Examining the Historical Firmaments of Racing as a New Gaming Standard
- By: CM Boots-Faubert
- Posted 20th Jun 2012
Meant to feature as wide a variety of car types, makes, and manufacturers as the traditional Forza series, Horizon differs from it in that the drivers are regular Joes rather than professional racecar drivers who are funded by commercial sponsors, and who race their cars on open-roads that present their own unique set of challenges (such as oncoming traffic, a lack of uniformity in racing surfaces, and the possibility of wild animals wandering onto the racing course).
Horizon is set to feature the physics of Forza 4, which have been optimised to work on the 65 variants of terrain said to be present in the game, so there is much that will be familiar to gamers with respect to the art of racing, but also much that will be strange and challenging in the environment.
The PlayStaiton 3 and Gran Turismo?
For gamers who declare Sony's PlayStation 3 as their console of choice, the "best" racing game to be had (when we ignore a plethora of other titles -- more on that later) would naturally be the realistic racing game created by Polyphony Digital that makes up the Gran Turismo series, with the most recent incarnation being Gran Turismo 5.
Gran Turismo, which translated from the original Italian means "Grand Tourer" or "Grand Touring" (and is commonly abbreviated as "GT" by fans of the series) is often considered to be Sony's answer to the popular Forza Motorsport series for Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, presenting the faithful PlayStation 3 audience with their own hardcore racing simulation game that matches and even exceeds Forza in some respects.
Developed exclusively for PlayStation platform, the Gran Turismo games are intended to simulate the appearance and performance of a combination of spefici licensed reproductions of real-world automobiles and generic examples of racing cars that are not the exclusively licensed property of Polyphony Digital. The first title in the series -- and the game that christened the series -- Gran Turismo, was released in 1997 for the original PlayStation, and upon its arrival had a palpable impact upon that gaming community.
The game took five full years to develop, being the original brainchild of game designer Kazunori Yamauchi and a group of six other game developers who were part of a small development group inside the Sony Computer Entertainment group that would later be spun-off inside of SCE to create Polyphony Digital in the months just prior to the release of Gran Turismo in North America. With Gran Turismo as their sole game project, the working group that became Polyphony Digital consisted at various points of between seven and fifteen developers, so it can be fairly stated that Gran Turismo was created by fifteen people to be the finest racing simulation ever made.
With each new generation of game in the established series moving closer and closer towards the more realistic experience of simulated racing we might be forgiven for mistaking an animated car for the real thing, and the closer you get to these computer-created beauties the more real they appear so that, even the throaty rumble of their simulated engines is no longer any indication of what is real, and what is game...
In interviews that took place following the release -- and considerable success -- of Gran Turismo, Yamauchi admits that at times in the long five-years of development they were not at all certain that what they were creating would be well-received by the gaming public... "It took five years. In those five years, we could not see the end. I would wake up at work, go to sleep at work. It was getting cold, so I knew it must be winter. I estimate I was home only four days a year," he admitted in a 2009 interview with AutoWeek Magazine's Mark Vaughn.
As it turned out Yamauchi had no reason to worry, since the game ended up being a bestseller in the UK and North America, setting sales records and obtaining an acceptance level that has rarely been matched by other freshman titles on any platform. To this day the original Gran Turismo remains the best selling video game for the PlayStation platform, and the third highest-selling game in the Gran Turismo series behind Gran Turismo 4 and Gran Turismo 3 respectively.
Gran Turismo is said to be fundamentally based upon the racing simulator genre -- some would even say it established the standards for that genre -- and its basic game play has the player driving their simulated racing car in competition with a field of AI drivers in other simulated cars, while acting and reacting to the racing surface and objects that appear within the racing environment. Created with two primary modes of play -- Simulation and Arcade -- the primary system of advancement in the game is naturally linked to success, as wining or placing highly in each race is required in order to unlock the next race or track in the series, as well as additional new cars and equipment.
In simulation mode the player is required to earn a series of different levels of driver's licenses in order to qualify for more advanced events, their competition within which earns them credits (money), trophies, and prize cars. Winning specific races also unlocks videos and additional demo tracks, but it is the money that they win that is the focus of most racing efforts, since it is required in order to purchase additional vehicles, and to buy the parts that are required to raise the class status of their cars and obtain the kit that is required for tuning and boosting performance levels for each car.
The original Gran Turismo featured 180 cars and 11 race tracks, and each new game in the series expands the number and variety of cars as well as tracks, following a pattern similar to that in the Forza Motorsport series and displaying a pattern of similarities that is largely thought to be the basis by which the game is commonly compared to and believed to be similar to the Forza games.
The Gran Turismo Series so far consists of the following games:
-- Gran Turismo (1997/1998) for the original PlayStation, featuring 11 tracks and 178 cars.
-- Gran Turismo 2 (1999/2000) for the original PlayStation, featuring 27 tracks and 650 cars.
-- Gran Turismo 3 (2001) for the PlayStation 2, featured 34 tracks and 181 cars.
-- Gran Turismo 4 (2005) also for the PlayStation 2, featured over 50 tracks and 722 cars.
-- Gran Turismo 5 (2010) for the PlayStation 3, featuring more than 50 tracks and over 1000 cars.
While it is not -- strictly speaking -- a part of the main game series which is widely considered to be for the PlayStation console platform, a mobile version of Gran Turismo was released in between Gran Turismo 4 and Gran Turismo 5 called Gran Turismo PSP (2009), that featured 45 tracks and 835 unique cars, bringing a full-blown interpretation of the series into the world of mobile gaming.
The most recent game in the series -- Gran Turismo 5 -- expanded game play to include online races with support for up to 16 players, adding a damage model with variations of damage depending upon whether the vehicle falls into the "standard" or "premium" categories.
The official E3 2010 video trailer for the then upcoming Gran Turismo 5 offered gamers to understand that even with the assistance of fully-armed military fighters and faithfully rendered real-world locations, this was clearly more game than they were presently equipped to handle without special training and a license to kill issued by Her Majesties Government... We are just saying...