Sony shows off a new track and gives us a brief update on the state of Gran Turismo 4.
Sony is currently having an annual press event devoted to showing off several upcoming PlayStation 2 games, both from Sony and its third-party developers. As you might expect, Sony's upcoming racing sequel Gran Turismo 4 is a pretty major part of this event, and the company showed us a new version of GT4, complete with some rally races, LAN play, and more.
For starters, let's talk about the cars in the game. Though the version on display contained only a handful of vehicles, Polyphony Digital aims to have more than 500 cars in the final game. These cars will be broken up into different groups, so you'll see standard automobiles, convertibles, modified/street racing cars, and straight-up racing cars. As fans of the series know, the Gran Turismo games have also always featured quite a few older models so that everyone could drive their own personal favorite car. GT4 will include quite a few muscle cars from the '60s and '70s, and a few of these cars were present in the demo version on display. These included the Pontiac GTO, the Chevelle SS, the 'Cuda 440-6, and the Camaro Z28 302. Other cars shown in the version on display included the Chevy SSR, the Honda NSX-R LM Edition, the Prowler, the Lotus Europa Special, the Supra TwinTurbo-R, the Alpine Renault 1600S, the Nissan Fairlady 240ZG, the Subaru Impreza Rally Car, the Subaru WRX STi, and the Lancer Evolution VIII. The process that Polyphony goes through to add cars to the game sounds like an arduous one, since the game's cars are measured in 300 different parameters. The eventual goal for GT4 is to have realistic car and AI performance to allow the game's cars to come within one second of what the same car could do on the same track in real life. By comparison, the goal for the previous Gran Turismo was 2.5 seconds. Though total realism is the team's goal, the game will not feature car damage due to the nature of the licensing agreements made with the various car manufacturers.
Though the company didn't provide a final count of how many tracks will be in the game, we were shown a few different courses. The new track in this version was called Citta di Aria, and it's based on a small Italian town. This course is far narrower than any course we've seen in any other Gran Turismo game. According to the company, advanced technology makes tracks like this possible, since the game's all-new physics engine has a higher level of precision, allowing for narrower tracks and more-realistic car response. Other tracks include the Times Square run in New York, which seems pretty accurate, right down to the product placement of the AOL Time-Warner building and the McDonald's and Coca-Cola signs. A Sony representative said that the team is shooting for 90 percent accuracy in terms of realistic product placement. Also adding to New York's realism are minor details, such as the way flags realistically whip around in the wind on the sides of the road and the way the windows on nearby buildings reflect the sky textures. The game will also have a Grand Canyon rally track.
Like real rally races, the trackside areas in the game's rally courses will be filled with cheering onlookers. The version shown didn't have any audience animation, but we were shown a brief segment of footage that showed what the crowd looks like in motion. In one replay, which showed a car quickly whipping around a populated corner, it was difficult to tell at a distance that it wasn't footage of a real-world rally race. Between the realistic bounce of the car's suspension, the good audience animation, and the dust kicking up off the tires, it was an extremely impressive display. The game will also feature some real-life race circuits, and the version shown contains both the Tsukuba Circuit and the Fuji Speedway. Though not shown, the game will also include the Laguna Seca Raceway.
A big part of what Polyphony is bringing to the Gran Turismo series this time around is what the team calls the "human element." By and large, you've never really seen people in the Gran Turismo games. This time you'll get the aforementioned rally crowds, as well as pit crews. In addition, convertible cars will reveal their drivers, and the models will shift, steer, and react to the handling of the car in a realistic fashion.
Though Polyphony Digital is keeping the details of Gran Turismo 4's online mode a secret, company representatives did state that they envision an online community building around the game. In addition, the game will have online support for up to six players via the Internet or a LAN.
As a fairly hard-core simulation, the GT series hasn't always been the most friendly for beginners. Gran Turismo 4 seeks to reach out to an even wider audience of casual players. As a result, cars won't spin out as often. It appears that the game will have three levels of AI-assisted driving, so series veterans should be able to disable all the extra help and play as normal.
Graphically, Gran Turismo 4 appears to be making some strong improvements over its predecessor. But the team was quick to state that the improvements come from heightened skills on their part and that the limits of the PlayStation 2 hardware still have not been reached.
All told, Gran Turismo 4 seems like it may very well have just about everything a fan of the series--or any serious car fan--could want. Release details are still sketchy, but Sony did state that the game will be available sometime in 2004. With the Tokyo Game Show almost upon us, you can bet that we'll have more on Gran Turismo 4 in the weeks to come.
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