Home > Chronological Challenge > Chronological Challenge – Gran Turismo

Chronological Challenge – Gran Turismo

December 14, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

We’re nearing the end of 1997 with my previous double post, and this time we’re back on the PlayStation, and playing a game that I got when I was younger but never managed to really get into, as will become apparent as you read on.

Tomorrow I should have the final 1997 review up and running, and then hopefully we should be able to get started on 1998!

Gran Turismo
Publisher: SCE | Developer: Polyphony Digital (sort of) | Released: December 1997 (Japan)
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: Play through Gran Turismo Mode and win the Gran Turismo World Cup

Actual Outcome: Obtained A License, kept losing races due to my poor knowledge of tuning racecars, gave up in frustration

Gran Turismo is a series that fascinates me, and yet I’m not entirely sure why. Normally my reaction to racing games is indifference with a few exceptions on the more arcade-oriented side of things. And yet this monster simulation game is always interesting to me, even if I don’t necessarily want to play every game in the series.

I think it’s because Gran Turismo mode puts you into the career of a racing driver, and as such it plays a lot with resource management and has the progression of an RPG, which makes it a little bit more interesting than just “drive these cars really fast” and I like that.

Of course, I don’t know the first thing about modding and tuning high-performance vehicle to the best of their ability, and Gran Turismo isn’t really the best place to learn unless you have a bunch of free time on your hands and the patience of a sloth. This is what I learnt from my experience of replaying the original game on the PS1.

Gran Turismo is basically incomprehensible to anyone who isn’t a massive petrolhead. You select the main mode and you’re dropped onto a map screen with a bunch of car dealerships, a license test area, a race selection area and your home. You have some money, but your immediate instinct to buy the best car you can find is beaten by the fact that your measly 10k credits can only buy you a pootling little hatchback that’s not much better than the car I actually drive in reality.

In order to get better, you need to pass license tests, race your tragic hatchback a few times in a slow championship to earn money that can buy you better cars and better gear until you can finally take on the world in a souped-up beast of a car. In theory, this is an excellent way to build up through the ranks and gradually unlock better and better stuff until you become champion of all racing forever.

In practice, it’s less exciting. Expect to run through the racing equivalent of a car boot sale about 10 times before you can even think of getting a vehicle suited to the A-Class events. Once there, you can expect to repeat those forever before you can get yourself a sweet racing modification on some old stock car you picked up from a back alley somewhere (game may not feature actual back alleys). This repetition is something endlessly hanging over you for the whole game. Win races to buy stuff, but sometime the stuff is so expensive that you need to win those races more times than should be necessary.

And here’s the problem: Gran Turismo’s event list is rather pitiful, and its course selection even worse. Win your B-License and you can trundle around the Sunday Cup a bit, but the leap to the drivetrain challenges is steep, so you’ll see the courses of the Sunday Cup a little too much. Then you finally get something worthy of the better challenges…and you find yourself racing on variations of those same courses. Ooh, this one’s being raced backwards, ooh this one takes a left turn instead of a right, and so on. It gets very boring seeing the same locations over and over, and it’s a shame that they didn’t do more.

It also doesn’t help that when you finally gain enough cash to start upgrading your stuff, very little information is given in regards to what happens when you tune different aspects of your car. The brick of a manual explains some of the fundamentals of vehicular maintenance, but it would be nice to have this information on screen next to the appropriate options, but the best you’re getting is a vague description that uses a lot of technical jargon that the automobile-illiterate (ie. me) simply won’t understand.

This problem extends to the car selection too. There are a lot of cars, so many cars that I can’t even give you a number on just how many cars there are. If I were to try, my guess is that the number of cars is, in technical terms, lots. Problem is, as a complete noob on this sort of thing, I have to rely on guesswork in regards to what cars handle like. The game uselessly provides background information on the development and marketing of the car in question, but while this is nice history, it doesn’t help me figure out what I’m doing.

A test drive option would have solved both of the above problems. If you could practice with the options you’re about to go for before you slam down your credits, it would improve the game’s accessibility tenfold. Far too often I’d pay for something that turned out to be terrible, so I’d reload my game and try again with something else. Test driving would have avoided that. You can do it when buying a real car, why not with the virtual kind?

That said, this is not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination. I got frustrated and lost a lot while playing this, but I also recognised the sheer amount of work that went into refining the handling of each car, and the range of options that lead to so many subtle differences between each one. It’s impressive considering the tech of the time, and how little games got particularly complicated around this era in general.

But the problem lies in its complexity mixed with a complete lack of help provided by the game. This is not a game for the casual player, this is a game for car enthusiasts who are likely to know optimum setups and are unlikely to tune a car to the point of it being really, really fast but also incapable of steering. Like some of us did. Ahem.

In other words, Gran Turismo is a top notch simulation that really expects you to know what you’re doing. If you do, great! If you don’t, expect to race around the same tracks about 500 times until you luck out on something decent.

Oh, and the UK soundtrack is absolute bobbins. Four Feeder songs? Really? That’s what we’re going with? Okay then, if you say so.

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  1. December 17, 2015 at 12:39 am

    I got so confused when I first started Gran Turismo that I just stopped – but came back for 3 which ended up being my favorite.

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