Review by darthjulian

Reviewed: 06/11/07

The turning point for racing games

Quite honestly, the 8-Bit and 16-Bit generation were not exactly the golden age of racing games to say the least. Seldom did a really good racing game hit any console, and if this rare case did occur after all, this honor mostly went to fun racers (Super Mario Kart, anyone?), futuristic racing games (ahem...F-Zero?) or semi-realistic arcade racers like Virtua Racing. But those craving a truly realistic racer with intuitive controls and challenging courses had to wait almost two decades until the arrival of the racing game to change the genre forever and to initiate the age of realistic racers that are practically flooding the market nowadays. To be more precisely, we had to wait for Sony-based studio Polyphony Digital to release their legendary real driving simulator "Gran Turismo", a benchmark game by any means.

Of course, the premise of the entire game is pretty much the same as in amy other racing game, which means that you can choose from several cars to drive on the countless race tracks. However, the first big difference from other racers that came before GT definitely is the enormous amount of cars and tracks you can choose from, easily surpassing any other racing game in its sheer scope and size (not by modern standards, of course). Not all of them are accessible right from the start, as you have to unlock them by winning tournaments or setting new records, and that`s wherein the appeal of the game lies: unlike the majority of the racers before GT, this game really requires skill and patience of the player to succeed. It`s not just some easy-to-pick-up arcade racer with self-explanatory controls and gameplay mechanics. Instead, you have to grow accustomed to the sensitive (but nevertheless responsive and excellent) controls; you have to learn and eventually master them in order to stand a chance at a higher difficulty level. Once you master the controls, the satisfying feeling of accomplishment really is considerable and makes the game, so to speak. The formula is different from PSOne racing contenders like the Ridge Racer series, but a lot of fun nonetheless and a dream come true for fans of realistic racing games.

Just as the gameplay was highly influential for its time, the graphics marked a highlight on Sony`s PlayStation as well. Never before have cars and race tracks alike appeared in such a smooth and refined manner. Early racers like "Ridge Racer" were a pixilated mess by modern standards, but GT was a huge leap forward on the system. And fortunately, there are no framerate breakdowns to be found, rounding up the positive visual impression of "Gran Turismo".

The audio department is yet another area Polyphony Digital succeeds in wonderfully. The roaring sound effects of the engines of your cars are just like they`re supposed to be and add to the level of realism the game conveys. Admittedly, I am not exactly a big fan of the soundtrack of this game, but it fits the races perfectly, neither getting on your nerves nor boring you to tears. Well, that`s all that can be said about the audio, but the overall quality of this aspect of the game speaks for itself, I think.

If you are into driving simulators with a sizable amount of realism, then you surely own this game already, or at least one of its successors. For those of you who never played this one before (hard to imagine...), though, it really is worth a try at least, especially when you consider its customer-friendly bargain-bin price tag nowadays. Of course, "Gran Turismo" is not for everyone due to its realism and challenging gameplay, and I myself am not exactly the type of gamer to enjoy a racing sim like this one, but the game`s historic value alone should convince to give it at least a try or to even add it to your collection. Naturally, all of its sequels are bigger and better, without straying too far away from the successful formula of part one, but this is where it all began, so why not take a trip down memory lane and experience the roots of Gran Turismo? Especially if the game holds up so exceptionally well these days.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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