The daddy of racing games

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Having not played the newest edition, this has to sit on the pedestal as the best driving game, some how improving on GT3 in so many ways it almost seemed as though gamers hadn’t thought of. Everything from GT3 was expanded, then added to, with the 150 cars, becoming around 700, from the 1886 Daimler Motor Carriage to the 2022 Nike concept car, the game reached new heights including not only real sports cars but some totally customised gimmick cars (such as Jay Leno’s “Tank Car”). GT 4 was released in early 2005 after a prologue (effectively a demo) version was released late 2003 (in Japan) and mid 2004 in europe to whet gamers appetites. 

For those some how unfamiliar with the GT ethos the games are to motor car fans what other genres will likely never be able to fully replicate. The games major single player mode is myriad of races and competitions, in which winning a competition unlocks a car and grants you with money in which to buy more cars or upgrade one of your current vehicles. You go from the easy Sunday league level competitions of 2 or 3 laps, in some lowly hunk of junk that you won’t use much beyond your first hour or to of the game, to unlocking monster cars, and racing in 24 hour endurance races against other super cars. Using your masterfully souped up monster of a beast to try and compete with world renowned race cars, like the legendary Mazda 787B or the wonderful Toyota F1 Street car.

For those fully aware of the masses of customisable features and upgrades on your car, ranging from a muffler to a turbo, from soft racing tyres to a racing chip to the whole new NOS the game will be exactly what your used to. Nothing hugely different from the older games, but then why would Polyphony (the developers) want to mess with a hugely successful and obviously brilliant formula?

The game kept the real feel of a simulation to the main game game, but the added little mini games to the mode to allow you to practise and learn new tricks, the game seemed like the bigger brother of the already huge GT3. The main game added a secondary mode called “B-Spec”, whilst “A-Spec” was actually racing, the B mode was being a director telling the driver when to speed up, slow down, over take and pit. This may seem like a silly idea, but the fact the races can be down in 3X speed in this mode, meant some of the endurance races (which included some 24 hour races) could be completed with out the gamers collapsing of exhaustion. Though the B-spec mode wasn’t allowed to be used on some events (the “driving events” mini games, the license mode or the Rally events), the vast amounts of the game could be B-Specc’d. 
The rally mode had changed from mostly dirt tracks in the prequel, to courses on sand, ice/snow and in the rain as well as the normal dirt, showing how the different surfaces effected a driver, with the rain for example making it difficult to brake from 210 mph, whilst sand found grip almost impossible to get around the corners.

The games tuning mode that made the game such a huge success with petrol heads continued and was expanded, with different bits being available from different modding garages. The game seemed to blow open a whole new set of ideas, with things like pick up trucks being included even a minivan (the Honda Odyssey) being included in the game as well as all the usual suspects such as Skylines, Evo’s, Impreza’s. Although the uses of things like the pick up trucks were fairly limited (the Dodge or Ford pick ups could be souped up to walk the truck competition, and could be used in 1 or 2 competitions, but on the whole weren’t good enough to scratch the surface of the meatier challenges), they were still a nice addition and fun for idiots wanting to play “bumper cars” in the multiplayer game.  

In total there are over 50 courses to drive any of the 700+ cars around, including real life tracks like the Nurburgring and Circuit de la Sarthe (the le mans circuit) to others that are dreamt up street courses around city’s like New York. The vastly impressive graphical features on the game are mind blowing and look just shy of photographic, though with everything else in the game, I think you can allow them slightly under photographic quality graphics with out much of a complaint.
The game’s music, much like it’s sequel was an equally impressive line up including Van Halen, Judas Priest, Jet, Papa Roach, TSTOOL, Feeder and Franz Ferdinand (in the UK version anyway), that compliment the wonderful graphics with at least 1 or 2 songs that you’ll like (even if you turn all the others off and just have the ones you lie on replay through out the game.

The games real life feeling was even tested with real life drivers racing around a real life course, then it’s in game counterpart, the times were only a few % different. Although when trialled on the Top Gear TV show in Britain the head presenter was unable to replicate his own in game times, he did however seem to be told that it was more down to the game not being able to kill him for his risks, whilst in real life, riskier driving was legitimately risky.

Although there was some complaints about the game, the lack of damage being a big one by critics, the fact is the game is too fun to care about the damage, yes it’d have been nice to have had it, but the lack of it doesn’t make the game poor, in fact it merely makes it easier for people who aren’t the few who never crash. The only complaint I have though it the lack of Ferraris, Lambo’s and the Koennisegge, which would have been a lovely addition to the game, though again, with over 700 other cars the need to need to scratch around for such minuet things shows just how amazing the game is. 

The games sales didn’t compare favourably to GT3 (selling just under 11 Million worldwide to the 15 million by it’s prequel), but the fact is the console was nearing it’s end in 2005 and would likely have been unable to catch it’s little brother on the sales due to the product life cycle of the PS2 as opposed to the quality of the actual game

The game really is the truest driving game I’ve ever played, the game’s broad array of vehicles and courses that can be used in the single player mode can also be used in the multiplayer games, showing yet more evidence that great racing games, make great multiplayer games. The benchmark for the future, that really will need something special to take away the magic that this game leaves on the track.

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