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Feature: The Road to Gran Turismo 6

Posted by Sammy Barker

The evolution of the real driving simulator

Even when Polyphony Digital president Kazunori Yamauchi was working on slapstick PSone racer Motor Toon Grand Prix, the luminary had driving simulators in mind. The internally developed title, which was undeniably inspired by the success of Mario Kart, was built with a casual audience in mind, but the Japanese developer couldn’t help but consider the title’s physics model. “Basically we're not trying to fake reality – I'd rather create the sensation of handling a remote control car but with the kind of dynamics that you'd expect from a real car,” he told Next Generation magazine all the way back in 1995. “The cars' suspensions actually work – we've attempted to simulate the dynamic forces as they go around corners.”

Of course, the internal development group then known as Poly’s Entertainment was already hard at work on the very first Gran Turismo behind-the-scenes. A labour of love that lasted almost five years, it wasn’t until approximately 18 months after the release of Motor Toon Grand Prix 2 that Yamauchi’s opus would park up on store shelves. It was a smash success, augmenting the creator and his team the autonomy to form Polyphony Digital, and paving the way for a franchise that has not only sold over 70 million units globally, but also shaped the ethos of the PlayStation brand. Now, with Gran Turismo 6 sitting at the starting line, we're taking a brief look back at a groundbreaking series.

Gran Turismo

Released: 23rd Dec 1997 [ Jap ] / Sales: 10.8 million

It took almost five years for Sony to wave the chequered flag on Gran Turismo’s production. A team of up to 15 people worked tirelessly on the PSone exclusive – an endeavour that Yamauchi reflects took its toll on the group. “In those five years, we could not see the end,” he told Automotive Magazine in 2009. “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.” The luminary was famously unsatisfied with the results, but the title changed the face of racing releases due to its advanced physics system and impressive artificial intelligence.

Gran Turismo 2

Released: 11th Dec 1999 [ Jap ] / Sales: 9.37 million

The sensational sales of the first Gran Turismo enabled Kazunori Yamauchi and his team to form an autonomous studio under the SCE banner named Polyphony Digital. Its first game, however, was not Gran Turismo 2, but on-rails mech title, Omega Boost. The simulation racing sequel followed approximately six months later, and expanded upon the original’s content roster. It featured almost five times as many cars and more than double the tracks, while it also augmented tweaks to the title’s braking dynamics. This, according to Yamauchi, resulted in an “even better product”, which was reflected by the title’s impressive review scores.

Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec

Released: 28th Apr 2001 [ Jap ] / Sales: 14.8 million

A generation shift meant that the pressure was on Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec. With the PSone entries cementing Polyphony Digital’s driving simulator as one of the biggest brands on the planet, Sony opted to showcase the studio’s next generation entry alongside Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty at its E3 briefing in 2000. The title was put into gear a year later, where it demonstrated a significant step forward in visual quality. Improvements to the physics engine furthered the sequel's unquenchable quest for realism by improving the manner in which vehicles responded to grass and dirt. Despite its comparatively small vehicle roster compared to Gran Turismo 2, the title went on to become one of the highest rated titles of the PlayStation 2 era – and it still remains one of the best-selling games of all time.

Gran Turismo 4

Released: 28th Dec 2004 [ Jap ] / Sales: 11.7 million

A prologue version of Gran Turismo 4 preceded the title’s Japanese launch in 2004 – a strategy which developer Polyphony Digital would employ again to bridge the gap between the full release of Gran Turismo 5. Much like Gran Turismo 2, the studio used a large chunk of the title’s production time to create new vehicles, bumping Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec’s paltry 181 car selection to a massive 722 vehicles, as well as almost doubling the title’s track roster. The sequel also incorporated a slew of new game modes, including the B-Spec management simulation and popular photo mode, which allowed custom screenshots to be captured during gameplay and copied to an external USB stick. Furthermore, the physics model was upgraded to simulate body movement, while the title remains one of just four PS2 releases to output in 1080i resolution.

Gran Turismo 5

Released: 25th Nov 2010 [ Jap ] / Sales: 10.6 million

Gran Turismo 5 suffered an arduous road to release. While developer Polyphony Digital deployed an HD Concept teaser right around the release of the PS3, fans were forced to make do with the stripped back Gran Turismo 5 Prologue for nearly three years before the studio’s first full next generation entry arrived. Like all of the previous instalments, it garnered universal critical acclaim, but the response from fans was much more tepid due to the clunky user interface, tired progression system, and emphasis on standard car models ported from the PS2. The studio spent over a year tweaking the release, culminating in the Spec 2.0 patch in late 2011. Costing a reported $80 million to develop, the title remains one of the most expensive games ever made.


Do you have fond memories of the Gran Turismo franchise, or has it never been your cup of tea? What’s your favourite entry in the series so far? Are you planning to pick up Gran Turismo 6 on the PS3, or are you waiting for it to drift its way onto the PS4? Rev your engine in the comments section below.

