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Gran Turismo: Improving the Series

Gran TurismoI love car culture. Customizing, tuning, car shows, and going to the race track for a day. I am also a gamer, and put the two together, I’m a perfect fit for the racing simulation genre. Gran Turismo has always been subtitled “The Real Driving Simulator” and has always been renowned as the best simulation racing franchise ever created. With GT5 set to release next Wednesday in most territories, some people have already gotten a hold of the retail version of the game.

Some shortcomings have, indeed, surfaced (but they are, in no way, game breaking). Standard cars are recycled from past titles (but you can’t change the wheels and there’s no cockpit view), weather and day/night is limited to only a few tracks, and, well, that’s about it. Dirt, dents, scratches (and performance damage) and all that are on all models, but dislodging, of course, is limited to premium cars (dirt buildup should be more similar to DiRT 2/3 and every car should be a premium model in the future). Overall, though, it still seems to be one heck of a game.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any other improvements they could have implemented to ensure its dominance in the sim racing genre. In fact, there are some racing games that do things better, or have features that would definitely benefit the series, if they were implemented (as well as some features we‘ve never seen).

Custom Liveries

Gran Turismo 5 is, undoubtedly, the most realistic looking racing game out there (although Forza Motorsport 3 does look good, too), but what plenty of other racing franchises offer, Gran Turismo hasn’t had any form of since GT2. Liveries (basically adding custom vinyls and decals to your cars). Personally, I think the best use of a livery system is definitely the Forza series. I’ve seen the cars available to purchase in-game with some amazing (and some naughty :P) liveries.

This form of customization would greatly benefit Gran Turismo, and makes every car you drive all the more personal. After all, if you want a true racing experience, you want to really set yourself apart on the tarmac and stand out, and what better way to do that than to go down a straightaway at 150MPH or more, sporting a livery custom-made by you?

Even the community would better thrive, since not all people can make a good looking livery (and there are plenty of talented folks who make complex designs with simple shapes), the good artists can sell vehicles that have ridiculously detailed liveries for others to enjoy. That is one of the standouts for the Forza community. Hell, if you want to look more professional, being able to place sponsor stickers on your vehicle would be awesome as well. The only thing I would love to see improved upon Forza’s livery tool is be able to bleed the shapes into the other body panels, instead of trying your best to match shapes between them.

Race Car Conversion

90% of the modifications you can implement in the Gran Turismo series is simply under the hood. There isn’t a huge collection of body modifications, and the ones they do have are limited to a very small number of cars, and you couldn‘t turn a car into an actual race car. This is where Need for Speed: SHIFT stood out. Apart from some of the DLC cars, most of the street vehicles you could purchase had an upgrade called the “Works”. This basically turns your vehicle into an actual race car, with modern racing technology and body modifications to boot.

I actually loved the concept of taking a simple street car and making it a true race car (something I want to do with my truck). Too bad SHIFT’s livery system was a little clunky. Anyway, the cars, with the Works applied handled better, were faster, and could compete with the true race cars on the field pretty evenly. Again, this will lead to even more personalization of your cars, and would add a LOT of variety to races. I’d love to take a 1969 Camaro SS and do a race car conversion to it.

More Realistic Wrecks

Honestly, both Forza and Gran Turismo 5 (from what I’ve seen) have disappointing damage systems. I think some of the more arcade-y simulation racers do a much better job at damage models (SHIFT, GRiD, etc), even if some of the damage is pre-canned. Wrecking into a wall at 200MPH should be a near-life threatening affair at least. Being in the cockpit view on SHIFT and wrecking at those speeds was an experience. You black out, your vision gets blurry, and you’re pretty much completely disoriented. Once you come to, the damage on the windshield might be bad enough to cause you to want to exit the cockpit view because your vision is so obstructed.

Damage itself, though, should also reflect the impact. Hitting a wall head on at high speed will/should completely total your car. And I mean ‘the engine is sitting in your lap’ kind of total, if you wrecked fast enough. Of course, maybe only the Burnout games come close to that kind of damage model; theirs is, obviously, over the top, but you get the picture. I want to see wrecks and damage models like in the video above.

