GT5 Week; The Lineage of Gran Turismo
There are few games that could be considered the flagship of the PlayStation brand. Ratchet & Clank, God of War and even the Uncharted series all are synonymous with PlayStation but how many can you name that have appeared on every Sony console, from the original PlayStation to even the PSP?
While you might having a hard time naming a few, there’s no doubt that Gran Turismo should come to mind.
Gran Turismo, which is Italian for Grand Touring, is the creation of Kazunori Yamauchi and is considered by many to be the ultimate driving simulation. The series is renowned for its ultra-realistic graphics, huge selection of officially licensed vehicles, and the ability to fine tune your car to real-world physics.
Let’s explore the lineage of the Gran Turismo franchise from its early days on the PlayStation to its real life influences as we eagerly await the highly anticipated launch of Gran Turismo 5 on the PS3 this week.
The Birth of a Legacy…
In 1992, Kazunori Yamauchi and a team of seven developers started to create a racing simulator like no other. It wouldn’t be until 1997 that the game would be finished and ready for consumers. That game would be called Gran Turismo. It was released Sony Computer Entertainment exclusively on the PlayStation in December of 1997 in Japan and in May of 1998 in North America and Europe.
The original Gran Turismo featured 180 cars and 11 tracks to choose from in two modes, arcade and simulation. Players were able to progress by winning various racing tournaments to earn credits, trophies, and sometimes even cars. They could then use those credits to purchase upgrades to fine tune their vehicle. At the time, it was the most realistic driving simulator available.
To date, Gran Turismo has sold 10.85 million units worldwide and has reached critical acclaim with a Metacritic score of 96, the highest ranking of all the games in the series. No doubt this wouldn’t be the last of Gran Turismo we’d see.
Dominating the Genre…
After the success of Gran Turismo, Yamauchi immediately began work on its sequel. Two years later in 1999, Gran Turismo 2 was released on the PlayStation and claimed to be bigger and better than the original. It featured the most impressive selection of cars at the time with 650. It also increased the number of tracks to 27.
To accommodate for this increase on data, the game was split between two discs. The first disc featured the arcade mode while the second featured the simulation mode. As a result, more music tracks were included as well.
There were a few notable glitches found within the game revolving around reaching 100% competition and cars mysteriously disappearing from your garage but despite this, Gran Turismo 2 went on to sell 9.37 million with a Metacritic score of 93.
Making the Jump…
In 2000, the PlayStation 2 was released. A year later, Gran Turismo would make the jump to the system with Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec. Better graphics, a bigger storage capacity, and overall a better machine, the PS2 was the perfect console to show off the capabilities of the franchise.
A: Spec followed the same tried-and-true formula of previous games. Simulation and Arcade were still the two modes available although the menus for each were made easier to navigate. While the number of tracks increased to 34, the number of available cars dramatically decreased to 180.
This was because more attention was given to graphics and details. Still, Polyphonic Digital managed to impress with the inclusion of unofficial Formula One race cars as well as Porsche and Lamborghini, which have been absent from the series up until then.
Like its predecessors, Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec received critical acclaim and sold well. Many claim it’s the best game in the series and its 14.89 million sold backs it up. Critically, it’s the second highest rated game with a Metacritic score of 95, a single point behind Gran Turismo.
Bigger and Better…
Now that Polyphonic Digital had been accustomed to programming for the PS2, they could push the system to its limits. Gran Turismo 4 would feature 722 cars from 80 manufacturers and 51 tracks. Unfortunately, it would be delayed for a year and a half as well.
As a result, Sony published Gran Turismo 4 Prologue in late 2003 to give fans a taste of what’s to come. This version of the game featured 50 cars and five courses to try out in modes like Driving School, Free Roam, and Time Attack. Prologue, however, would only be made available in Asian and European territories.
When GT4 was finally released in 2004/2005, fans found that it was well worth the wait. Aside from the usual Arcade and Simulation modes, the game introduced A-Spec and B-Spec. In A-Spec, points are awarded for winning races. The more points you have, the more difficult the races become. B-Spec puts you out of the car and into the shoes of your crew. In this mode, players get the chance to monitor aspects such as pitting and informing the driver how to handle the car.
Driving Missions were also introduced in GT4 which allowed players to tackle specific challenges for points and credits. These mission include:
- The Pass: Players must overtake another car within a given distance.
- 3 Lap Battle: Players must pass five cars within three laps.
- Stripstream Battle: Players must overtake their opponent by drafting.
- 1 Lap Magic: Players must overtake their opponents within a single lap after starting with a time penalty.
Gran Turismo 4 is the second highest selling game in the series to date with 11.12 million copies, and that’s not including the 1.4 million copies for Prologue. It’s Metacritic score however, puts it fourth at 89.
High Definition Gaming…
Flash forward two years and the PS3 is just now gaining momentum. Fans have been eagerly anticipating something regarding Gran Turismo 5 and Polyphonic Digital delivers with another Prologue. The glorified demo features 16-player online races, 70 vehicles, and six tracks, all in stunning 60 frames per second. This would be the first mainstream title in the series to feature online capabilities.
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue also introduced new non-racing elements as well such as GT-TV; a video-on-demand service offering auto related shows in HD.
Even though it’s only a small taste of what’s to come in Gran Turismo 5, Prologue managed to earn and 80 Metacritic ranking and sell a respectable 5.09 million copies.
Gran Turismo on the Go…
So far we’ve seen Gran Turismo on the PS, PS2 and PS3. Don’t worry, Sony hasn’t left out the PSP. If fact, the game was announced at E3 2004 (Gran Turismo 4 Mobile), the same year the PSP was unveiled. Who knew that it would take five years for us to get our hands on it.
The portable version of the game includes 830 cars, 35 tracks, and over 100 challenges to complete. Not only that but you can share your entire garage with friends via the PSP’s wireless capabilities. Supposedly, you’ll also be able to transfer cars earned in Gran Turismo PSP over to Gran Turismo 5 and get a jump on the competition.
Gran Turismo PSP managed to sell 2.09 million copies already, despite being barely a year old and having the lowest Metacritic score of all the Gran Turismo games with a 79. Still, that’s better than many games in general.
Beyond the Game…
Gran Turismo is one of the few franchises that has managed to rise above its status as just a game. No, it has grown into so much more than that.
In 2008, Gran Turismo, Nissan Europe, and SCEE announced an all new competition called GT Academy. Players from 10 European countries competed for a chance to enter a real life 24 hour race in Dubai. Lucas Ordonez, one of the winners of GT Academy managed to win the final round of the GT4 Championship Series in Portugal, placing second overall in the competition. It just goes to show you that Gran Turismo truly simulates real racing.
There has been another GT Academy since then in which Jordan Tresson was declared the winner. Last week, it was announced on the PlayStation.Blog that GT Academy would be making its way stateside. Up for grabs is the chance to become a professional race car driver. Who ever said playing games never paid off?
The Gran Turismo franchise have sold over 56 million games to date. It has always been the flagship of the PlayStation brand, pushing whatever console it’s on to its limits, both graphically and otherwise. Gran Turismo 5 is on the verge of being this week after years of anticipation and excitement. Will it live up to all the hype?
Stay tuned to PS3 Attitude as we bring you daily coverage of this beloved franchise and don’t forget to pick up Gran Turismo 5 tomorrow!