February 21, 2005

Gran Annoioso

by peterb

Tomorrow, Gran Turismo 4 will be released for the Playstation 2. And, like a good corporate drone, I am probably going to buy it, even though I don't expect it to actually be good. Because the previous game in the series, Gran Turismo 3, really wasn't very good, either.

The Emperor, you see, had no clothes.

I'm going to buy it, of course, not only because of my well-documented obsession for playing video games, but also because I'm specifically a sucker for driving games. "I will never own these cars," I say to myself. "I will think about buying an Evolution VIII, and then at the last moment will realize that buying a car that gets 10 miles to the gallon isn't very practical, and I'll get something sensible instead. I will never drive on Laguna Seca," I say. But I can pretend. "Vroom! Vrooooom."

Perhaps GT4, as the well-greased hype machine spins it, will really be all that and a bag of chips. Perhaps it will change my perspective on driving games forever, the way Project Gotham Racing did. Perhaps it will be the best game of the year.

But of course, they said that about the execrable Black and White. They said that about the unplayably bad Ninja Gaiden. And they said it about Gran Turismo 3, which was, in the end, just a sort of vaguely OK driving game. So I'm not holding my breath.

I'm sure there are people -- most likely white wine drinkers -- who will take issue with my characterization of GT3 as just sort of vaguely OK. But the game's pathos was all too clearly on display from start to finish. The awful, anemic, and repetitive soundtrack served as the perfect counterpoint to a racing game that was so amazingly impotent that if you came to a complete stop in the middle of the race, the cars ahead of you would slow down to 2 miles per hour. Y'know. To give you a chance to catch up. Because it wouldn't be fun if your opponents actually drove the race to the best of their abilities. (Of course, this works in reverse as well, so that if you open up a substantial lead through transcendent driving, the chase cars suddenly are able to exceed their vehicles' rated top speeds. Maybe we should put these programmers in charge of Formula 1 races this year).

The graphics, which reviewers heaped praises on, were superb in "replay" mode, and hideously ugly in driving mode: PS2 developers seem to have huge amounts of trouble providing full screen antialiasing for their games, something the Dreamcast could do in its sleep. Even when a game is so desperately in need of it as blurry, jaggy Gran Turismo 3. It's been a few years. Maybe someone has taught Polyphony about that checkbox in their development tools. We'll see.

Most of the reviews complain a little bit about the omission of online play from GT4, but that doesn't concern me at all. Online play for the Playstation 2 is utterly dead. It is a nonstarter. No one who matters plays any Playstation games online. If you want to play console games online, you own an Xbox, and that's all there is to it. Xbox Live's user experience is so superior to the Playstation's online gaming mechanisms that it's just more polite to pretend that the PS2's online capabilities don't exist at all, just like you'd politely ignore it if someone farted at a wedding. There was a gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and poor, clueless Sony showed up with a knife.

So given the somewhat lackadaisical product that was GT3, I don't really expect much from GT4. If the Nurburgring and Paris tracks are good, and I can buy a Skyline without having to play for 36 hours, I'll consider it an OK investment. And who knows, perhaps I will be surprised. If I am, I'll write about it here.

And before you ask, yes, I plan on buying Forza Motorsport, as well.

Vrooooom. Vroooooooooooooooooom!

Posted by peterb at February 21, 2005 08:04 PM | Bookmark This

Can somebody explain how every reviewer for games in this series falls all over himself praising the physics as the best ever, when the main way I win races in them is by bouncing and scraping off as many cars and walls as possible? Am I missing something?

And give me something in the Burnout series any day. At least there I don't have to play for 40 hours to unlock any fun vehicles.

Posted by Adam Rixey at February 22, 2005 09:58 PM

It is very obvious you are a Sony Hater, Gran Turismo 4 will always be a technical achievment. Polyphony have done a terrific job with the graphics, considering it's on an "Inferior" console.
GT3 was a remarkable achievement for it's time, you can't deny that, even the graphics in 3 still hold up to today's standards.
Polyphony know how to make a racing game and a good example can be the lengths they took to make GT4.

