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Monday, November 22, 2010

The Evolution of Cars in Gran Turismo

John Marine | 2:14 AM | | | | | | | |
In Gran Turismo games, the cars are the stars. It was tough coming up with so many stars, however, when the majority of cars featured were Japanese. Gran Turismo games have improved and evolved on the car front over time. Gran Turismo and Polyphony Digital are still a great deal to Japan, so you can not necessarily say that Gran Turismo should entirely phase out Japanese cars in favor of cars from other nations.

This blog post provides insight in regards to car counts over Gran Turismo titles heading into the upcoming Gran Turismo 5. It is a look at how Gran Turismo has evolved in featuring many varieties of cars in each game. This blog post may be updated regularly to include new content or edit any false information.

--- The Evolution of Cars in Gran Turismo: GT1 ---
...Humble beginnings on the car front...

The most humble of beginnings had Gran Turismo mostly with Japanese cars. Japanese car companies outweighed American and European cars in GT1. The ratio of Japanese makes account for 7 (if you count Acura as a Japanese make, though Acura is the North American luxury arm of Honda) of the 11 makes. American and European makes each have two representatives. The depth of cars far outweigh any of the American or European makes. You could only buy used cars from Japanese makes. Also, you could buy race cars for a cool 500,000 Credits, but ONLY from Japanese companies. You can still win a lot of other cars not sold in any of the racing events by accomplishing certain tasks like winning championships and going all-Gold in license tests.

Even when doing the three nationality races, it felt flat knowing you had only so many cars to choose from, especially if racing American or British cars. The good news is that you had cars from the two nationalities that could slaughter the best of tuned Japanese cars (some even would argue that USA and British could slaughter most Japanese cars even untuned). So it wasn't really a total loss. This just meant that the majority of cars were Japanese. Just had to adjust. In addition to not as many different nationalities of car, there were only a few real classic cars. Or in fact just one- the 1963 Chevrolet Sting Ray Corvette.

The kinds of cars were also interesting. There were no Kei cars until GT2 came along. There were some powerful sports cars from all three nationalities. There were, however, no hardcore supercars. The depth of race cars were mostly GT cars ranging from the (then) JGTC and a few cars that raced Le Mans (like the Honda NSX LM GT2). Interestingly enough, there was only one proper rally car, and that was the Subaru Impreza Rally Car. A car that gets up to speed as quickly as a rally car does makes it tend to have no place in a game that doesn't feature rally racing. Only thing close to a rally course is Trial Mountain.

Gran Turismo 1, then was a GT that didn't have much to offer in very interesting cars. That would change in future installments.

--- The Evolution of Cars in Gran Turismo: GT2 ---
... bigger, badder, better...

Leaning on and expanding on what GT1 brought, Gran Turismo 2 came into the world in celebrating automobile culture while also providing rally racing. Many more interesting cars were brought into the GT universe along with many more manufacturers. Three new nationalities of car were made present in Gran Turismo 2: France, Germany, and Italy. The car list went from about 170 cars to 600 (give or take). That is a difference of some 530 cars! A new focus on rally racing has offered some extra options for race cars. There were even some touring cars that were featured in GT2.

The depth of cars was expanded in Gran Turismo 2 to make for a diverse amount of cars. Car nationalities were subdivided into four cities apart from the main Simulation Mode world. East City had Japanese cars, West City had Italian and French cars, North City had British and German cars, and South City had American cars. More recent models were introduced into GT2 to keep up with recent times among cars. Newer companies that debuted in GT2 include (among many others) Daihatsu, Suzuki, Tommy Kaira, Renault, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Ruf, Chevrolet, Ford, Vector, and Lister. Non-Japanese companies now offered Special Models. This gave you a chance to purchase special concept and race cars from various companies. Not all cars were 500,000 Credits in price. Some will cost you 1,000,000 Credits or even 2,000,000 Credits!

