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GT and Me

May 28, 2006 ・ Blog

Its been a long time – not only since I last posted, but since I first played a Gran Turismo game. 1998 it was. Eight years ago. To celebrate the end of my university finals I scraped together all the cash I had left and bought a PlayStation along with Resident Evil 2 and Gran Turismo.

Back then it was stunning. Those shining bonnets; the way the wheels would ride the bumps… And the handling was like nothing I’d ever experienced. This was a time when new games could be revelations. Gran Turismo taught me about weight shifting and gear ratios, reactivating this weird fascination I had for cars when I was ten that manifested itself in six months of writing off to BMW and Porsche to ask for catalogues that I never really knew what to do with once they arrived. At least GT was more real – I loved the sensation of weaving a Dodge Viper through the tight, tricksy curves of tracks like Autumn Ring.

Gran Turismo accompanied me in the move into London and my first job. Despite all the time I invested in it – being too poor to buy any new games bar Final Fantasy VII – I failed to make any real dent in its thousands of races. So I didn’t think there was much reason for getting Gran Turismo 2. “More of the same,” I thought. And I was right: one day, I managed to talk my friend Gaelle into buying a PlayStation, which came bundled with GT2. And somehow I found myself buying it off her on the cheap. It might have been almost the same game as the one I already had, but it got me obsessed all over again even so.

Gran Turismo’s like that. Seemingly effortlessly it pulls you into its mundanities of suspension stiffnesses, harvesting Sunday Cup races for cash and buying ‘91 Honda Civic CR-X Sis. The stolid, slow rhythm of driving race after race in cars souped up just enough so that you keep out in front of the robotic competition is at once thoroughly unrewardingly dull – and, well, mesmerising. But sure enough, sooner or later, the boredom gets to me.

But not enough to avoid getting Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec. I got it in late 2001, bundled with my PlayStation 2. Though it shared many tracks and cars with the earlier games, the PS2’s new power lent GT3 a revitalising and incredible (to me) new smoothness and fidelity. Even the most familiar tracks, like my favourite, Trial Mountain, had to be learned all over again. I was hooked for the third time.

But GT3’s size, as before, got the better of it. After a good run, I lost interest and there was no point getting GT4: Prologue. Nor Gran Turismo 4 itself, or so I thought. How could the developers really allow themselves to improve on it? And, anyway, I’d gotten into racers like F-Zero GX and Ferrari 355 Challenge, which had a nimbleness that put GT to shame.

But then, a couple of weeks ago, I got GT4. Cheap; accidentally. And, though much the same, it’s good. Nurburgring is a lot of fun – thrilling, in fact, especially in a Lotus Elise. But my love has gone. I’ll dip in here and there, but the thought of doing every race, or even contemplating an endurance race, is right off. It says a lot about the current generation of games. Without a complete reinvention, the Gran Turismo series has nowhere to go. The PlayStation 3 demo shown at E3 this year has nothing of the spectacular next generational leap that GT3 took. Still, I’ll probably find myself getting GT5 nonetheless…