Visually Affected Performance

Apart from spoilers and wings potentially improving your cornering abilities and the like, there are some other performance upgrades that will, undoubtedly, need a physical appearance change. Wider tires for more traction, larger rotors and calipers for better braking, roots-style superchargers and air scoops that don’t fit under an engine bay; these are the kinds of performance upgrades that should also be visible in the game.

With that, I also think it would benefit true enthusiasts if there was a wind tunnel to test how a visual upgrade will affect the performance and efficiency of the mods, or just to see how wind resistant your car is. You can also use this feature for aftermarket panels of different vehicles as well (such as modified hoods, spoilers, etc). Being able to make adjustments on the fly (such as spoiler angle) in the wind tunnel will be welcome as well.

Vastly Improved Engine Sounds

Although Gran Turismo 5, according to leaked videos, definitely has improved audio for the vehicle exhaust, there are some things that games never seem to pick up on highly accurate exhaust notes. A lot of different types of race cars run an open exhaust. This means there are no catalytic converters or mufflers, which makes them very loud and you can feel it in your chest. That should be an option in the series. The sound of a throaty, uncorked V8 has never been replicated properly in any game that I know of.

What’s worse is that when you upgrade older cars (especially), they lose the slight rumble stock sound and begin sounding more like modern imports and tuners. That shouldn’t be the case at all. If anything, it should sound more aggressive (but if you have a charger, you should still get the whistling to be audible amongst the exhaust note). Has anyone been to a racetrack, where the cars run uncorked all the time? That’s how it should sound in a racing game, too.

More Lively Racetracks

From most of the videos I have seen, the racetracks still seem to be pretty bare as far as spectators go. Normally, tracks are littered with people on the sides hoping to get a peek at cars and their drivers, with their cameras in hand, ready to take a shot as they pass by. Instead, we’re left with racing in what is pretty much a ghost town. Seats are mostly bare, there aren’t too many spectators by the outside barriers; it’s basically just you and the other vehicles. One of the best uses, I think, was Gran Turismo 4 on the Grand Canyon track (which was one of my favorites).

We should see a ton of people sitting in the stands (they could even repeat themselves for all I care, just as long as it adds some variety and life). We should see cameras flashing, and the rate of the flashes picking up depending on certain situations (race starting, high speed passes, wrecks, etc). It really adds to the atmosphere of the game and better draws you in. Background noise from fans and the pit areas can also add to the atmosphere, since going to the races is surely an audible experience, especially from a spectator’s point of view.

Final Thoughts and Other Points

There are so many things we could see added to the series that would, undoubtedly, benefit those who play it and the series as a whole. I don’t think that 90% of what I mentioned will be possible in this generation of consoles, especially if you want it to be 1080P at 60FPS, but they’re definitely things that should be taken under consideration. Even with the new track creator, I would love to be able to use it to make custom tracks and record replays of it to share online for our race night previews (I’m not sure if it’s possible yet, as I don’t have the game).

As far as other ideas go, there could be an improvement for a sense of speed as well, but it only needs to be subtle, since driving at over 100MPH doesn’t really distort your vision anyway. Engine swaps (another feature I like about Forza) would be another welcome feature I think. A larger variety of race types and tracks would be awesome. Get a constant flow of DLC in there to boot; including new tracks and cars/trucks.

Although a lot of these features will be a huge depart from Gran Turismos of the past, it doesn’t take away from what is already one of the most solid, and realistic racing franchises out there. I think they only make it better. Sure, some of the Gran Turismo purists won’t like some of the ideas (liveries and extensive visual modification most likely), but being able to take advantage of these types of features will definitely grow the community, add variety, and will more personalize the experience for the player. Plus, it’s not like you’ll be forced to use the features, so purists need not worry. After all, giving players this kind of freedom will better fit the title of “the Real Driving Simulator”. In fact, it could be changed to “The Ultimate Driving Simulator”, but, who knows if having everything we could want will ever be possible.

Oh, and multiple clan/racing league support would be an awesome feature as well.