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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Special Stage Route 5

John Marine | 10:53 PM | | | | | |
Primetime performers of Gran Turismo race the highways of Special Stage Route 5. It has been in every major Gran Turismo game including Tourist Trophy. The night air is filled with cars with their headlights on and the roar of multiple cars all racing down the track. Since the very first Gran Turismo, there is no cooler feeling in any racing game than to go full speed on city streets and highways at night. This one lets you live that fantasy. Special Stage Route 5 is a true original and staple of the Gran Turismo series, and this blog post is all about Gran Turismo's all-night thrill ride.

NOTE: This blog post ONLY concerns Special Stage Route 5, not Clubman Stage Route 5. That will be in a future post.

--- Special Stage Route 5 ---
Special Stage Route 5
While most hit the nightclub, work late at night, or sit at home watching the nightly news or favorite movies and TV shows... Gran Turismo racers are taking to Special Stage Route 5 to go racing on the highways and streets. (ORIGINAL PICTURE CREDIT: Gran Turismo 2)

Special Stage Route 5 takes you around a downtown area on highways and on city streets. Its humble beginnings were experienced back in Gran Turismo 1. Across three different consoles and the PSP, this track only became more and more of an imposing challenge. The first part of the track to get right is the chicane that leads into the tunnel. Picking a bad line will make your tunnel run not as fast and not as interesting. Stay to the inside as much as you can while not going too far inside. Coming out of the tunnel, you then face a fairly sharp left-hand turn. The turn sweeps a bit as you exit, leading up to a moderate-speed chicane. You then go downhill from the highway and onto some city streets. The downhill begins with a right followed by a left. A very crucial 180° left turn follows. Pick a bad line, and you're either going to get passed by other cars or spin out. Power down out of the hairpin to negotiate a pair of sharp right kinks. What follows is the backstretch. Be ready to brake hard and drive precisely as two successive chicanes follow. The first one is a bit smooth, but the second one is super-sharp. You need every bit of a proper racing line because if you don't, you will not have enough speed to negotiate the sweeping uphill right-hander leading to the front stretch. Floor the accelerator all the way to the finish line to complete one lap of this course.

--- Special Stage Route 5 Videos ---
This is an analytical look at Special Stage Route 5 in GT titles.

SSR5 in Gran Turismos 1 and 2.

Of all the details of Special Stage Route 5 in Gran Turismos 1 and 2 (because they are similar), it's strange to fathom why one of the buildings is a big sprite. You notice this building to your left as you head into the tunnel. I probably figured that if that was modelled out, it would probably be a bit slow to include that model. The first turn after the tunnel suggests a watery view leading to the rest of the city in the distance. Something tells me that view is also a big sprite. Another set of close details are a few buildings that are flat-looking. You don't notice this, though, unless you race this course in the Reverse direction. Gran Turismos 1 and 2 featured an open area after the following chicane. It is good to use this area to gather up your car out of some aggressive cornering, but you'd better remember to get back on the main highway and go down the correct route! Only difference between GT1 and GT2 with this course are the different billboards and the different light graphics. Gran Turismo 1 did not feature this course with an endurance, but GT2's version featured a 50-lap endurance around these streets and highways. It is the only nighttime endurance in Gran Turismo 2, and it is also the only time that Special Stage Route 5 has been used as an endurance racing venue. The longest night you'll ever have around SSR5 is in this game.

Here is a lap around SSR5 in GT1:

Just as a note, you tend to notice these things once you start actually studying how graphics are shown in a game. That's why I'm making such comments.

SSR5 in Gran Turismo 3.

