The original Gran Turismo launched in 1997 and each subsequent offering has improved on the last in a pleasant Darwinesque display of real-time evolution, courtesy of-the boys from Polyphony (and Sony) dropping several well-placed piles of folding wheel-greaser to ensure the latest and greatest in vehicular appreciation are all present and correct.
Had I paid through the nose for what is essentially an EA-style update of the same ol’ shit spit polished pretty with a couple of extra bells and whistles, no doubt I would have been more inclined to forgive the title’s foibles. But excuses such as ‘well at least the car I like is in it’ and ‘personally, I find real physics damage-modelling distracting from the focus of winning races’ can only do so much to quell the bile of resentment and buyers’ remorse slowly burning a hole through your guts.
However, for 75 pence (and a copy of Tekken 6 hiding under the disc itself) I was more than happy telling the old lady on the till to ‘keep the change’ from the one pound coin I dropped into her wrinkly paw; the herbal tablet she proffered in return for my act of munificence was a welcome tincture treat for the sinuses.
Anyone familiar with the GT series will be more than at home with the in-game menu, with everyone else being left to ponder the Circle button a few times before finally hitting upon the ‘car + track = win’ formula. Basic car and race settings can be adjusted via a menu screen ripped straight from the PSP version, whereas the Saxo Street-Boys amongst us are free to roam the tune-up option of the game and waste a disproportionate amount of time and in-game money shaving off millimeters and grinding out BHP on a plethora of surprisingly involving car ruining physics. Afterwards, you can head out to ‘fifty-pence’ our million pound milk van into first place.
The once ginger step-child of the family known as the License Tests have now become more akin to the friendly aunt who turns up from time to time with a bunch of affection-bribery gifts in the form of levelling up. And as welcome as they are, what used to be a mandatory time sinker one had to plough through in order to progress now feels more like a tacit acknowledgement the license tests were on no-one’s Christmas card list, somewhat undermining the game’s infamous tag ‘Real Driving Simulator’.
As such you now access the upper echelons of car nirvana through an arbitrary levelling up scheme that, along with the game’s blindside of letting wholly overpowered putt-putts face off against milk float powered Nissans, leaves one able to thrash the fiery end out of a Vin Diesel’d face melter past the finish line until your garage resembles an audiophile’s harem and you have enough credits accrued to make a whale choke.
Though as questionably obstinate and observant of the racing lines as ever, the A.I.will now at least occasionally fling one of the other cars off the track and into some random piece of scenery without warning. Truly, the hilarity and horror one can endure during any of the random throw of the dice encounters on track really adds something when your car becomes the focus of attention for some bumper rubbin’ lovin’.
The Marmite moment comes in the form of Special Events, a substantial chunk of time-sinkers starring the voices of infamous Nascar drivers teaching you to draft, drift, or drag your own Fillmore around the Top Gear test track.
They add a whole new dimension of distraction from the main game, and their inclusion will either appeal or repel you depending on how much you enjoy the Wario range of random 30 second party games, as you jump from VW vans one minute to shopping trolley karts the next.
There’s a B-spec mode that lets you play at ‘The Sims’ as you become some no-face unknown’s race manager and organize events accordingly in what is essentially a glorified replay theatre. It’s most definitely not a bitter reminder of what you could be doing right now if you weren’t faffing about in this bit of the game, dumbass.
You can go online or you can go 3D, but I think you’d be better off going to the shops and getting NFS Hot Pursuit and a second hand copy of GT4. NFS will satisfy the raging beast within and GT4 will fulfil the obsessive compulsive side, with sufficient coinage left over for a quick jolly through the Wobbly Water section of Oddbins.