Earlier today we met with Polyphony Digital's Kazunori Yamauchi and were treated to an almost hour-long presentation that showed off a number of previously unannounced features. Gran Turismo 5 still isn't finished, but its November 2 release date now appears to be set in stone, so the team at Polyphony has only a few more months to keep cramming new stuff onto the apparently almost-full Blu-ray disc. The game will purportedly be shown in its entirety at August's GamesCom event in Germany, but Yamauchi still had plenty of interesting things to talk about here at E3.
The first revelation in today's Gran Turismo 5 presentation was that, of the 1,000-plus cars featured in the game, only 200 or so will be what Yamauchi described as "premium" cars. Unlike the 800-plus "standard" cars, these will feature meticulously detailed interiors, and after collisions, their panels will be modeled in such a way that they can come apart and fully deform. The standard cars still look superb, but the level of detail just isn't the same. In fact, most of the standard cars have been taken from previous GT games and optimized for the PS3's graphics shader. For the record, even though standard cars can't be damaged in the same ways that premium models can, they'll still be susceptible to physics-based damage, dents, dirt, and scratches.
At one point during the presentation, while showing off close-ups of engines, wheels, and grilles that compared real photos to GT5 screenshots (almost impossible to distinguish between the two), Yamauchi conceded that his team has "actually gone too far in modeling some of this detail" and even went so far as to suggest that it might be "more suited to the next generation of PlayStation." The most impressive of these shots--even more impressive than the Audi wheels and ceramic brakes, or the Ferrari engine underneath a glass hood--was undoubtedly the one that showed the interior of a racecar, possibly a Nascar. The interior was absolutely packed with minute details, including a carbon fiber panel of switches and buttons, safety wires, and, of course, the driver's harness.
Speaking of Nascar, nine different models of Nascar have been confirmed for inclusion in Gran Turismo 5, and Yamauchi is hopeful that additional models will be added either prior to or after the game's release. All of the Nascar rules will be in full effect, and we got to see some great-looking screenshots of pit crews working on cars. At the request of Nascar, you'll be able to use their cars on tracks other than those that they're normally raced on, and according to Yamauchi, they're extremely quick even on circuits like the Nurburgring.
Germany's Nurburgring is one of six previously unconfirmed tracks for GT5 being shown at this year's E3. The other five are Circuit de la Sarthe, Rome, Madrid, Tuscany, and the test track from BBC's Top Gear TV show. All of them are, predictably, incredibly detailed, and Yamauchi revealed that the city circuits of Madrid and Rome (the latter of which incorporates the incredible-looking Colosseum) each took two years to finish. The Tuscany track, on the other hand, will see you racing through a wide-open environment composed largely of fields. The most impressive track, though, was the Nurburgring, not only because it's so huge, but also because of the ridiculous amount of work that has gone into re-creating it. For example, when racing in a 24-hour event at the track (which you will have the option to do in real time), you'll not only get to see the day-night transition, but because it's such a long event, you'll notice that many of the spectators have tents or camper vans that aren't there during normal races. Polyphony Digital has photographed every inch of the famously graffiti-daubed track in order to make sure that it's as accurate and as up to date as possible in the game. Some of the offensive stuff has been removed, but if you've written something family-friendly on the track in the past year or two, there's a good chance it has made it into the game. And hey, you can even take a photo of it as proof.
Like Gran Turismo 4 before it, Gran Turismo 5 will include a fully featured photo mode. In fact, it will feature two. Race Photo mode will let you pause races and replays in order to get action shots of cars as they hop over curbs, kick up dust and debris, and collide with one another, for example. Photo Travel mode, on the other hand, lets you manually position your cars in beautiful locales from all over the world and take the kinds of photos that you might see in glossy car magazines and such. Three Photo Travel locations were shown for the first time at E3, including Kyoto Gion in Japan, the Abbey of Saint Galgano in Italy, and Red Bull's Hangar-7 complex in Austria. Even if you're not familiar with these locations in real life, it's hard not to be impressed by how amazing they look in this mode, especially while you're walking around them trying to find the perfect spots for your shots. As in the previous game, you'll have loads of professional camera settings to play around with, but if you find that stuff a little daunting, you'll also have the option to more or less point and click as if you're using an automatic camera. Incidentally, it will be possible to take photos from inside car cockpits, though it's not clear whether this feature will be available in standard as well as premium models. Additional Travel Photo locations will be revealed in the coming weeks and months, and it sounds like even more might be released as downloadable content in the future.
Next up was a look at Gran Turismo 5's online suite, which, if it works as intended, has the potential to be something very special. Every player will have his or her own "lounge" area where they can meet with friends to chat or to arrange, spectate, and compete in races. Friends will have access to your lounge even when you're not online if they wish to use it as a meeting place, though you will of course have the option to password-protect it if necessary. When you initiate a race from a lounge, any spectator text comments will be visible to you in-game. Comments included in the E3 screenshots all came courtesy of players named after Star Trek: The Next Generation characters, and one of them piqued our interest because it mentioned watching the BBC show Top Gear on GTTV--a feature confirmed back in 2007 that, to be perfectly honest, this writer had forgotten about. Another, which came from a "G. L. Forge," mentioned that he'd love to see motorcycles in the game in the future. We'll keep our fingers crossed that the U.S.S. Enterprise's chief engineer gets his wish, though it seems highly unlikely even as DLC at this point.
The last big reveal of the session was that, in addition to the previously announced 3D support, Gran Turismo 5 will support head-tracking via the Sony Eye camera. Furthermore, it will do both simultaneously. To try to illustrate the effect of head-tracking, Yamauchi displayed an image that showed a car interior expanding far beyond the confines of a TV screen. He pointed out, though, that the only way to really understand how the head-tracking works is to experience it for yourself. So, as soon as the session finished, we ran to Sony's booth, grabbed a wristband that would grant us access to the media-only upstairs area, and did just that. We lucked out, in fact, because a moment before it was our turn, one of the two GT5 stations was being used to show off 3D while the other was using head-tracking. We were the first people to try out both simultaneously after watching the Sony reps set it up.
Getting the head-tracking working correctly, especially in a busy trade-show environment, appears to be something of an undertaking. There were a dozen or so different variables being changed with sliders onscreen as we waited, and while the camera was clearly able to recognize and track the movement of a player's head, the way the game and steering wheel were set up ultimately resulted in the camera being a bit closer to the player than it's ever likely to be in your living room. Regardless, with some exaggerated head movements, we were indeed able to look left and right from inside the cockpit of the Dodge Challenger that we'd opted to take for a spin around the new Rome street circuit. Unsurprisingly, particularly given that we were using a force-feedback steering wheel to play, the car handled very believably and, unsurprisingly, it took us a couple of corners (and a couple of spins/collisions) before we felt completely comfortable with it. The effect of the 3D was also quite impressive, and while it won't add to the game the same way that the head-tracking will, it's as good a reason as any to invest in 3D-capable hardware if you're still in need of a good excuse to do so.
As was confirmed just yesterday, Gran Turismo 5 is scheduled for release on November 2. And when that day comes, you'll be able to check out for yourself all of the aforementioned features, the new low/high-beam functionality, the smoke illumination effects, and whatever else Yamauchi is keeping up his sleeve until GamesCom. We look forward to bringing you more information on the long-awaited Gran Turismo 5 just as soon as it becomes available.