Gran Turismo 5 Update - Course Maker, Driver Management, and Kart Racing

Kazunori Yamauchi shows a few more features, including two that let you get creative and tactical.

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At this point, there's not really much left to be said about Gran Turismo 5. It has been in development for what seems like ages, but unlike most games with a curiously long production cycle, it's not showing any reasons for concern. Quite the contrary--GT5 looks every bit the terrific racing sim that developer Polyphony Digital has become known for over the years. Gran Turismo 5's lengthy development seems to have resulted in a borderline absurd amount of content to be found in the game. From nighttime racing to NASCAR vehicles, we've seen a lot of what GT5 has to offer over the past few years, and with the impending release (hopefully) right on the horizon, we've just had a chance to see a few more bells and whistles here at Gamescom 2010.

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First, there's the course maker. Game director Kazunori Yamauchi was careful to avoid calling it a course editor, because to him that implies a barrier of entry on par with a 3D modeling program. If you're looking for a tool to lay your own asphalt and design billboards, this isn't it. Instead, the course maker is something that allows players to select a variety of course parameters from dropdown menus and let the game randomly generate a track in line with those settings. You start with a theme, ranging from the Tuscan countryside to Germany in the spring, and select the time of day, weather, and whether you want a point-to-point rally track or a looping circuit. Then you get into the nitty-gritty, selecting the number of sections, how many corners each section will have, and everything from sharpness of the turns to the width of the track to each section's bank angle. Then you hit the "generate track" button, and the game spits out a course that fits your specifications. You can hit the button again as many times as you like until you get something perfectly suited to your liking. After all this, you can share your track with friends and race it against other players online.

One of the other notable features Kazunori showed was an expanded version of the B-Spec mode originally found in Gran Turismo 4. If you recall, B-Spec mode is essentially a driving management simulation. It's more or less the direct counterpart to A-Spec, the basic game mode that lets you get in the seat of the car and drive. The idea for this mode goes back to Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec. The game was given that title because Kazunori intended to release Gran Turismo 3: B-Spec shortly after, a game that would use the same technology but focus on what it's like to manage your own racing team from the comfort of the pit. Obviously, that game was never released, which Kazunori attributed to a variety of technical hurdles they couldn't overcome. He said that B-Spec was included in GT4 as an experiment of sorts, but it has taken all the way until now for the two Spec modes to become perfectly balanced in terms of quality.

So what does all that talk mean, exactly? B-Spec gives you a fairly impressive suite of controls to manage a team of racers. You start with a single driver, but eventually build up your team to a maximum of six. During a race, you're shown a screen with a window of the live race flanked by a gaggle of meters, gauges, and numbers. There are gauges for your driver's current mental and physical staminas, as well as one that shows how agitated he is. These are factors that you as the manager control by giving him directions to increase the pace, lower it, maintain it, or what have you. If he gets really hot under the collar, he might eventually ignore your directions and become more prone to accidents on the track. You can also see information such as current tire damage and real-time averages of how every driver has been doing on every section of the track so you know when to plan your attack.

While B-Spec and the course maker were very much the focus of our demo, there were a few other features mentioned toward the end. For one, the photo mode we detailed at E3 will offer 3D support. Yes, you can take your cars, position them in a variety of tracks and showrooms, and then snap a photo that you can then gaze upon in three dimensions. We also saw a video of the kart racing in Gran Turismo, which if nothing else boasted the undeniably entertaining visual of drivers fully decked out in racing uniforms, shoes, and tinted helmets throwing their weight around the corners as they raced in front of the Roman Colosseum. Kart racing seems like an odd addition to a series so known for supercars that push the boundaries of modern engineering, but it's certainly at least a sign of Polyphony's dedication to further fleshing out a collection of race types that already includes WRC and NASCAR.

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Finally, this couldn't possibly be a Gran Turismo preview without revealing a handful of new cars and a track or two. We'll start with the cars. The theme with this batch of rides can be boiled down to one year: 1967. From that year you'll find a Ford Mark IV, a Ferrari 330 P4, a Jaguar XJ13, and a Lamborghini Miura P4000 Bertone Prototype. Why that year? The 1967 Le Mans was a personal favorite of Kazunori's, as the Ferrari that won first, second, and third places in the Daytona earlier in the year was beat out by the underdog Ford. Rounding out that list from a more modern era are the Zonda R '09, the Impreza Sedan WRX STI '10, and the Lexus IS F Racing Concept '08. And in terms of tracks, Kazunori announced Italy's Autodromo Nazionale Monza, or Monza for short. This track features few turns and ample straights, making it a good place for beginners to get a feel for revving their engines.

Gran Turismo 5 is currently scheduled for release on November 2. We've got our fingers crossed that it makes that release, but in the meantime, expect to see more coverage at next month's Tokyo Game Show.

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