Gran Turismo 4 – PS2 – Review

When Gran Turismo 3:
came out I believed that this was the racing game all games in
this genre would try to aspire to be and why not?  The game featured hundreds of
cars and enough tracks that gamers played this one for month.  As a loyal
follower of the series since its introduction on the original PlayStation, I’ve
seen the game go from good to great to why-can’t-I-put-this-controller-down?
Now, with Gran Turismo 4, you can bet that this girl won’t get any sleep
at all.  Is it that good, you might ask?  All I can say is that they had to pry
me away from my PS2 to write this review. 



First off, if you’re like
me and absolutely love cars . . . I mean really love cars to the point that you
pick up a magazine and ogle the curves on that 2004 Aston Martin Vanquish, then
Gran Turismo 4 is your game.  If you’re like me and can’t wait to get
your hands on the next cool looking racing game to the point that you mark the
release date on your calendar, Gran Turismo 4 is your game.  Gran
Turismo 4
boasts up to 700 cars (Japanese, German, French and American to
name a few), starting with the 1915 Ford Model T Tourer to the brand new 2005
Ford Mustang GT.  Are you crazy about those classic muscle cars?  Well there’s
everything from a 1970 Chevy Chevelle SS 454 to a 1971 Dodge Charger Super Bee
426 Hemi.  In short, there’s everything here except for Porsches.


The game has two main
modes of playing–Arcade Mode and Gran Turismo Mode.  Arcade Mode offers World
Circuits, City Courses, Dirt and Snow Circuits and Original Circuits.  There’s
even a two-player mode that allows you to play against a friend or, if you know
how, play with up to six friends through a LAN setup (sorry, no online
multiplayer mode).  The main mode of playing the game is Gran Turismo Mode,
though, which will take you from the bottom as you attempt to climb the racing
ladder to the top.  While you start with enough credits to purchase your first
car, you can bring over all the credits you earned in Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec via
the PS2 Memory Card.  This allows you to purchase a better car or allow you to
tune up a starting car as you move through the map looking for challenges or
prepare to earn an A-Spec or B-Spec License.  The career takes you all over the
world, pitting you against other drivers out to make a name for themselves.


Playing Gran Turismo Mode
also unlocks other modes such as GT Arcade Mode that offers more game tracks to
add to the Time Trail (where you race against your best time that’s displayed as
a “ghost” car) and Single Race modes.  You’ll even notice a Photo Mode, which
allows you to pick your favorite vehicle and place it within an environment and
take pictures of it in various locales.  You can even print the pictures you
take using a compatible Epson printer for when you want to show off your ride. 
New to the series is B-Spec or Director Mode, a game mode that allows gamers to
become the director as you “tell” the CPU driver what to do.



The variety of tracks are
astounding so you’ll never see the same track twice while playing Gran Turismo
Mode.  The courses are national and international and will take you through some
basic courses to some gorgeous city tracks like one that takes you right through
the Sunset Strip in Las Vegas.  There are even some rally racing-styled outdoor
environments that are just pure rough terrain (both in dry deserts to some
frosty tundra).  The courses are well designed . . . many of them filled to the
brim with some pretty scenery and some with just enough curves to make you
really pay attention to the road ahead of you.


Control-wise, Gran
Turismo 4
plays like a dream with a control scheme that’s good enough for
anyone to pick up and just start playing.   Running at a steady framerate, the
game feels right using a controller but if it’s a real racing experience you
crave you’ll want to invest some hard earned bucks on Logitech’s Driving Force
Pro wheel made specifically for the game.  It’s the perfect companion for this
particular game seeing as how responsive it is and darn if it’s not the only way
I prefer playing the game but that’s my personal taste.  Still, I highly
recommend buying the wheel if you like to complete the driving experience.


The game is also pretty
hard but it never becomes so frustrating that you’ll throw your controller or
slam your fists on the steering wheel.  A and B-Spec Licenses aren’t easy to
obtain mainly because each challenge requires you to complete them within a
certain timeframe.  The actual races are also nicely challenging, although often
the computer-controlled opponent AI can be questionable.  There are times when
the other driver can maneuver corners like nothing and there are times when a
simple turn can slow them down considerably.  I once accidentally rammed one
car, sending the driver to spin counterclockwise into a post only to find the
same car still stuck there when I pass through the site of the incident a few
minutes later.