GT2's car depth was further subdivided with a host of cars based on modern and classic cars. It was the first game to debut Kei cars. These Kei cars were very compact and not very fast at all. The only two non-Japanese cars you can put in the Kei category are the 1970s Fiat 500 and the Mini Cooper cars. Most of the other usual suspects made a return. If you wanted to make a statement, though, say it with muscle cars! Gran Turismo 2 had one of the best showcases of muscle cars with many classics. The American car category was much improved from Gran Turismo 1. You had everything from low-powered American cars to some of the most imposing muscle cars and sports cars. Even the very exotic Vector cars shown up. Adding to the supercar allure were cars such as the Lister Storm, Lotus Esprit, the two Venturi cars, and the Jaguar XJ220. In addition to these cars, various luxury and executive cars shown up. Mercedes-Benz offers two of them north of 100,000 Credits. Jaguar offers up some of its luxury as well. What about race cars? Well for the first time ever, closed-top prototypes were featured. Two of them are the Nissan R390 GT1 and the Toyota GT-One. Many more rally cars were featured. They range from more proper rally cars to the two hillclimb beasts offered by Suzuki. There was literally something for everyone- even a van powered by a V10 Formula 1 engine! One final note... the first-ever hybrid car in any GT game was featured with the Toyota Prius in this title.

Among many discriminating racing game fans, however, it was disappointing to not see companies like Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini featured. The only thing close to a Ferrari is the Momo Corse Toyota MR2 race car. Gran Turismo 2 has offered the best diversity.

There is MUCH more to discuss! Read the full blog entry (or disregard this section if you are reading the full blog entry) to see MUCH more on the change in car culture and evolution of car lists in Gran Turismo!

--- The Evolution of Cars in Gran Turismo: GT3 A-Spec --- and downsizing...

Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec took the car count from 600 to almost 200. This was to the disappointment of many GT fans as there weren't as many choices. Gran Turismo 3 was a chance to test the limits of making more detailed cars. There were now cars in GT with interior views (albeit mostly blacked out). The fruits of their labor resulted in a host of re-worked cars including some brand new cars. While many of the cars from Gran Turismo 2 were missing from GT3, Gran Turismo 3 made up for it with having many of the past makers return along with some new ones. Speaking of new, GT3 marked the debut of two new nationalities of car- Belgium and Australia.

Used cars were done away with entirely. You had the most money to start a GT game with as you had 18,000 Credits to purchase a car. Because there were so few cars, the depth was nowhere near as diverse in GT3 as it was in GT2. Cars became a bit faster. Gran Turismo 3 just didn't really bring anything new on the car front. A nice touch for cars, however, was that of color-shifting paint (like on the TVR cars). However, the most interesting car companies in this game were Panoz and Pagani. The extremely formidable Pagani Zonda models offered that kick of supercar bliss to compliment other supercars like the Jaguar XJ220. The two new nationalities had only one car each, and both were race cars. Gillet offered their Vertigo from 1997. This car was absolutely beastly. The first-ever Australian V8 Supercar in GT history was the Tickford Falcon XR8.

The race car front didn't offer much unless you count the new Formula racing cars. That's right! For the first time in Gran Turismo history- the debut of Formula cars was present. These were all fantasy F1 cars based on classic F1 cars. You get a hint as to what year that car is from just by looking at its name. For example, the F090/S resembles the McLaren MP4/5 from 1990. There were about five or six of these fantasy F1 cars. All of which offered handling and speed capabilities unlike any other average car.

Gran Turismo 3 seemed rushed to many GT fans. And therefore, it never found its stride really when people compared this game to GT2 on a number of fronts. Missing still were the three main car companies most people care about- Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini. Some basically thought that Ruf wasn't doing enough to hold down fans. They wanted the almighty company in Stuttgart that makes amazing sports cars. While Lamborghini wasn't featured, the Japanese(?) version of Gran Turismo 3 had a car called the Diablo GT, which was clearly the (then) JGTC GT300 Lamborghini Diablo VT. It just wasn't named the Lamborghini Diablo. Would it change for the next GT?

--- The Evolution of Cars in Gran Turismo: GT4 ---
...ready to blow peoples' minds...

Gran Turismo 4 exploded with many more cars. The car count for GT4 surpassed even GT2's 600-something cars. Over 722 cars made up Gran Turismo 4's amazing roster of cars. GT4 was a complete overhaul of the Gran Turismo formula by offering loads of cars.

