Pros: Tons of content, beautiful graphics, huge amount of cars and tracks to keep you busy.
Cons: No damage modeling, earning licenses take a lot of patience, no online.
Even though I have never been a huge racing buff when it comes to video games, I have always played the Grand Turismo series including the first one that was on the PS1. The series has always been noted for being the pioneer of true simulation racing, massive content, a variety of areas to race in, and beautiful graphics. This game is no different as it truly pushes all of the elements to their max. If you are already a GT fan then you will be given a lot of the same as before just more to it. It will mostly have the same feel as previous games to the true fan but, if your new to the series then you will see something you never have before in a racing game.
The game series has always been noted for its variety of cars and manufacturers that can be found in the games. Grand Turismo 4 does not fall short of this yet again as it features over 700 cars from over 80 different manufacturers. The majority of cars that are featured are American, Japanese, German, and British makes and models but, other countries such as Sweden, Korea, Spain, and even more are also found. The cars range from super high-end models, older muscle cars, middle of the road cars, to even old cars that you will probably never use on a track but just look at for fun. There is something for everyone as the different era of cars use is quite impressive.
This can also be said for the amount of tracks and environments used throughout the games. GT4 offers even more races (over 50 courses) and more areas to race in. However, as I said before, old fans of the series will see a lot of the same here as well. A lot of the tracks and courses are brought through the game once more. Tracks like Fuji Speedway and Leguna Seca make their way back but, there some additions this time. Rally cars racing in the dirt and snow can also be used quite a bit here as well. Needless to say, these will take some time getting the handle on.There are tracks ranging from over 13 miles long to short 2 mile sprints. A little of everything can be found when it comes to where you race and what type of race you will end up doing during the course of the game.
This is where a gamer will either really like this game, or say “this is not my style of game”. I can’t imagine anyone not liking the gameplay itself, it’s just that GT is a true realistic driving simulation. You won’t be able to just hold down the accelerator and once in awhile let go to power slide around a corner. You will need to use true braking and work your way around a course with much more realism if you want to win. This is actually what has made me a GT gamer for these years because they are not just arcade style games. They are simulators and GT4 is nothing but spectacular if you want true racing. The main game mode is career mode but, there is a two-player battle mode, LAN option up to 5 other players, time trials, and just a single race option. I never really spent much time anywhere in this game besides career mode. But, at least there is an option to take on a friend if you wish or just put it in for some quick racing fun if you wish. I just doubt if anyone really would do that.
Career mode consists of a map showing all of the locations you can travel too. If you are familiar to the game, then this will look very familiar to you. You are only given 10,000 credits so you are forced to enter a used car showroom to buy your first car. However, if you have a GT3 game saved, you can transfer up to 100,000 in credits to your GT4 game if you wish. If not, then you can grab a used car from the 90’s, go to the historic showroom and look around. Either way, you will be earning your credits to start with in some hard fought races. Of course, once you earn some credits and upgrade that first car, the races will become easier and easier. This is your intro to the game.
Now comes my biggest complaint about the game, because in order to move from your used car and advance the game you will need a ton of patience. While there are some races that you don’t need a “license” to compete in, these will not earn you much in credits. In order to compete in all of the, many, different events in the game the first thing you need to do is complete the required license that is required for that particular event. These licenses are a series of different tasks that you have to perform good enough to receive a bronze medal in to advance to the next one. They are kind of a tutorial showing you the new aspects of the game but, the hardiest tutorial ever. Each license has 16 tests that you need to get through to complete. These can range from very simple acceleration and breaking, handling much harder turning aspects, to even following a pace car which you must pass without hitting or going off the track at any time. Each completed license will open up a number of races and cups that you now can compete in. You don’t have to get every license at once, just the ones that can at least get you started so you can race for more credits. Just go back to the others whenever you want and do a few here and there if you want. Some of these licenses are extremely difficult and the amount of time to complete these all is mind boggling
However, it doesn’t stop there. A lot of the races are only for certain cars, makes, models, horse power, weight, and more. You must own a car that fits inside the requirements to compete in that particular cup and that is why you can have a lot of different cars in your garage. You will be doing a lot of traveling around the map looking for what you can race in, and what you need in order to race in. If you don’t have a car that fits that requirement, look for one to buy or win and then give the cup a try. For someone that really doesn’t know a lot about different cars and models, this may feel a little overwhelming at first. Don’t give up though because you enter a cup to see the requirements, it does spell it out for you clearly what is needed. You just may have to do a lot of searching to find a car that fits is all. It is worth the time you spend here and is why I complain about the license tests as much as I do. I understand the game doesn’t want you to compete in a cup that can earn you a $200,000 car in the first couple of hours of gameplay but, that is what the restrictions are for. In order to race in a lot of the events, you will have to have enough credits for all the different types of restrictions anyway. You will still need to do a lot of racing in the lower end fields to build these credits and earn cars. Again, there is a lot of content to the game and it is not one that you will complete in a short period of time.
