Since its official announcement at this year's E3, Gran Turismo 4 has become one of the most anticipated games for the PlayStation 2. Developer Polyphony Digital has set out to make an ambitious sequel worthy of the Gran Turismo name and is pulling out all the stops in its efforts to do so. The developer has been methodically conducting data-gathering sessions on hundreds of vehicles to determine which are best suited for inclusion in Gran Turismo 4. We were able to attend one of those sessions on the Motegi Raceway in Japan to see the process firsthand. In addition, we were able to try out a new demo of the game that showed off a new track.
It's easy to take the level of quality and attention to detail in the Gran Turismo series for granted, given the high standards achieved by each of the entries. However, there's an enormous amount of work involved in maintaining such a level of excellence. The challenge faced by Polyphony Digital for Gran Turismo 4 is to exceed the standards of the previous games while adding content and refining the gameplay. While that may sound daunting, the veteran developer is more than up to the task, judging from our visit to one of its work sessions. Polyphony brought a small army to Motegi, housing them in a hotel adjacent to the track for roughly two days. While work was slowed some by a bit of rain, the team was undaunted. There were several stations on different parts of the track, collecting different data for car modeling, audio, and physics.
Of course, the team did have a bit of time for play, thanks to a new work-in-progress build of the game featuring a new track, Fuji, that we were able to drive one car on. Despite the fact that the build was a work in progress, the graphics were looking quite sharp. The car model featured a high polygon count and the high level of detail the series is known for. The track featured a good amount of detail, with billboards alongside the track and mountains off in the distance. The start of the race made use of the familiar prerace camera angles.
The demo's control was feeling quite responsive and tight, although we'll admit to being spoiled by Polyphony's setup: custom-made pods that featured the upcoming steering wheel from Logitech. The new wheel felt good in our hands and was a solid showcase for the improved force-feedback effects in the game. In addition to featuring a built-in shifter, the wheel also offered a full 900 degrees of rotation, which was quite cool. The physics, while still being tuned, are well in line with the standards set by previous entries in the series.
The audio in the demo, while not final, offered an impressive range of sound that reflected racing conditions quite well. The roar of the car's engine was satisfying and did a fine job of complementing the impressive sense of speed. The sound of our tires on the track changed to reflect the surface we were on when we found ourselves on grass and gravel over the course of the race. Of course, we did this intentionally, in order to test the audio variances in the demo.
Simply put, the demo left us wanting more. Polyphony is headed in a very promising direction with the next installment in the series, thanks to its ambitious goals and its commitment to a high level of quality for the Gran Turismo franchise. While we can't spill everything about our time with Polyphony's development just yet, stay tuned to find out more about how this stunning game is shaping up. For more on the game, take a look at an exclusive on-location video here.