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Gran Turismo 4 PlayStation 2

Published by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Developed by Polyphony Digital
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £39.99

Gran Turismo 4, an introduction.

It's not an overstatement to say that Gran Turismo is the most popular series of driving games ever created. Since the series first appeared on the PlayStation the popularity of the game has been phenomenal. At the time of its release the game was considered the closest thing to a driving simulation on a home console. Gran Turismo 2 managed to surpass the original game with masses of cars and features. The third game in the series was released for the PlayStation 2 and whilst the number of cars the game had was disappointing (as was the fact you couldn't buy used cars) it was still an excellent game. The first three games all had one thing in common; they helped to sell a huge number of PlayStations and PlayStation 2's.

What's the game about?

I could just cut corners here and say that many fans of the series will feel that Gran Turismo 4 is what Gran Turismo 3 should have been. Containing a staggering 700 cars, 80 manufacturers and 50 tracks (including the historic Nurburgring) this is one game that is simply bursting at the seams with content. The game retains the basic framework of previous GT games with the Arcade modes (including single races, time trials, split-screen and LAN races) and of course the Gran Turismo. You'll also have to earn your licenses again too although in my opinion I found earning the licenses at lot less cumbersome this time. On top of this familiar framework though you also have 34 driving missions to tackle and there's also a photo mode where you can either print off a screen shot to a USB printer or save your picture to a USB memory stick. Last but certainly not least is the new B-Spec: Director's mode. This mode basically allows an AI driver to drive your car and you issue orders to him throughout the race such as telling him to speed up or overtake. It's not a major addition and if truth be told many gamers won't use it very often but it's interesting nevertheless.

What's good about the game?

It's the best driving game on the PlayStation by a long way and if you're a fan of driving games it's worth every single penny. The number of cars, the number of tracks, the amount of competitions you can take place in etc., all add up to one heck of an experience that no other driving game to date can match. We've already mentioned the number of cars in the game but it has to be pointed out that the range of cars here is truly impressive. Cars ranging from the Ford Model T to concept models are all included and they have all been lovingly recreated to the smallest detail. The track variety is also amazing. Dirt tracks, city tracks, snow covered tracks and raceways all look great and there's even some tracks from the original Gran Turismo that have had one heck of a makeover. The Gran Turismo mode gives you the paltry sum of 10,000 credits to begin with and this does confine you to purchasing a rather weak or used car (yes used cars are once again available). Should you have a GT3 save game on your memory card though, you'll have the option to transfer up to 100,000 credits which will give you a great car to begin racing with. If played the GT4 Prologue Signature Edition and you managed to complete the driving lessons you will be able to claim your B licence which means you can begin earning your A licence straight away which will means your time invested in the Prologue version was not wasted. It's also worth mentioning that Polyphony have done a great job in making the game more accessible. The interface is much cleaner than in GT3. Customising your car with new components is much more intuitive for a beginner which helps to reduce the game's learning curve. The game will now autosave your progress so if you happen to just turn off your PlayStation 2 after a 3 hour driving session you won't lose everything you've just done (something I've done more than once on GT3).

What's not so good about the game?

With such a top quality game it feels like trying to find faults is simply nit-picking. However, there are some elements of the game that some would have hoped could be better. If you are a fan of the series you'll remember how the AI cars would adhere to the racing line. If you managed to get in their way then the AI drivers would try and ram you out of the way. Sadly this is still true in Gran Turismo 4 and it's probably the most disappointing aspect of the game. There still isn't any damage modelling either which compounds the aforementioned problem in that the AI drivers suffer no penalty for ramming your car. The early part of the game can still be a little repetitive in that you'll probably have to race the beginner races over and over (because they don't pay well) until you can afford to improve your car to tackle more difficult races. Finally there's no online play but then again, you already would have know that.

How does it handle?

The handling is all important of course and personally I think GT4 handles better with a Dualshock 2 controller than GT3. However, this isn't the best way to play the game. We were fortunate enough to have access to the Logitech Driving Force Pro steering wheel (that was designed for Gran Turismo 4 with the assistance of Polyphony) and it really turns up both the realism and enjoyment of the game a few notches. Being able to turn the wheel through 900° instead of the standard 200° really helps, especially on those city courses. The force feedback is also top notch and feels more satisfying than through the Dualshock 2. Of course those of you who have played GT3 to death with the Dualshock 2 may not want to play with a wheel but I found it a more authentic experience and I wouldn't go back to playing the game with the Dualshock 2.

How does it look?

Quite simply Gran Turismo 4 looks as good as possible on the PlayStation 2. Gran Turismo 3 pushed the console hard and Gran Turismo 4 manages to squeeze a little more out of the console. The car models are superb and the attention to detail is quite simply amazing. You'll notice a few extra visual effects here and there such as the blurring when you hit an opponents car. Lighting effects are noticeably better than in GT3 and the reflections on the cars are much more impressive. There's no slowdown at all in the frame rate during the races which given the extra detail is superb. Personally I felt that GT4 gives a better sensation of speed than GT3 ever did and as a result is more enjoyable. During the rally sections you'll notice the odd person rush out from the crowd to take photos of your car which is not a major inclusion but it's certainly the first time I've seen this in a game. Overall I think Polyphony Digital have done a great job of wringing every last drop out of the PlayStation 2's aged hardware and this is as good as driving games are going to look on the console.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

The Gran Turismo series has never been a problem for deaf gamers. After looking at the Gran Turismo 4 Prologue Signature Edition though it appeared there might be some problems as the instructions for the tutorials were delivered via speech. Thankfully though this is gone in the final game and GT4 has gone back to traditional text instructions that you can read at your leisure. In fact all the game modes rely on text instructions so there are no problems at all for deaf gamers.

Final thoughts.

It's been a very long wait for Gran Turismo 4 but even with the disappointment of the online section of the game being cut, it's still a very impressive game. There are some negatives mind you, such as the AI that cannot resist sticking to the racing line at all costs and the lack of damage modelling. Thankfully though the negatives are hugely outweighed by the positives and the sheer amount of content and things to do in Gran Turismo 4 mean you could well be playing the game for many months to come. Without a shadow of a doubt it's one of the biggest jewels in the PlayStation 2's crown.

Overall Game Rating: 9.4/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Gran Turismo 4 is an incredible driving game that manages to top Gran Turismo 3 in style. It's not perfect though and the old issues with the series still remain but this is still a class act and without a doubt it's the best driving game on the PlayStation 2.