Customizing all of your different cars is both easy and complex and it just depends on you how complex you want to get. The different parts that you can purchase can just be slapped onto your car in your garage and your off and racing. However, for car buffs there is a lot more you can do to tune up your car. You can teak the transmission so it will shift more to your liking, play with different weight distributions, fiddle with your breaks, play around with the suspension, and much more. This yet another reason why I say it will appeal to the die-hard racing fan, or car buff, more than the casual player. Buying upgrades is easy however because the games interface explains each part well and exactly what it will do to the car you are in if you purchase the upgrade. Not every upgrade is available for every car of course. Your garage is well organized with pull down menus that you can search your cars by different aspects. Once you get a lot of cars in your garage the ease of searching for one particular is nice. It is also easy to buy parts as well. You see a wrench icon that you click and the parts are organized by sections of your cars. The game menus is quite user friendly and even if you don’t understand everything that is going on with upgrading the game makes it simple enough that you can get started.
Once you get your car setup to your liking, and find a cup that you want to race in, and then hit the track. This is where the game really shines. The true feeling of racing has never been accomplished in a game as well as this on any of the lower end console systems. Every small tweak or upgrade you do to a car you can feel on the track. For example, If you put better gripping tires on your car for short races you will really feel the car handling better and you are able to keep up higher speeds around corners. However, if you have the same tires in a much longer race you will quickly notice the handling going away faster and faster. No matter what you tweak on your car you will undoubtedly notice it on the track. The game also gives you a great sense of speed and the illusion that you’re truly racing. Going up a blind hll, racing past another car at high speeds, or barreling into a tight corner trying to slow down all have great realism. I often notice myself leaning around corners as if I was helping the car to turn. The reaction time from your controller (or wheel) is right on the money. The slightest touch is noticed on your car right away. There are slow downs at all on the game picking up what you are telling it to do. Hit the brake, crank the car right, or slightly turn to avoid another car are all done with precision. There is not a better racing game when it comes to realism out there that I have at least found myself.
Still, with everything the game has to offer, the computer A.I. is still not up to par with what you expect. Once you get your cars upgraded and tweaked to your liking you will notice the computer becoming easier and easier at a pretty alarming rate. You will find yourself, most of the time, only racing one computer during a race even though there are 5 other cars out there. The game tends to give each computer a weaker to stronger car so you are kind of racing on easy and hard each race. It just seems that only 1 driver is giving you any real competition. Still, this doesn’t take everything away from the game but, once you get good at the game it will take some of the fun out of it. However, there is a new aspect in the game this time around. You can actually simulate through races. You can’t just simulate a race that you have not started but, once you start a race you can let a computer take over your car and just watch the race. You can even speed the race to x3 and quickly finish the race if you know you are going to win. I know that this takes away from what the game is, a racer but, an option you may want to do on some of the very long races later in the game. Plus, you do have some control over the computer like telling him how aggressive to drive or even when to pit and get new tires. Yes, there are pits in the games but, they are mainly only used in longer races to get fresher tires. Tires are a very important aspect of the game because you want tires that won’t wear to often or you will lose a lot of time pitting more than your computer opponents.
In all, the gameplay is very good all the way through the entire game. To the feel and control of your different cars to the game menus and navigations everything is setup nicely. If you’re a fan of the series already, or a newcomer, there is something for everyone. I still have not completed and unlocked everything single thing the game has to offer but, I do put it in from time to time and get closer.
