I bit the bullet awhile back and purchased a PS3. I have to say it is an amazing machine, especially for HDTV owners. The first generation games are very impressive, and I can't wait to see the results when developers really begin to harness the PS3's power. I of course downloaded the Gran Turismo HD Demo as soon as I got everything hooked up. I'm pretty impressed with all aspects of the game. As with all good demos though, it leaves you salivating for more. It's been awhile since I've posted, so I thought I would comment on some of my observations.
Everyone knows the GT series has been the benchmark which all other racing games (and other genres for that matter) games are held. Going back to GT1, the attention to detail given to the car models themselves has always been astounding. However, I feel that most will agree that the commitment to the cars themselves left other areas graphically lacking. Most notable are the low resolution texturing on some backdrops and 2D "paper" race fans. I imagine this could've been a function of previous consoles only being able to push so many polygons through the video processor. Regardless, the GT HD demo hits the ball out of the park. The mountain view scenery is purely jaw dropping, and the realism of the crowd cheering you on makes for a very enveloping experience. I found myself wrecking constantly during my first few laps, not because I couldn't drive the cars, but because I found myself stealing looks at the scenery a little too often. This is unfortunately how I observe many people driving in real life! I am also excited when I read about an in-car view, but GT HD does not feature this. edit
- Thanks to Flasawoo for the link to a screenshot
of an in-car view. Now that I see this, I recall having seen it before. Having a true in-car view will be an awesome addition to the game.
Much has been said about the unrealistic engine sound in prior GT releases, especially when dealing with fully tuned vehicles. The GT HD demo contains a very limited number of cars, but you can unlock a tuned version of each after beating a compulsory benchmark time. There are 0 tuning options outside of driving the hopped up versions of each car, so it's difficult to say with any veracity how realistic tuned motors will sound in GT5. That being said, I feel the sound quality of the engines is a marked improvement over prior releases. As always, the environmental sounds such as wind noise, tire squeal, etc., are all top notch. A decent 5.1 surround sound system is a requirement for those who want the whole experience.
Alongside graphics, the physics is another hallmark for the GT series. I was blown away when I first played GT1. The tuning model aside, frankly I've been nonplussed ever since. I feel physics in the GT series has taken a very evolutionary track bereft of any continued innnovation. I didn't notice it so much until I played Forza on XBox. I kept going back to Forza again and again simply because I felt more connected to the cars I was driving. I'm sure some of you will disagree with me, especially when thinking of GT4. But having played all games mentioned extensively, my preference from a pure racing standpoint stands with Forza. It seems PD has swallowed a bit of their hubris and taken a cue from the Forza team, as I was pleasantly surprised with the overall physics in the GT HD demo. They've included a dedicated drift mode that is sure to excite the burgeoning drifter community. I'm not a huge drifter, but having played a few laps in drift mode, I did have quite a bit of fun with it. I admit I am a bit remedial in my capacity to explain the nuances of physics models, however I feel like I'm right there in the car when I careen through the corners in GT HD. Believe it or not, the GT series has always been about racing for me rather than tuning. Hell, I built GTVault because of my lack of tuning ability.
An area in which the GT series is painfully lacking is damage modeling. There is an pretty interesting thread
over at the official Playstation forums about damage modeling in GT5. To distill it, a member there exchanged some private messages with a PD developer. The developer indicated that, due to PD's perfectionist tendencies (uhh, tell me why there's a boatload of bugs in every release!), the time it would take to incorporate damage modeling renders it an impossibility. I share MasterGT's view in that it ain't over till the fat lady sings. I couldn't care less about the musings of an individual developer insofar as he isn't an official spokesman for the game. Of course, if a damage model doesn't make it into GT5, that's a huge boon to any other racing franchise that does a decent job of it. The bottom line is that there needs to be accountability for crappy driving like wall riding and using cars as turn shields. The one true way to do so is to make racers pay for these decisions. Many people do not share my view and say that a damage model would make the game "too hard". I call bullshit. A damage model will accomplish an important goal, and that is to separate the wheat from the chaff. Not having a damage model in a game that pays so much attention to all other aspects of the racing experience is akin to manufacturing a car without a steering wheel. WTF? There is simply no good
excuse for not including a damage model.
On a side note, as I said the genesis of the aforementioned thread was a private message exchange between the developer and another member. It was amusing to see the original poster manufacture defenses of his violation of the tenet of a private
message. I personally feel that the developer was dumb for saying anything in the first place, assuming PD didn't want what he said to become public knowledge. Never write anything down assuming that it won't eventually be scrutinized by the public. I also feel that the member who posted the private message in a public forum showed his true colors in doing so, especially when attempting to justify what boils down to a violation of privacy. We have enough of that coming from the powers that be, let's not make it any worse by doing it to one another. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...
While there is no online racing in GT HD, top times are automatically submitted to a central server. Additionally, replays of the top ten times are available for your viewing pleasure. It is nice to be able to directly see and learn from the techniques of the top racers. I'm sure there's a write-up about it somewhere, but there seems to be some sort of rotation on the top times. I keep seeing different times and racers at the top. I assume this type of thing will go away with an official release. Online racing is, from my standpoint, the biggest selling point of racing sims these days. I hope that PD addresses issues I've seen with other games, such as ghosting (cars on top of one another) and lag.
All told, I am very excited about the possibilities for GT5. The level of immersion becomes ever more impressive with each successive generation of consoles, and PD has always done a good job of harnessing that power. Again, without comment on tuning specifics, the major elements are all there for a truly astounding experience. Let's just hope that PD listens to their customers' salient points on damage modeling.