Gran Turismo Concept 2001 Tokyo Preview

We've got the completed Japanese version of this game. Read on to find out what you can expect when Concept lands on our shores.

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 See it in action!

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Watch footage of Gran Turismo Concept 2001 Tokyo as Senior Editor Amer Ajami narrates.

Imagine what it would have been like to test-drive Honda's SSM in 1995, a full five years before it was introduced to the buying public as the S2000, or the feeling you'd get from taking Ford's redesigned GT-40, a Ferrari killer that might never see the light of day, out for a spin. It takes years for concept cars to finally be made into production vehicles--if they're not scrapped entirely--and in the process, they often lose a lot of their glamour, exotic looks, and impressive performance figures. While you might never have a chance to drive these cars in real life, Sony and Polyphony Digital are giving you the ability to do the next best thing with Gran Turismo Concept 2001 Tokyo.

The game was unveiled earlier last year at the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show, a mere three months after Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec was released in the US. The game is a sequel of sorts to GT3, and like GT3, Gran Turismo Concept will hand you the keys to a number of highly coveted exotics that you'd otherwise only be able to read about within the pages of Car & Driver or catch a brief glance at during an episode of MTV Cribs. But perhaps calling it a sequel isn't entirely accurate. Gran Turismo Concept 2001 Tokyo can best be described as a stand-alone expansion pack for Gran Turismo 3. That is, it uses the same graphics engine and sound library from GT3, features the same play mechanics and similar interfaces, and has the same collection of tracks, while adding around 50 new cars (many of which are brand-new concept vehicles that were debuted at the auto show on the same day that this game was announced) as well as a few other bonuses that were unavailable in the original--basically, all of the things that an expansion pack should be. The only difference is, of course, that you don't need a copy of Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec to play Gran Turismo Concept 2001 Tokyo.

The progress screen in Concept makes keeping track of what you've unlocked a snap.

Admittedly, the game won't take very long for you to complete--certainly nowhere near as long as Gran Turismo 3--largely because it lacks the Gran Turismo career mode, which was the heart and soul of all three previous games in the series. That means there'll be no garage, no racing leagues, no test track, no purses to be won, no aftermarket upgrades, and sadly, no carwash. Instead, Gran Turismo Concept will be more like a glorified arcade mode, but with the ability to unlock cars by earning them in some straightforward races. Specifically, you'll start out the game with 11 cars, but you'll need to earn a gold medal in 10 license tests and place in first place in all 20 races (10 normal-difficulty events and 10 professional-difficulty events) to unlock the game's other 40. Thankfully, the designers at Polyphony Digital seem to have taken user feedback from Gran Turismo 3 to heart, and they've included a handy progress table that clearly displays which cars you've unlocked and those you've yet to earn. In addition to the new cars, you'll also be awarded with four "presents" after reaching certain milestones during the game, and strangely enough, they vary wildly in significance. For instance, one of these rewards is the ability to watch the opening movie for Gran Turismo 3, which is completely useless if you already own the game, but another such prize is a whopping 10 million credits that you can transfer onto your GT3 save game. It's clear that these rewards are designed to woo people who don't own Gran Turismo 3--if such people even exist anymore--into buying the game.

There will be five racetracks in the game (10, if you count the mirrored versions), four of which were taken directly from Gran Turismo 3. These tracks are Tahiti Maze, Swiss Alps, Mid-Field, and Tokyo R246. The newcomer to Gran Turismo Concept is Autumn Ring, a track that fans of the series will remember from the original PlayStation games. Aside from the visual overhaul, Autumn Ring remains essentially unchanged from Gran Turismo 1 and 2, and its combination of 17 high- and low-speed turns makes it the most technical course in Gran Turismo Concept. Interestingly enough, there's also a custom course that can be driven only with the Toyota pod, one of the new concept cars in the game. This oval track is more like an obstacle course than a racetrack--with only two turns, it's very short. It features a slalom area immediately before turn one, a 100-yard straightaway, another 180-degree turn, and then an area where you're required to come to a complete stop before going on to the second lap.

Autumn Ring is back in Gran Turismo Concept, and with 17 turns, it's easily the most technical of the game's courses.