To put “bluntly” the graphics are simply outstanding as they push the PS2 to its limits and perhaps even beyond. Right when you put the game in for the first time, and watch the opening cinematic scene, you know what you’re in for. The cars look incredibly realistic from their rims, spoilers, hoods, all the way to the inside of the car if choose to drive that way. The inside the car view, although harder to drive in, looks outstanding. In some cars, you can actually see the roll cage around you. The coolest aspect to the graphics is the lighting system. Seeing your car at night, or even the sun glare off it, truly is outstanding. The series has always been noted for its race replay feature and that is still here. After racing you can watch yourself race again. I doubt you would do this a lot but, I do it once in a while just to watch because of how real it looks. It looks almost real watching your car and others, coming around corners, passing each other, and just driving. This is especially real looking at night with your headlights on and lighting the way.
The same attention to detail is in the different race tracks you will be racing on and the different environments you will see. The game uses a lot of real life tracks and they do an excellent job at putting a real life aspect into them. From seeing certain landmarks to different trademarks that the different tracks have. If you are familiar with any of these places, you will quickly know what track you racing right when it loads. However, speaking of load times is the only complaint I have in this area. Expect some longer than normal load times when you first try to get into a race and during some of the menu screens. Still, with the graphical power being as good as it is, I understand why this happens and was willing to look past it. With all of the attention to detail this game graphically is, you won’t find a better looking racing game on the PS2 (or even Xbox) in my opinion. One of the best looking games period.
The sound effects themselves are nothing spectacular but, at the same time realistic enough. The different car engines will have different pitches as you accelerate and brake but, once all of the add-ons are on the car they will all start sounding pretty much the same. That of course is a well put together, and fast, machine. Tires “screeching” around corners and laying down 50ft of rubber as you break sounds just fine. However, hitting other vehicles or crashing into a wall at 100mph sounds rather weak. Of course you try and avoid this but, it will happen that is for. Still, all of the different sound effects are on the money and help with the already realistic feel of racing that this game provides.
The music has its ups and downs all the way through the game. Of course, you have your share of real music to listen to while you race but, are so varied that they never seem to fit together. For example, hearing Van Halen’s “Panama” right after listening through Judas Priest’s “Free Wheel Burning” song was quite the stretch. Then while you’re in the menu screens you hear the typical softer piano play depending on what area of the world you are looking at. I am used to a game picking a genre and, for the most part, sticking to that. However, this time you do have the option of turning off any song you want to you won’t have to hear it again until you turn it back on. GT4 is all over the place when it comes to the music and you just never get to really enjoy what your hearing listening too for very long. For a game that went to the amount of length that it did in all of the other aspects of the game, I kind of expected more in this area.
Even though the GT series has really been a pioneer in racing games since 1998, they tend to cater more for the serious gamers. It really isn’t a game like a “Midnight Club” or “Need For Speed” where you can just put it in, race a few races, and move on. With the amount of content that can be purchased, upgraded, tracks that can be raced on, and racing cups to complete, this game will keep you busy for a long time. Also the more realistic driving physics may make the casual players not be as interested for a long period of time. This time the series went for more of the realistic and time consuming approach than other games in the series. It will really depend on what you are looking for in a racing simulator. Still, this is a great game that offers exactly what it tries to, a lot of content and a more realistic racing experience. I give this a very solid 4 1/2 stars. The reason I take away a 1/2 star is because of the lack of damage modeling, and all the time needed to complete all of the different licenses. I was hoping by now they would have got rid of the different licenses that you have to earn to progress in the game and added some damage to the mix but, I am still waiting. The game still has a lot of the same feel as previous installments. Despite that the series has added more and more content and style, hopefully they will try and change a little direction if there is a next time around the track with this series.
Thank you for reading.
Game play: 4.5/5
Learning Curve: 20min
Replay Value: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
ESRB: E (Everyone)
Players: 1 - 2
Sound: Dolby Pro Logic II
Visual: 1,080i – 480p
Memory Card: 2,000
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