E3 06: Gran Turismo HD Hands-On

The new Gran Turismo game looks sharper than ever--adding a range of bikes to the stable of cars, though not much else seems to have changed yet.

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LOS ANGELES--Gran Turismo is one of the few franchises that elevated the PlayStation 2 from console to phenomenon. People weren't just blown away by the quality of the racing experience and the number of different vehicles you could hop into; they were dumbfounded by the sheer graphical brilliance of the games, which set benchmarks with every iteration in the series.

It's no surprise then that the key selling point for the next edition in the franchise focuses once again on wowing gamers with its realistic visuals. Running for the first time in 1920x1080 progressive scan mode, the game is a sight to behold in its full HD beauty. Standing back and watching the action is almost like watching the sport on TV.

In the demo that we played, there were four tracks and seven vehicles to choose from (see below for the full list). We took a Nissan Skyline out for a spin on the popular Nurburgring circuit, and it seems like the background environments are more lifelike than ever as a result of the HD resolution.

There were two camera views available: the regular front bumper/fender view and the close-up chase view. It looked initially as if there were 10 cars in the race, but as we tested the artificial intelligence of the computer-controlled cars, we slipped down to 12th, which was a nice surprise.

Sadly, the opposition seems as unimaginative as ever when it comes to the racing line--unable to swerve around us to any great degree when faced with the mobile roadblock that we provided. Also, there's no sign of any kind of damage model, so cars were bouncing off the walls with no side effects other than just slowing down.

It wasn't clear if the handling had been tweaked in any way, but with the noticeably lighter PlayStation 3 controller, it felt ever so slightly different. The new paddles that look like they're replacing L2 and R2 weren't assigned to any controls, which operated in exactly the same way as Gran Turismo 4.

Moving on from the cars, there was also a running demo of a superbike race in action. All the riders looked realistic in terms of riding position, and they all cornered as you’d expect. Something that did surprise us was that a rider fell off at one point, although the camera moved on before he could remount, so how much of a delay falling off will cause is unclear. It was also impossible to judge just how differently the bikes will handle from the cars.

Gran Turismo HD is currently slated for a 2007 release, and we'll have more details as they become available.

Circuit list for E3 demo:

Tokyo R246
Nurburgring Nordschleife
Circuit de la Sarthe
Grand Canyon rally circuit

Car list for E3 demo:

Nissan race car
Bentley Speed race car
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Rally Car
Nissan Skyline GTR V-Spec NUR 02
Shelby Cobra 427 '67
Ginetta G4 '64
Formula Gran Turismo 04

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