But if you think that's strange, you'll be downright dumbfounded with the Toyota pod itself. This strange contraption looks like a box on wheels and is best likened to an Aibo car. The pod actually has a tail (antenna) that wags and an LED face...yes, a face. It's two headlights and front grill are accented by a series of lights that will display various colors to denote different emotions. So, if you take a turn too wide and slam your pod into a corner, it'll display an angry red face. If you zip past another car during a race, your pod will react with a pleasant blue grin. How all this applies to the mechanics of road handling is a question best left to the Toyota engineers. Still, fans of the series will undoubtedly welcome Polyphony Digital's desire to include as many cars in the game as possible, no matter how strange they may be. Incidentally, even though you won't be able to upgrade your cars with aftermarket parts like you could in GT3, you will have the ability to perform a number of tweaks on your vehicle, like adjusting the downforce it produces, increasing its braking power, balancing the traction control to your liking, and so on before each race.

These 51 cars in Gran Turismo Concept 2001 Tokyo are split into five separate categories--concept, new, dream, race, and rally--each of which has between nine and 15 cars in its group. The concept group is made of 13 cars that include the Daihatsu Copen, Toyota pod, Nissan MM, Mazda Atenza, Mitsubishi CZ-3 Tarmac, Toyota RSC, Nissan 350 Z, Honda Dualnote, Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec, Honda NSX-R, Mazda RX-8, Suzuki GSX-R/4, and Nissan GT-R Concept. All of these cars were shown at the Tokyo Motor Show, but only a handful are set to be made into actual production models. The "new" group includes 12 cars: the Honda Fit, Toyota Altezza Gita, Nissan Primera 20V, Toyota Will VS, Toyota Soarer, Nissan Skyline 300GT, Honda Civic Type R, Honda Integra Type R, Honda S2000, Nissan Skyline GT-R M-Spec, Subaru WRX STi Prodrive Style, and Mazda RX-7 Type R Bathurst. Unlike the concept class, the cars in the new class are all currently production vehicles and can be bought (in Japan at least) from any dealer.

The front straight of Autumn Ring as seen from the cockpit of the new Honda Dualnote.

The dream class of cars is perhaps the most intriguing in Gran Turismo Concept 2001 Tokyo. This group, which includes the Toyota RSC rally car, Mitsubishi CZ-3 Tarmac rally car, Mazda Atenza LM, Honda Integra Type R LM, Honda NSX-R LM, Honda NSX-R LM Road Version, Nissan GT-R Concept LM, and Mazda RX-8 LM, consists of production or concept cars that are made up to look like Japan Grand Touring Car (JGTC) racecars. While Japanese racing teams might one day use similar cars, as it stands now, these vehicles are the product of Polyphony Digital's collective imagination. On the flip side, the game also has 15 cars that fall into the race category, and they include the Nissan MM-R, Subaru Impreza WRX rally car, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VII rally car, Arta NSX, Raybring NSX, Loctite NSX, Pennzoil Nismo GT-R, Calsonic Skyline, Pennzoil Zexel GT-R, two Castrol Tom's Supras, an Esso Ultraflo Supra, and an au Cerumo Supra. While these might look like the dream cars, they are actually vehicles that are currently used by existing JGTC teams. The final group of cars, rally, has 12 vehicles, although only the Subaru Impreza rally car and Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VI rally car are exclusive to this class--the other 10 cars are shared among the game's four other classes.

Gran Turismo Concept 2001 Tokyo could be the start of an interesting trend for the developer. Is this the first in a series of "Concept" Gran Turismo games? Could we see a Concept 2002 Detroit or a Concept 2002 Geneva in the future? We certainly wouldn't put that past Sony, and it's definitely something that Gran Turismo fans would welcome, especially if the price tag remains low. Gran Turismo Concept 2001 Tokyo is currently selling in Japan for about 3,200 yen, or $23, and while Sony of America has made no official comment on the game's fate in the US, we expect it to land on our shores right around summertime. Until then, be sure to take a look at the latest batch of movies and screenshots that we've added to our media gallery.

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