The beauty of SSR5 in Gran Turismo 3 was that this could be raced under dry or wet conditions. Special Stage Route 5 was the first track in Gran Turismo history to be featured under wet conditions. Special Stage Route 5 never looked better as PS2 power means many more details and touches to enhance this course. The track's setting appears to be more like twilight rather than deep darkness. In the reverse direction, you could say it's later at night. The tunnel is much darker using amber lights rather than white lights. The watery view across the way after the tunnel is gone and replaced just with some tall buildings in the background. The same opening heading into the First Intermediate is there after the tunnel. Heading into the hairpin and looking towards the center, a grandstand with fans is located there rather than a few of the rest of the city. In fact, quite a few grandstands are located around the hairpin. Most of the same details from the GT1 and GT2 versions are present in GT3's version, only looking much better under PS2 power. The PS2 allows for more real buildings to be used rather than have some flat sprites to represent the backdrop. This is a video of the dry course:

How about this track when it's wet? Up to four cars can race this track in the wet, but it's primarily considered a rally stage. So you will be racing this course on road tires as opposed to the obvious dirt tires. The wet version of this course is very nice as you watch the city lights glisten the wet roads. It is a lovely sight to be honest. Both directions have this track looking like a rain storm just passed. In the reverse direction, though, a rather eerie sight of the moon can be seen in the sky. How about a video lap of SSR5 Wet? Take a look at this:

SSR5 in Gran Turismo 4.

Gran Turismo 4 was a graphical overhaul from top to bottom. Special Stage Route 5 took on a much lovelier and much more industrial tone. The setting was more towards late sunset than deep into the night. The tunnel is brighter in this game than in GT3. You don't notice the industrial tones until you start to notice cranes in the background and towers under construction. The track itself remains unchanged... until you head towards Intermediate 1. All that open space is now barricaded off, so you'd better have a clean line heading into Intermediate 1. The hairpin has some more blinking lights than what you've seen in GT3 at this area. Most of the rest of the course seems unchanged except for some more cranes and buildings under construction heading towards the sweeping right that leads to the Start/Finish straight. The replay angles showing of the city in the background are beautiful. This is how SSR5 looks in Gran Turismo 4:

SSR5 in Gran Turismo 5.

One has to figure that with PS3 power, it's time to overhaul the graphics some more. Special Stage Route 5, to me, appears like a much more believable city in GT5 than in any GT past. The city darkness is realistic as you race your car around SSR5. The setting actually seems like either early night or very late evening. White lights in the tunnel return as the tunnel view itself is fairly dark. You get a much more beautiful and realistic view of the city for just about the entire ride around the track. Part of that view begins as you exit the tunnel. Some tall buildings can be found in the background as you enter that sharp corner after the tunnel. The walled-up view to the inside heading into Intermediate 1 is now basically replaced, allowing you to see the city in lovely detail. There are much fewer high walls. The grandstands outside of the hairpin are all gone. To the left after the hairpin, some high walls and some trees are to your left. In GT5, they've been replaced by a few buildings and some extra street lights. The backstretch has a little underpass you go through. After this underpass, trees with lights wrapped around them can be seen. There used to be a couple of other buildings after the backstretch in past iterations of SSR5. Now, this area has a highway above you and lots of trees wrapped in lights. There are also more city streets that make SSR5 look even more like a believable city. As you head onto the front stretch, you can call it either cheesy or cool to have the GT logo created from lights of one specific building to your left. This is the most believable of a city in any iteration of SSR5. This video showcases the latest incarnation of Special Stage Route 5. I specifically chose this one so you see the actual details and depths of this course:

I keep talking about SSR5 being believable in GT5 because I always wonder what the city itself would actually LOOK like if it were real. GT5's version is the most realistic. I probably couldn't imagine a realistic version of this track for (especially) GT1 and GT2. Imagine if this city actually existed and that you had a chance to tour the city. Which version of Special Stage Route 5 would be most realistic? To me, it's GT5's version. A science of making street courses in racing games is in making believable cities and then make a race course around it. NOT the other way around. What makes street/city courses believable is that you take an already-existing city and make a race track around it. More believable city streets are more realistic while those that seem more like an unrealistic-looking city tend to fall flat and be less believable. To prove the point- imagine a city with the traffic. Then as you make a race track around the set location, envision a race track around it. GT5's version seems most realistic as far as a realistic city with a competitive race course around it.

By the way... I always wonder what this track would be like to race in the daytime or with evening time becoming nighttime? Maybe we find out for Gran Turismo 6? ;)

This is a great track nonetheless. Thank you for reading! Subscribe to my blog via FeedBurner (or any other aggregator in the sidebar)! Click on the graphics below to subscribe to both of my blogs, and also Become a Fan (or Like) my Facebook Fan Page:
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