start doing whatever you want. The game stops being fun real quick.

To sum up, GT4 has looks incredible, has great tracks, and good car physics. It has no online play, a one note single player game, limited car selection, and no damage. After all this waiting, what we got was an upgraded GT3. And nowadays, that's just not enough.

 

 

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