The diversity of cars was about the same as GT4, only with more historic cars and more diversities of racing machines. Gran Turismo 4 offered the most new nationalities of car in any GT: Korea, Spain, the Netherlands, and Sweden. It debuted a number of companies such as Spyker, Volvo, SEAT, Jensen Healey, Marcos, Holden, FPV, and Scion among many others. The oldest car in any GT game was that of the two Daimler Motor Coaches from 1886. Both of these cars were significant to feature because these were two of the very first modern automobiles. In fact, there were a number of very old cars in this game. This game basically did a better job of showcasing classic automobiles in addition to more modern machines. For the first time, pickup trucks were featured. Who needs the fanciest supercar when you can race a Ford SVT Lightning? Muscle cars made a big return and a big splash in GT4. Used cars returned for GT4 in three different classes based on three different time periods. And also for the first time- you could get used cars from any nationality represented. So you can pick up some American or European older cars from the secondhand lots. An interesting change on the car front is that of cars that have doors opened and even cars with convertible tops down. This allowed the first viewing of someone racing with the top down. You can actually sense the driver shifting gears and moving... even with the top off of a car! Even for original open-top cars (like any formula car or any Le Mans prototype), you can note the driver's helmet moving and bobbing. This provided a new experience of realistic driver physics with cars at speed. Unfortunately, there was one flaw to the cars- some Special Models were featured. You were unable to race any Special Models against other cars in pack racing. These Special models (like the Toyota MTRC) could not be used in an average pack race featuring six cars.

Also new to GT were Le Mans Prototypes. You can actually see the drivers moving their arms and the helmets bobbling. Also new were Dakar "cars." These were big and heavy racing machines meant to endure desert racing. This was an evolution from the formula cars. What of the Formula cars, by the way? There is now only one- the Polyphony Digital Formula Gran Turismo car. To me, the biggest manufacturer in this game is Bentley. That is even though the only available Bentley is the EXP GT that won the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Finally of note was the fact that cars could be immortalized forever in Gran Turismo lore. All you have to do was win Best in Show at SEMA. Your car will be featured in GT. Just like that! The 1962 Buick Special "Bu'Wicked" by Ted and Sue Richardson was the first-ever car that won Best in Show at SEMA from the 2003 show. You can buy this car from the Buick lot in GT4.

Despite the Supercar Festival (devoted to supercars, and there are a number of them), many have felt that Polyphony Digital consistently failed at getting new, more interesting car companies. Not even the unusual Cizeta V16T (which was like a combination of a Ferrari and a Lamborghini) could tide over most true supercar fans. Almost as if Polyphony Digital was scared of getting more prolific car companies. As if the racing gamer didn't have enough options, there was another game from another company that was ready to turn up the heat in the console sim racing wars. This would draw an even greater divide among racing game fans.

The Forza Influence.

Forza Motorsport on the XBOX seemed a direct challenger to Gran Turismo, and it was. Since this blog post is about cars, I have to make a relevant effort to discuss cars. Forza featured three things many Gran Turismo 4 fans wished they had in terms of cars- Ferrari, Porsche, and (more importantly) damage. Fans disappointed with GT4 found solace with Forza as it filled a void left behind (for some) with GT4. True racing game fans played both Forza and GT.

Many more cars from many more manufacturers made for one of the best diversities of cars since Gran Turismo 2. Those who were vastly disappointed in GT4's lineup of cars (despite the 700+ cars) felt most of the cars were uninteresting Japanese cars. Many of them felt disappointed that Gran Turismo 4 had 50 Skylines/GT-R's, 25 Lancers, and too little of everything most other car fans care about. I was disappointed when some people on GTPlanet completely disregarded the fact that there ARE supercars in the game (like from Pagani and Spyker among others). It's like people just disregarded the fact that there ARE supercars in the game. But no... some car fans are too good to where they prefer seeing Ferraris and companies like that. Also in the works was a possible PSP version of Gran Turismo referred to as "Gran Turismo Mobile" or "Gran Turismo 4 Mobile." Remember this bit for later in this blog post. An interesting development was about to unfold as Gran Turismo 5 was in the works. Follow along with me as a certain car maker would make some fans VERY happy.

--- The Evolution of Cars in Gran Turismo: Gran Turismo HD --- word, one company, great excitement...

Gran Turismo HD marked the first Gran Turismo for the new PlayStation 3. It was mostly a demo featuring one track and ten different cars. The one bit of news that got Gran Turismo fans excited- Ferrari! The Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano was the first-ever true Ferrari featured in any Gran Turismo.

Up to this point, there have been Ferrari-powered (like the Lancia Stratos) and Lamborghini-powered (like the Vector M12) cars... but never a car from either company until Ferrari shown up at the 2006 Paris Motor Show. News of Ferrari's arrival meant that what many Gran Turismo fans hoped to race and tune finally came to fruition. Those who had PS3s and played on PS3 kiosks could race a Ferrari for the first time ever. More people were beginning to shut up on the notion that Polyphony Digital couldn't secure the big-name licenses from big-name companies.

