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Thursday, May 31, 2012

What is Gran Turismo?

John Marine | 11:01 PM |
What is Gran Turismo? Don't take this in any offensive manner. This post is meant to be a commentary piece after thinking of my many Gran Turismo experiences. Loyal readers are encouraged to offer their input to my post here. When I think about the Gran Turismo series and after playing Gran Turismo 5, I've recently taken away a different mindset in thinking about the Gran Turismo series and what all it is about. Maybe my thoughts are a bit different from most casual fans of the series. However, I do have thoughts I'd like to share. And with Gran Turismo 6 being in the works, I really wonder how PD would respond if they were to read my comments and respond to them in the making of Gran Turismo 6.

--- What is Gran Turismo? ---

We all know what Gran Turismo is- a racing game franchise created by Kazunori Yamauchi and Polyphony Digital. We know it is a simulation racing game. We know it is one of the greatest and most successful racing game franchises in gaming history. However, this is NOT answering the main question: what IS Gran Turismo?

Why do I ask this question? I ask this question because when I think about my Gran Turismo experience, I don't have a complete idea of what Gran Turismo is and what it really brings to the table. Many critics would lovingly say that the Gran Turismo series is a hot mess of cars, and an even hotter mess in tracks and racing. Critics may even call the series mostly misguided and lacking a real sense of focus, especially on the racing front.

My biggest hope for this blog post is that I am able to talk about how to structure Gran Turismo 6 in hopes of giving the series some new life and to move it in a more favorable direction than what GT5 has provided. To know what I'm talking about, read my review of Gran Turismo 5 along with my second opinions of Gran Turismo 5.

--- Critical Thoughts on Gran Turismo ---

This is the point where the focus is on the deeper elements of the Gran Turismo franchise.

What is Gran Turismo? Cars.

The Gran Turismo series has always been about the cars. Three nationalities of car and ten or eleven makes comprised the first Gran Turismo. Subsequent editions of Gran Turismo have featured many more nationalities of car and many more kinds of cars ranging from street cars to race cars to concepts.

That all sounds great, right? Haphazardly dropping in cars would be great in offering more than enough automobiles for the GT gamer to enjoy. Most Gran Turismo games seem to offer so many cars to where it doesn't seem like you're racing the same cars in too many races.

Many who criticize car selection in Gran Turismo games often think there are too many clones of cars, or even too few of cars most people actually care about. I think most people who play the Forza Motorsport games feel like these are cars that COULD be in Gran Turismo games as opposed to what Gran Turismo titles put out in titles. Another aspect of cars featured relate primarily to finding certain car companies... but missing out on certain interesting cars. For example, take Marcos in GT4 and GT5. Most people would have liked to have seen the Marcos LM600 race car from the mid-late 1990s. However, only the Mini Marcos was featured. It was for a reason like that as to why some GT fans flocked to the Forza Motorsport series because the first Forza featured Ferrari and Porsche among others. It was almost as if people thought Polyphony Digital was too gun-shy and passive at pursuing big-name car companies and major automotive marques.

I always tell people that Polyphony Digital DOES listen to its fans. There are machines we want to use in the Gran Turismo series and in Tourist Trophy. Our input matters along with whatever PD wants to include as well as what certain other auto makers and race teams want to see be featured. Some people are still reluctant to say that PD doesn't care about its fans or that PD doesn't listen to what fans want on the car front. But if that's what you think, then it's entirely your call and your reasoning.

What Is Gran Turismo? Locations.

It would be a bit vague to just say tracks here. We all know that there are various locations for which things in Gran Turismo games can be done, and not all are necessarily tracks. Each Gran Turismo has some sort of proper world tour of locations. These range from real-world locations, real-world tracks, real-world locations with fictional tracks, and the fair share of fictional locations with fictional tracks.

Gran Turismo doesn't necessarily disappoint in the locations department. However, I would like to see more venues in more locations. There are some places where the Gran Turismo series hasn't yet showcase on a track or Photo Mode perspective, including:

• Canada
• Mexico and Central America, the Caribbean, and South America
• Scandinavia
• Africa
• Middle East
• Australia and New Zealand

Or maybe Gran Turismo is great with original tracks in original locations... which doesn't hurt.

What is Gran Turismo? Racing.

Gran Turismo is a RACING game franchise, and you know there is something DEFINITELY wrong if the racing aspect falls flat or could be much better. I don't necessarily think the racing itself is flat. It's more along the lines of not enough creative and fun events. Gran Turismo 1 had a number of exciting concepts like the Megaspeed Cup and the nationality races. Gran Turismo 2 was very diverse with the different kinds of races devoted to different kinds of cars. GT3 started having more races divided up by difficulty. GT4 had a vast number of different races, but not really many fun events. Gran Turismo 5 almost completely lacked real fun or diversity.

The on-track action is debatable among many a GT gamer. The most common complaint is on "bad AI." Let me tell you something as a racing game fan- "bad AI" is VERY vague. I mean, are we talking about non-competitive AI? Are we talking about AI that lacks personality? Really define bad AI. When I think of bad AI, I think back to some of the ToCA Race Driver games I've played. There were times where I damn near wanted to throw my DualShock at the system or at the TV having to deal with the sometimes overaggressive AI. I've played worse.

If you're a reader of John's Gran Turismo Space, you may have seen some of my "Motorsports Makeover" posts. These are posts talking about specific elements of Gran Turismo that I think can use improvement. I am now starting to believe that Gran Turismo should have a more realistic racing approach rather than a bunch of casual races. My influences come from the ToCA Race Driver series and from the Forza Motorsport series. Both of these games have a realistic racing feel (especially the ToCA games). You have various suites for practice, qualifying, and racing. Some series even have special rules and formats. For example, you could have in the ToCA games a sprint race followed by a feature race. You may even have multi-race weekends. I want to express championship formats in a future JGTS post in thinking of GT6. So stay tuned if you're a fan of my blog here.

I personally think Gran Turismo 5 was completely lazy on the racing front. There were some good racing events offered, but it almost felt like PD wanted to focus more on online gaming and Seasonals more than offering a solid non-online package. Still- GT5's single-player racing may be the most disappointing in GT history.

What Is Gran Turismo (to me)? In Review...

So what is Gran Turismo? Here it is based on what you've just read:

It is a varied list of cars of many walks of life, racing around the world on many kinds of tracks, and with a racing character that is mostly casual but leaves lots to be desired. Gran Turismo is the premier racing game franchise of the modern era. However, its long-term future has dark clouds in its horizon if it wants to continue to be that premier racing game franchise. Some inventive thinking and entertaining new ideas will help keep the Gran Turismo series king for a long time to come. Will we see these changes when Gran Turismo 6 is in the pipeline? Or will Gran Turismo slowly fade based on the disappointments of Gran Turismo 5? Only time will tell...

Of course, these are all my own opinions. I just think the Gran Turismo series can be better and still improve in a number of categories so that the series can remain strong and enjoyable. Gran Turismo 5 has its disappointments, but I still enjoy the Gran Turismo series. I just wish, as a GT fan, that some new steps can be taken so that the series can remain that top-tier racing game franchise. I am starting to think that Gran Turismo needs some new life and some fresh ideas to enhance the series. My suggestions are only one of what millions of other people think can help improve the Gran Turismo series for a long time. As long as you're reading my blog, you know most of my own thoughts. I am not saying anything to pander to any audience. I am being truthful and real with my comments. Always have.

Anyhow, I think Gran Turismo has lots of work to do to remain atop the racing game mountain if you're judging on Gran Turismo 5. What is Gran Turismo to you after you've read my post? Comment away! Thank you for reading!

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