What's your favourite Gran Turismo game? (17 votes)

Gran Turismo (PSone)

24%

Gran Turismo 2 (PSone)

12%

Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (PS2)

24%

Gran Turismo 4 (PS2)

12%

Gran Turismo 5 (PS3)

29%

Please login to vote in this poll.

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User Comments (10)

charlesnarles

#1

charlesnarles said:

I got the GT3 bundle and played it all damned day for weeks before I felt compelled to try other games. 5 was also a "wow" in terms of graphics, but 3 took a bigger step. Good times, and 6 just finished DLing after 9 hours or so!!!

JuanitoShet

#2

JuanitoShet said:

Though the memories are quite blurred, I vaguely remember playing the first two titles on my PlayStation back in the day as a kid. My dad loved the games to death, along with Need for Speed. :D

EyeDeeNO76

#3

EyeDeeNO76 said:

For me I have GT1, GT2, GT3, GT5 and Tourist Trophy but would have to go with GT4 with the Logitech Driving Force Pro... force feedback and with (at the time) the new 900-degree wheel rotation that made control and feel much more precise and with games like these it's the only way to go to get the most out of them. Than GT4 still had more to offer 3 years later using component cables from the PS2 to get 1080 on my new HDTV as I waited for the DualShock 3 and a price drop of the PS3 console.
Now just have to wait till GT6 to be delivered I pre-ordered from GameStop to get the 15th Anniversary Edition upgrade. Now only if I could afford that official Thrustmaster T500 RS wheel but the Logitech Driving Force GT gets the job done just as well.

Paranoimia

#4

Paranoimia said:

I've always loved the series, but 6 is the first I won't be buying. It hasn't changed enough. After 5 games, it's time for them to focus on better AI and a reasonable damage model, rather than unnecessary things like accurate skies and driving on the moon. They've got one of the best driving sim engines around, but if they insist on focusing on completely unnecessary filler, they're going to slip behind the competition. I know the game is about the racing and not about the damage, but damage is a part of racing; it doesn't necessarily have to affect the performance, but they could at least scratch the paint and dent some panels. Hopefully in a future PS4 version, eh?

I understand that Sony want to keep supporting PS3 with big titles, and that's commendable - but I can't help thinking that this should at least have been a dual platform release with PS4, if not PS4 only.

I'm afraid I'm going to wait for Drive Club this time around, and try something different.

charlesnarles

#5

charlesnarles said:

@Paranoimia I would honestly argue that GTAV had a less-forgivable damage system than GT5, and you're supposed to smash cars in GTAs. I thought GT5 did a good enough job on the damage aspect to keep us from playing it like a demolition derby and actually try to race correctly

belmont

#6

belmont said:

I have GT1,GT5 and GT PSP. The first one was my favourite. I played mostly the arcade mode since making my cars and grinding for money bores me. The PSP version is very good looking. I have GT5 (came free when I got my PS3) but have not played it. Friends told me that grinding is frustrating and the menus are slow to navigate since there is a lot of them.

My favourite moment is the extra mode that unlocked in GT1 after beating the arcade mode that was the same game with less textures but more fps.

It is good to have simulation racers but I think they sometimes miss the point. I want a pick to play racer with fast cars, little braking, quick menus and fast racers, something like Outrun. Why we need free roaming and tons of engine unlockables is beyond me. I just want to run and enjoy the ride with an expensive car, something that I can't do in reality.

get2sammybAdmin

#7

get2sammyb said:

@belmont I personally prefer arcade racers like Outrun, too, but I think you're maybe missing the point of sim racers a little bit. It's all about simulating what it feels like to drive cars that you'll probably never own in real life on tracks that you may never get to race on. That's sort of the point.

I do get your point, but people really enjoy the above - as evidenced by the series' sales.

Tintin

#8

Tintin said:

I must have played GT5 for over 300 hours, I know it was the only game I played for over a year.

I bought GT6 today and played it for 2 hours. I'm initially a bit disappointed (God knows what I was expecting) and I know it's to early to judge. To me the graphics don't look as good as GT5 and the game seems a lot more forgiven which is bad imo. I hit the gravel at Brands Hatch and the car hardly slowed at all.
GT5 at the moment is my favorite GT game of all time but I hope that changes to GT6 in the future.

Beaston61

#9

Beaston61 said:

I voted Gran Turismo 1, purely because it was one of the first PS1 games I ever got :D - Nostalgia

MadchesterManc

#10

MadchesterManc said:

Everytime I fire up Feeder's Echo Park album all the GT3 memories come flooding back. I voted for that one :) It was the first Gran Turismo that I picked up and loved, Plus it literally blew me away when I first played it. If the controller wasn't wired I would've been blown out of the window. Good times.

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