When Gran Turismo 4 was released in December of 2004, I was in a different place in life. I was no longer a kid; I was a man now. I had responsibilities. I had a full-time job. I owned a real car, which over the past year, I had been more interested in modifying and racing. Video games were taking a back seat.
I had also been a bit disappointed with Gran Turismo 3 and never replayed it like I had with the first two titles in the series. It hadn’t taken ahold of me like Gran Turismo 1 and Gran Turismo 2 had.
But nonetheless, a few days after Christmas, I bought my copy of Gran Turismo 4 anyway, out of nostalgia more than anything. But when I loaded up the game, immediately, I was propelled back in time. I felt like a teenager, rediscovering the franchise all over again.
Hello My Old Friend
Polyphony Digital ramped things up for the second Gran Turismo title released on PlayStation 2. There were over 700 cars included. The European and American manufacturers finally expanded their portfolios. Chevrolet now had an army of Corvettes. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi had full lineups including prototype race cars. I probably spent an hour scrolling through the vehicle list, jamming out to the jazzy soundtrack, before I even participated in a race.
This was the Gran Turismo where concept cars and racecars really became prominent. Several Tuner manufacturers were now included. Australian cars made their debut here with Holden and Ford FPV being available in-game.
It was an automotive history lesson as much as a game. Gran Turismo 4 was where many in the world were introduced to the awesomeness that was the Chaparral 2J. It highlighted some lesser known, spectacular machinery from the past like the Cizeta V16T supercar, the Toyota 7 Race Car, the Dome ZERO Concept car, and who could forget the Jay Leno Tank Car.
Of course, having 700 cars meant GT4 achieved new levels of redundancy. First, there were nearly identical cars in the game like the AC Cars 427 S/C and the Shelby Cobra 427. Second, the overkill on some models was mind boggling; 20 Honda S2000s, 29 MX-5 Miatas, and don’t even get me started on the number of Skylines. What made this excessive even more unnecessary is the fact some manufacturers only offered a single car. Cadillac only had CIEN concept and Eagle was stuck with the base Talon ESi.
The car I cared most about though was the Buick GNX. A sinister dream from my childhood, this was the first video game I recall playing that included the big, blown Buick. I immediately went about earning enough money to buy the GNX. I put a big park-bench wing on it, maxed its performance, and used it as a supercar killer in various disciplines.
Not Just a Showcase of Cars
But it wasn’t just a cargo ship full of cars include in the game. There were also 51 racecourses included. Eight were even painstakingly recreated real-world tracks available in 19 different configurations. Circuit de la Sarthe, Suzuka, and Infineon (Sonoma Raceway) all made their debut in this game.
But the big news was the Nürburgring Nordschleife. It was unusual to have a track this detailed in a game. Heck, it took 6-10 minutes to complete a lap. It was an instant favourite.
Besides real tracks, there were some courses based on real-life locations like the eerily accurate Tokyo R246. And of course, old classics like High Speed Ring and Trial Mountain were back.
Familiar Game Play
The main screen had the usual city map style layout but updated to look slick and more three-dimensional. The GT Auto allowed the car to be washed, have the oil changed, add real aftermarket wheels and install rear wings for some adjustable downforce.
Some argue the racing action was a bit more on the arcade side compared to Gran Turismo 3, but I found it better reflected the difference between the slower and faster cars. The rally sections were also greatly improved.
When Gran Turismo 4 was released, it happened at the right time for me; like a perfect storm. My aforementioned car was written off by a mail truck a few weeks after Gran Turismo 4 was released. After a few months in a rental car I moved into a new apartment with a much more budget conscience car and new financial responsibilities.
What all of this meant was I suddenly had a lot more free time to play video games. And play the snot out of that game I did. My brother-in-law once asked me what that weird chime sound was he would hear late and night and early in the mornings.
I would respond “Just me, trying to get all 700 cars bought”.
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