Gran Turismo was released mid 1998 for the Playstation and changed the world of racing video games forever! While franchises such as Need for Speed and Test Drive both thrived on the Playstation console, Gran Turismo took racing in a completely new direction boasting 140 cars (although I believe it was closer to 180), 11 different tracks and simulation beyond our wildest imagination! Before Gran Turismo, racing games offered only a handful of cars, most being licensed exotics or generic unlicensed cars, and set you off on a high speed and often times short race to beat the competition around a handful of tracks. Gran Turismo changed things up by giving the player more control and simulating a racing career more than short lived racing fantasies.
Gran Turismo offered two playing modes, Arcade and Simulation. Within Arcade you choose your vehicle and raced to unlock various other cars and tracks. The arcade mode also offered the 1967 Chevy Corvette which did not appear in the simulation mode, much to the chagrin of most players. However, with a Gameshark you can move the 67 Vette into Simulation mode but I believe there are no upgrades offered for it. Simulation mode spotted players 10,000 points to purchase a small vehicle and start out on a racing career. With your car you could race in small, individual races pitting you against some weaker AI so you could earn some extra money (or credits as the game calls it) to purchase upgrades or even more cars.
After the first couple of races you will notice that to further your career, you need to take license tests. License tests will test your racing ability with each license class (B, A and International). You are graded with trophies of either Bronze, Silver or Gold, pending you do well enough to earn them, otherwise you have to do the test all over again. If you manage to complete a license with all Gold trophies you will earn a special car that is unavailable in the show room. Some tests may take a little time to get the hang of but once you have earned all 3 licenses, you can race in anything you want.
Much like the license tests, races grade you with trophies as well, so finishing position isn’t a game over as with many other racing games, here you simply earn less credits and try again. Races will gradually become longer and harder throughout the course of your career, you could spend anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hours on any given track, depending on the length of the series or if it is an endurance race. Prizes will become better as well, in some races, along with the standard amount of credits, you will unlock a special vehicle that you may or may not be able to purchase at the dealer. Some cars are quite useful and others are more useful as the credits they give you for selling them back to the dealer.
I think the most unique feature of Gran Turismo is that not only can you purchase new cars, but you can also select from an ever-changing list of used cars as well, from some dealers. Each dealer has it’s own speed shop that sells you the standard upgrades such as: turbos, shocks, weight reduction, transmission parts, aerodynamic kits and much more, to help boost your speed and keep your car on the track, instead of in the grass or the wall. Once you don’t need the car anymore, you can always take it back to the dealer to sell it if credits get tight, but be warned that if your car has been decked out with upgrades, you’re going to lose a substantial amount of money spent on those part.
I can remember spending countless hours making adjustments in Gran Turismo, the amount of adjusting and different reactions they give seems endless. One good thing is the fact the cars come pretty well adjusted after you upgrade them, so for someone who might not understand what each adjustment does can easily sit behind the wheel and race without too much difficulty. The graphics aren’t bad and the racing is fluid, but one minor drawback is the lack of crashing, if you hit anything you merely bounce off and right back on track without any damage. The difficulty is pretty good and it never feels over complicated, except in the licenses where it might get frustrating due to rules that you don’t need to abide by on the actual racing track. Overall Gran Turismo set forth a brand new era in racing and while some games have taken the template forward and built upon it, Gran Turismo still has it’s own unique aura that you just can’t quite duplicate.