Even though it was not a major Gran Turismo title, it was the step in the right direction as far as featuring a more interesting roster of cars.

--- The Evolution of Cars in Gran Turismo: Gran Turismo 5: Prologue ---
...we got Ferrari at long last! Now looking for more cars to improve the lineup...

Amid lots of attention from the public, Gran Turismo 5 was the first-ever Prologue introduced to the United States after GT4 Prologue offered its look at GT4 while GT4 was in the works. Over 31 makes were represented in GT5: Prologue including another SEMA winner. The Art Morrison 1960 3G Corvette won Best in Show at SEMA and was featured in GT5: Prologue. Some 100+ cars were featured in GT5P, including the return of Ferrari. And what of them? Four more Ferraris shown up in this title. Also, this game featured the first-ever actual F1 car as GT5P featured the Ferrari F2007 Formula 1 race car.

The most important development on the car front was that there were now in-car views for all of these cars. This was NEVER done in any GT past. In car views provided an interesting view of showcasing cars while also filling a new simulation racer void.

Gran Turismo 5 was still being worked on hard by Polyphony Digital, and what of this Gran Turismo for the PSP?

--- The Evolution of Cars in Gran Turismo: Gran Turismo PSP ---
...take Gran Turismo's greatness and make it portable, but also have a master plan...

The PSP would experience Gran Turismo at long last when this game was finally released. This game can be seen in two ways- a prelude to Gran Turismo 5, and a game to look forward to trading cars in GT5 with. To many people, this was just a money grab (at least in the game). The goal was all about collecting cars. Don't think this was a completely original GT. Polyphony Digital had its share of challenges trying to translate the GT experience to the PSP. Try as they might, you can't have the same amount of intense depth for a PSP. So PD had to cut some corners. The biggest of which was that there was no GT mode, no extensive tuning, no real championships, and a few other things.

On the car front, however, a few changes were made. The cars actually had interiors to them, albeit blacked out. The choice of cars is impressive- over 850 cars! Gran Turismo PSP was basically a look at GT5 using GT4-style cars in a GT4-style environment. The biggest reason to get excited over Gran Turismo PSP was some of the manufacturers that shown up for the first time ever. Many of the groaning about not enough interesting cars was buried six feet deep when a few certain manufacturers shown up. One of the biggest car companies to be represented was Bugatti and their awesome Veyron 16.4 supercar. Ferrari made a return, but there were only two Ferraris. One of the two Italian Stallions was the Enzo Ferrari. Ferrari is good, but another manufacturer was ready for face time- Lamborghini. Like Ferrari, there are only two Lamborghinis in GT PSP.

Just the notion of these cars is interesting enough to add plenty of flavor to the lineup of cars in Gran Turismo (let alone Gran Turismo PSP). Think of how the evolution and change in car culture changed between GT4 and GTPSP. A number of major car companies have shown up when no one thought Polyphony Digital would ever see such car companies. Look at what resulted- Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Bugatti were all featured among others.

--- The Evolution of Cars in Gran Turismo: GT5 ---
...the fans waited six years. Now, we need to get GT fans excited again...

A long journey in featuring cars for the Gran Turismo series has now come down to this title. A series that began in 1997 and 1998 arrived on the scene and has done nothing more but evolve. Depth and variety in cars were enhanced a number of times. Now for Gran Turismo 5, perhaps the greatest lineup of cars in Gran Turismo history will blow the minds of many Gran Turismo gamers alike. For Gran Turismo 5, it's not about interesting cars vs. uninteresting cars, but rather Premium and Standard cars. Gran Turismo 5 was overhauled in a number of ways, but the cars are still the stars. There is no way you can argue against the depth of this game's thousand cars. That's right- 1,000+ cars! However, 200+ of them are Premium while the rest are essentially carry-over cars from Gran Turismo 4 and Gran Turismo PSP. The work done to make the Standard cars presentable for Gran Turismo 5 was pretty impressive. Among other manufacturers comprising the GT5 car list are Maserati, McLaren, and Tesla. The inclusion of things like the Top Gear Test Track would help to enhance the lineup of cars, thus influencing the culture of featured cars in Gran Turismo 5 through its development.

