Jeremy Clarkson: Gran Turismo 4

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evoWALO

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August 07, 2005

Pass the joystick, sonny, this is the future of driving
By Jeremy Clarkson of The Sunday Times
Gran Turismo 4
http://driving.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,2060-12089-1722790-12089,00.html


Five weeks. That?s how long it is since my back exploded and I was banned from driving. I?ve never gone so long without climbing behind the wheel so, to keep my hand in, I?ve booted the boy-child off his PlayStation and now spend my evenings playing something called Gran Turismo 4.

We?re always being told by the makers of these computer driving games that they?re virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. In fact the maker of Gran Turismo goes further, saying that the programmers drove all the 700 cars featured in the game so they could bring real-world handling characteristics and power delivery to your living room. Yeah, right.

I?ve played these Grand Turismo games before and so I know the form. You start with a handful of loose change that you spend buying a crummy car, which you then use in races to win more money. The better you get, the more you win, until eventually you have enough to fit it with better tyres or a turbo.

That means you can go faster and win bigger races with more prize money until, eventually, you have enough to buy a better car. And so it goes on.

Now this is all very noble, teaching children they can?t have something for nothing and that if they want a BMW M5 they?re damn well going to have to put the hours in.

But the reality is rather different. What happens is that you invest about three weeks winning a new car, and after that a new game comes out in which you can shoot James Bond in the face. So you forget all about your new car and play that instead.

My children spend most of their time playing a game called Grand Theft Auto which, so far as I can tell, involves driving around a city knocking over as many people as possible. And then, when the police come, stealing another car.

So Sony is on to a winner. It can make all sorts of bold claims about how its Gran Turismo cars are the same as the real thing because no one will ever be able to prove it wrong. Those who earn enough digital money to buy the computer cars will have no time left for earning the real spondulicks (evoWALO: So true) ;). So they won?t have a proper car to compare with the interpretation on the PlayStation.

I got round this by cheating. I called Sony and asked it to send me a game chip already loaded with the 700 computer cars. And I am in a position to test out its claims because, unlike most people, I really have driven almost all of them in real life.

There are mistakes. The BMW M3 CSL, for instance, brakes much better on the road than it does on the screen. And there?s no way a Peugeot 106 could outdrag a Fiat Punto off the line. But other than this, I?m struggling: they?ve even managed to accurately reflect the differences between a Mercedes SL 600 and the Mercedes SL 55, which is hard enough to do in real life.

There?s more, too. If you take a banked curve in the Bentley Le Mans car flat out, you?ll be fine. If you back off, even a little bit, you lose the aerodynamic grip and end up spinning.

That?s how it is. This game would only be more real if a big spike shot out of the screen and skewered your head every time you crashed. In fact that?s the only real drawback: that you can hit the barriers hard without ever damaging you or your car. Maybe they?re saving that for GT5. Perhaps it?ll be called Death or Glory.

Whatever, you could definitely use GT4 as a device for trying out your next car, especially if you?re thinking of buying a Viper. That?s just as undriveable in the game as it is on the M6.

But the best thing about the game is the inclusion, for the first time, of the N?rburgring. Last year I spent a couple of days trying to get round this fearsome 13-mile track in a Jaguar diesel in less than 10 minutes. In the game I shaved two minutes off that time by using an Aston Martin DB9. And I didn?t have to spend a night in a bierkeller, singing to oompah music.

The track really is devastatingly accurate, even down to the graffiti that has been painted by motor racing fans on the tarmac over the years. Maybe some of the bumps are missing, and there?s one braking point that is completely wrong, but if you?re planning on going to the Ring this summer, get the game first. You?ll save yourself a fortune and stand a much smaller chance of being killed to death.

I?ve looked into how the Japanese boffins manage to recreate real life so accurately and it seems patience is the key. They do drive every car to make sure its torque, grip and aerodynamic properties are accurately replicated. And they photograph each one up to 500 times to make sure it looks exactly right. They even film them on tracks, using the Top Gear camera crews. And you need a lot of patience for that, trust me.

So when you ?drive? the car, it leans and dives and squats just like the real thing. Even the shadows look real. So real that BMW uses the GT game for testing out new ideas on cars before giving them to test drivers.

Of course, like just about every car firm in the world, it took BMW about five seconds to realise that PlayStation reaches a part of the market that television advertising cannot. The PlayStation generation. As a result, just about all of them bend over backwards to help the makers of the game in any way possible.

Except Ferrari.

According to the maker of the game, ?some car makers want more money to be featured than all the rest of the car makers put together?. Sadly, his mobile went dead before I could confirm it was indeed the Eyeties. Technology, eh? So I rang a Ferrari spokesman who explained that his company was fantastically litigious and protective of the cars, the racers and even the noises they make. And that they already have a deal with EA Games. Well, that?s complete and utter madness, because as a result my nine-year-old is growing up wanting a Honda NSX.

He?s worked out that if you want to win races this is by far the best car to use. If I didn?t know better, and there were no laws of libel, I?d suggest that maybe Honda had indeed bunged Sony a few quid to give a few more digital horsepower.

Whatever, my boy cannot be unique. All over the world there are other kids who know the fastest car in the world is Honda?s V6 supercar. And that?s what they?ll buy when they grow up.

Except they won?t, because last month Honda announced that after a 15-year production run the NSX is about to die.

It was never the prettiest car in the world. It?s rather as though someone described a Ferrari to someone over the phone. And unlike its Italian rivals it was not a passionate car. But it was hugely technical. The noise of the engine. The feel of that all aluminium backbone. It felt digital rather than analogue.

It was also exceptionally good value for money but, sadly, in the whole of its life Rowan Atkinson was the only person to buy one, and now it?s gone to that V-tech scrapyard in the sky amid news that Honda is already working on a V10-powered replacement.

I have an idea for this new toy, an idea that will be in keeping with the technicality of its predecessor. Instead of giving it a cumbersome steering wheel and 20th-century pedals, neither of which is needed when you have electronic braking and electronic power steering, why not simply fit it with a PlayStation controller? I?m not joking. We know it works and, at the very least, the car could be left or right-hand drive depending on whoever had the handset. I?ve seen the future. And it?s in your sitting room.
 
2nd repost dude :lol:

current discussion about this is in the offtopic ;)
 
Ok then, locky :lock:
 
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