As for the game’s graphics
they will take your breath away.  We’re talking about visuals so gorgeous you’ll
want to replay all your races just to admire the incredible detail of each car
and the tracks themselves.  The cars look photo-realistic during races and
during replays and this game does offer you many different views during replay
to the point that you can slow things down to check out the reflections of the
environments on the windshield.  The only thing that takes you away from the
realism is the fact that there’s no car damage.  Still, the backgrounds breathe
with life both in the city courses as well as those outdoor races.



Seldom does a racing
game’s sound captivate me or impress me to the point that I can’t help but
admire the audible detail yet Gran Turismo 4 is just one of those games
that manages to pull off some very impressive sound effects.  We’re talking
about the sound tires make when you’re making a sharp turn or the sounds of a
car changing gears.  The most impressive feature, though, comes in the form of a
car’s engines.  You’ll be able to tell the difference between the engine of a
1970 Dodge Charger 440 R/T to a Hyundai Tiburon GT.  Each car has its own
distinct sound and the game is able to display this accurately.  Toss in a
massive song list of licensed tunes from The Donnas and The Blasters to Van
Halen and Papa Roach.  There’s even some classical music to funk from groups
like Earth, Wind & Fire.


Just when you thought the
series couldn’t get any better; here comes Gran Turismo 4 to show you
that even perfection can be improved upon.  Gran Turismo 4 doesn’t raise
the bar nor does it change the way we look at the genre but if you love cars and
racing games it will steal your heart.  With enough cars and tracks and game
modes to keep you company, you’ll happily forgive the few faults this game
possesses.  You can’t go wrong with this one. 


Scoring Details for GRAN TURISMO 4


Gameplay: 9.5
Control-wise this is what racing
game dreams are made of and nothing says addictive racing goodness like Gran
Turismo Mode.  The game is even more enhanced thanks to the Logitech’s Driving
Force Pro Force Feedback Wheel that’s well worth the money if you want the full
effect.  And with hundreds of cars and tracks you’ll spend months just test
driving them. 


Graphics: 10
With visuals this gorgeous you’ll be
amazed at the PS2’s graphical capabilities.  Really, we never thought the system
could produce such highly detailed environments and car models that it seems
like you’re looking at video footage of an actual race.  The game moves at a
smooth framerate and never skimps on the detail, what more can we ask for?


Sound: 9.2
Listen to the roar of each
individual vehicle and you’ll know this game not only brought out visual detail
but also those unmistakable sounds that make up each car’s sound.  Wheels
screech and gears shift and you’ll hear it all so play this one loudly.  The
soundtrack isn’t bad at all and due to its odd blend of everything from rock to
classical there’s something for everyone.


Difficulty: Hard
The game is hard . . .
pull-you-hair-out-of-its-roots hard but it’s challenging to the point that it
doesn’t get on your nerves.  The opponent AI can be a bit shifty and there are
times when your computer-controlled opponent might make some pretty dumb
mistakes but you’ll be nicely challenged.


Concept: 9.5
Everything a car enthusiast could
ask for is right here in this game and then some!  We’re talking about driving
some real dream machines plus some vintage ones that pretty much showcases every
car known to man.  The ability to take pictures of your car and print it out via
an Epson printer is a unique feature indeed.  No online play makes this reviewer
want to cry, though.


Multiplayer: 8.0
For a game that throws everything at
you except the kitchen sink; you’ll scratch your head wondering why this game
has no real online multiplayer mode.  Sure you can play a two-player game using
a single PS2 console and sure you can even attempt an up to six-player game
using LAN but we want a more accessible online play mode.


Overall: 9.7
Car enthusiasts and racing fans
rejoice!  Gran Turismo 4 goes beyond our expectations to deliver a racing
game that’s destined to become a genuine classic and the main reason fans of
this genre will not see any daylight anytime soon.  Yes, it’s that good so go
ahead and buy this one right away . . . your PS2 will thank you.