Premium vs. Standard has been a hot-button issue for the cars. Are there 200+ cars, or 1,000+ cars with 800+ useless and worthless cars? Many people argue that more could have been done to make all cars premium. But if that were the case, this game would probably be released in 2025 or so. So a tough decision was made- just re-work the GT4 and GT PSP cars to PS3 quality. Perhaps the most disappointing element for many people was that among the Standard cars is the Bugatti Veyron. Many feel this should have gotten Premium treatment and NOT be a Standard car. Premium cars offer many different features. The biggest one is that of visible interiors and in-car views. They are also designed much more incredibly than their Standard counterparts. The Premium vs. Standard topic drives some fans up the wall. You will be unable to tune certain elements of Standard cars (like wheels).

Even still, GT5's Standard cars look to be re-worked quite well despite the fact they lack many of the different aspects that make them different from Premiums. Many, though, wished all cars would be Premium. Some people think it is either lazy or inexcusable that not all cars are Premium.

The official car list makes note of many different kinds of cars. The biggest plus to this is the arrival of NASCAR and certain World Rally Championship cars. NASCAR provides a brand new racing experience featuring a few different NASCAR stock cars. While rally cars are nothing new in GT5, the usage of the World Rally Championship is. It provides a little extra personality and depth to the variety of featured cars in the series. Going on just the official GT5 car list alone, it is still tough to really argue against what this game has to provide on the car front.

Also new is karting. You may not think about it, but kart racing is one of the signs that real racing is being focused on. It is the first-ever kart featured in any Gran Turismo. I will post a future blog entry here on John's GT Space regarding my thoughts about karting.

With Gran Turismo 5 set to be released in stores soon, we will get to see how much more different cars will be in GT5. Ferrari and Lamborghini surely fit the bill. At least two of the three major manufacturers most people care about are featured. Will Porsche show up for GT6?

--- Final Thoughts ---
The explosive expansion of cars in Gran Turismo games have left us with a game that offers so many cars and manufacturers. We were all fortunate we would get so many cars in these games. I could instantly note a change in car choices starting with Gran Turismo 2. The ability to outsource and expand makes for a game serious about providing more kinds of cars of various kinds helps to expand the number of options and cars. GT3 didn't bring anything new except for F1 cars. GT4 brought a huge number of cars from varying manufacturers and various types. The big bomb was dropped when Ferrari debuted in a Gran Turismo title. Since Gran Turismo HD, we have been more than blessed seeing the Prancing Horse grace GT. Since Gran Turismo PSP, we've been blessed with the likes of Bugatti and (more importantly) Lamborghini. Why did it take so long to feature some of the prestigious names? I still thought there were plenty of world-class auto makers even though most people only care for the truly prestigious makes.

At least there is now no argument over GT not having as many interesting cars. Gran Turismo 6 could likely only get better on the car front. Maybe we'll see a deeper amount of cars from other countries and manufacturers. The fact is, Gran Turismo 5 is going to blow minds. The amount of cars over time have resulted in a much more diverse field of cars. All the while, the diversity of cars is incredible. Most people never would have thought that Ferrari (among others) would ever find their way into Gran Turismo. The different changes in philosophy in cars have resulted in a more interesting batch of cars. Adding things like NASCAR, karting, and Top Gear have helped to establish a new sort of character for Gran Turismo. It is a character that has resulted in a different top-to-bottom view of cars in Gran Turismo games. Gran Turismo is still purely Japanese, but the diversity has been vastly improved over the years and over the games to continue one of the greatest racing game franchises of all time. Two Forza Motorsport games may have passed between GT4 and GT5, but you don't see the GT people sweating bullets just because their game is taking so long to develop. The GT games are usually worth the wait and usually will be games we will continually play for months... and even years to come.

No racing game is ever complete without cars for which to do racing with. People may question Polyphony Digital's taste in cars and picking certain cars to be featured, but at least you can be proud to see a variety of cars spanning lots of manufacturers and nationalities. People complain all the time about "too many Skylines," "too many Lancers," "not enough Ferraris," and all that. There aren't too many racing games that deliver the number of cars that Gran Turismo games usually provide. So you're really fortunate with the cars you do get. If Gran Turismo teaches us anything, it is an introduction to cars and car companies you otherwise have no idea that they exist. I personally would have never known of Aston Martin, TVR, Venturi, Ruf, Opel, Gillet, Hommell, Jensen Healey, Cizeta, and Autobianchi had it not been for Gran Turismo. Every major GT has introduced me to either one new company or one new car (or both). I think us racing game fans should be forever grateful for what Gran Turismo has been able to accomplish for gaming as well as the automotive industry. If you are ANY kind of racing game fan or automotive fan, Gran Turismo is the trendsetter that has done a great deal to expose people to the world of automobiles while also providing a solid racing game (despite any flaws).

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