700+ cars (Second Hand cars are back!)
50+ Tracks..
Excellent Graphics for a PS2
Polished car models
New physics
Polished tracks
New modes

Ninja Gaiden is a great game, i bet you don't like it because you found it to hard.

And to Adam Rixley.. it's a freaking Sim for god sakes!, if you want arcade, play Arcade Mode! [censored]
GT3's data can be transfered to GT4.

Posted by Hmmm at February 23, 2005 07:44 AM


Of course, you're entitled to your own opinion. The problem is that your opinion is stupid.

Let's take your last point first. You criticize Adam for not (in your view) understanding that GT4 is "a sim." I read Adam's comment as pointing out that a "sim" where you can drive into every railing on a track at full speed and _still win_ is a _lousy sim_.

I did find Ninja Gaiden to be too hard. In addition, I thought it was boring, repetitive, poorly plotted, and lacked any sense of fun. If you liked it, that's fine. You buy Ninja Gaiden, and I'll buy Ico, and we'll each get the quality of game we deserve.

The comments about me being a "Sony Hater" I just don't know what to make head or tail of. I think most PS2 games _look_ horrible, because I personally can't stand shimmering or jaggies. This is _not_ the same thing as saying that most PS2 games _are_ horrible -- Ico has terrible pixelation, but also looks beautiful at the same time, because of the design and the great use of light. Obviously, these artifacts don't bother everyone; I guess it's similar to the way that some people can taste certain flavors, such as cilantro, and others can't. And some PS2 games manage to look good and don't have the shimmering and the jaggies (Katamari Damashi, for example, or Devil May Cry) so it's clear it's not anything intrinsic to the console, but probably represents a combination of weak development tools coupled with a lack of commitment on the part of the software developer to eliminate the visual artifcats that bother me so much.

In any event, while GT3's graphics are very impressive along some axes, you can't put its in-car racing mode on a TV running next to even the first Project Gotham Racing and not notice that one looks shimmery, jagged, and pixelated, and one looks shiny and smooth and beautiful. So, my overly-excitable friend, I _can_ deny that the graphics in 3 still hold up to today's standards. And I do.

With Warm Regards,

Posted by peterb at February 23, 2005 08:48 AM

For what it's worth, I understand implementing FSAA on PS2 chews so much fill rate that only a few classes of games can afford it. So yes, there is a checkbox, but blame Sony for the PS2's whack hardware rather than Polyphony Digital.

I played GT3 to completion, and never once did I see the opponents try to match your speed to make it a fair race. As far as I understand, GT4 is the first game in the series to add that, and it's set to "mild" and only in 2-player. There are plenty of valid complaints about GT3's AI, but speed matching is not one of them.

(Yes, I'm reading the entire archives.)

Posted by Chad at May 22, 2005 10:11 AM


Seriously, try the experiment I suggested in GT3. Drive halfway around a track, and then stop. Then tell me how long it takes the other cars to lap you. You'll be waiting a very, very long time.

(and hi! hope you like them)

Posted by peterb at May 22, 2005 01:23 PM

Hm. I just tried what you said and the AI totally ignored the fact that I wasn't moving. They had equivalent lap times when I was kicking their ass and when I was stopped.

(Wow, GT3 is ghetto compared to GT4, especially the wheel support. At least it loads faster... Memories are deceptive.)

((Yeah, you guys keep it interesting. A little bitter, perhaps, but we have the same interests.))

Posted by Chad at May 22, 2005 02:19 PM

Well Chad, you must have a different version of GT3 then, as i've experienced the 'cheating AI' so many times i've lost count. And i've played GT3 longer than i've played any other game *EVER*.

I played it for over three years (even though i finished it 100% in about one and a half to two years) despite hating the AI cars. In fact i played it so much that i got used to their actions and could have very close races with no contact with anything.

Take a look around my site (www.gtseriescenter.com) and see if you can find out what i thought about the game (there is a link to my GT3 review on this page: www.gtseriescenter.com/3about.htm).

Anywho, on my homepage i ended up giving GT3 9/10 and GT4 8/10...

Posted by Andrew at September 21, 2005 07:05 PM

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