The camera slowly moves along the pavement, revealing swirling leaves of crimson and that have fallen in the autumn breeze. The sounds of a beautiful orchestral/choir ensemble float through the crisp fall air. A white Ford GT40 comes into the frame, sporting its sponsor decals like badges of honor. As the camera slowly pans around the amazingly rendered automobile, you can see the beautiful foliage of the rolling hills in the background. Another rotation around the car brings you to the majestic snow covered mountains. One more revolution, and you are parked under the warm glow of city lights. You are then transported to the racetrack, and as the orchestral music fades out, you hear the opening riff of Van Halen’s “Panama”. As the music kicks in, so does the action on the track. Playing more like a movie preview than a game introduction, the opening sequence of Gran Turismo 4 will have you drooling with anticipation of the game that awaits you.
Gran Turismo 4 hasn’t strayed much from the formula that made it popular in the first place. The first thing you need to do is acquire a license, buy or win your first car, then hit the tracks to take on the competition. The difficulty level seems a bit steep on some of the licensing challenges, making the cup attainable by only the most skilled drivers. On the track, AI racers are near flawless, and they won’t be making any mistakes that will give you a window of opportunity to overtake them. Once you get behind, only proficiency and sheer horsepower will save you.
One of the most interesting new additions to GT4 is the “B-Spec” mode; which allows you to view the race in real-time and give commands to your driver, sort of like having your own life-size remote control car. You can adjust the car’s pace, and tell the driver when to overtake or make a pit stop. This new feature can come in handy if you are having trouble with a particular track, or just want to take a little break from having to do all the driving.
Another new addition is the “Photo Travel” mode, which allows you to take any vehicle in your garage to one of several world locations for a photo shoot. You can change the position of the car and the camera angle, so that you can get the exact angle you are looking for. The system is a bit clunky, and I found it frustrating that I couldn’t just focus the camera on the car, and pan around it, keeping the car centered in the frame. Once you have everything set to your liking, including wheel position and filter effects, you snap the picture and save it to your photo album. From your photo album, you can set up a slide show for your viewing pleasure, or you can print them out using an Epson brand printer.
The graphics in this game are some of the best I have seen on the PS2. The cars look amazing and the environments are incredibly detailed, with some decent draw distances. The game is remarkably photo-realistic, both in terms of the cars and the locations. Sometimes it was hard to tell I was looking at a video game, and not watching the Speed Channel. There aren’t any major flaws in the graphics department, but there is no damage modeling, which I think detracts somewhat from the experience of a sim racer.
As a general rule, racing games have a rather bare-boned sound track, with not much in terms of ambient noise. It is pretty much just you, the engine and the stereo. Gran Turismo does an excellent job with the engine sounds, and the soundtrack has a nice variety to it.
Gran Turismo will keep you occupied for quite some time. I’ve logged more than my fair share of hours in the game, and still have plenty more enjoyment to extract from it. There is a nice variety of tracks in the game, and along with a sprinkling of street courses and rally events. The new gameplay modes add even more to the replay value. Even though the online support was pulled from this game prior to release, there is enough in the game itself to keep you from missing it. If you really want to compete with your friends, you can do a split screen for two, or LAN up to six players.
There’s always been a plethora of racing games available across all of the platforms, but there are few that have been able to rival the success of Sony’s exclusive powerhouse franchise. For years, Gran Turismo has been the game that racing enthusiasts turn to when they desire a more realistic driving experience. With over 650 cars, 100 tracks, and new game modes, it appears as if Sony’s GT4 will remain the dominating force in the driving simulation genre.
- Gameplay: 9.2
- Keeping the main game intact, while adding new elements that add interesting game play and life to the game.
- Graphics: 9.4
- Some of the best graphics on the PS2.
- Sound: 9.1
- Not a lot to it, just engines and music, but both are done well.
- Replay: 9.6
- This game could keep you racing for a very, very long time.
- Overall: 9.3
- Not a huge leap from the previous version, but definitely a finely tuned game.
— J. Paradise