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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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So I like Gran Turismo 4. It’s not a big surprise, I knew I would, but it’s still worth saying. I’ve only spent about an hour and a half with it thus far, but here are the things that jumped out at me:

  • Yes, it’s pretty. This wasn’t a surprise. The people on the side of the road still look like cardboard. Yes, even at 150 mph. Oh well; that doesn’t bother me. Seeing the mountains and so forth is pretty, but whatever … photo mode is still the stupidest idea ever. I didn’t want this game for pretty, I wanted it for realism. The pretty is a nice side effect.
  • The way that road and aero noise starts to increase as the speed climbs in triple-digit range is really nice. On one hand, it’s a subtle realism effect that makes a more polished simulation, but on the other hand it provides another non-visual hint that you are going fast, which makes it easier to remember that nailing that hairpin may require some additional braking, and planting a tire in the gravel trap may not be a good idea. Racing a real car is harder, and all that, like anybody says, except that your senses are a lot more useful in a real vehicle; with a lot more visual and audible accuracy, the only thing I think I’m really missing out on is the smell of race fuel, and the actual feel of the acceleration on my body; most of the “wheel talk” is there in the GT Force Pro, and about all I find lacking visually is the ability to see when the pace car is hitting the brake lights. Time for a new TV, perhaps.
  • On that note, the new physics engine is awesome. If you are in a vehicle at 100 mph, are operating at the neutral balance cornering envelope of the vehicle, and then dip a wheel into gravel (and subsequently the grip disappears as that wheel goes kinetic), you spin. This makes sense. In Gran Turismo 3, you could decide to do this sort of thing with no ill effect save a slight decrease in velocity. In general, car behavior under braking, acceleration, and the like seems a lot more realistic, which is saying a lot.
  • Still on that note, the car pitching behavior is startling. When the accelerator is being floored and the wheels are picking up, the car pitches up and you can tell weight is being transferred away from the front wheels. When one enters a hard turn, the car pitches and lags and digs like a real vehicle, and when one slams on the brakes, you find yourself staring at tarmac, not blue skies. That this happens is a great realism effect. However, getting back to the physics engine, the effects this has on weight transfer and handling is incredible. They point it out a lot in the license exams, but it’s not just a matter of “get on the brakes to be slow enough to enter the next turn and make your racing line.” It’s “get on the brakes to transfer the weight to the front wheels before turning, or else you’re going to ged a mouthful of understeer and an appointment with the wall.” The idea that the game is talking about weight transfer (a theory central to the racing theory texts I’ve read), and takes things like hitting a line for granted tells one just the level at which the engine is operating. No, I’ve never driven a Dodge Viper at 170 mph, nor have I raced Laguna Seca in a pushy FWD car behind a Nissan GT-R, but I find myself saying “yeah, I can understand why that happened, it was realistic.”
  • I am super-happy that they included the Nurburgring. I dream of doing a hot lap around the Nordschleiffe one day, and this is as close as it’s going to get for several decades. I am not super-happy that one of the license qualifications requires a perfect clean lap around the same, in passing time. That’s going to suck, as I just know I’m going to tap the pace car or drop a wheel off the line sometime about seven minutes into the lap.
  • BMW. Thank god. It’s not just the 325ci. As soon as I saw an E46 M3 CSL, I knew the car selection was better. I can live without the Ferraris and Porsches (and the Ruf angle corrects most of that), but I could never understand why BMW put so much advertising into the last game (“BMW Power” appeared on most tracks) only to include a single coupe, and a lackluster one at that. Driving the 1-series diesel (one word: awesome) and the M3 CSL, I already know things are going to be better in terms of car selection. If I read correctly, there is also the hilariously overpowered M Coupe, the race-built MR GTR (including race-spec), Z4, and M5. In real life I love my WRX, it’s hard to beat for value, practicality, and economy, and I know that to a certain extent this transfers to GT4, but I think my first tuner car is going to wear a propeller. I’m also pleased to see that all of my favorites are back from GT3.

I’ve transferred my previous licenses and cash over from GT3, but haven’t bought anything yet. I’m going through the A and B licenses to get used to the engine, and to remind myself that front-wheel is a horrible drivetrain design for a racecar. This way I also get to win some lousy cars, which I guess is worth something.

Also, I saw some snow graffiti on the way to work — at least that’s what I’m calling it … graffiti-like drawing in the snow, only with colored water (or some other liquid). It was interesting.

Also, one of my friends showed me the phone he picked up in Taiwan, that let him draw by moving his fingers over the number keys as if they were a palm screen. This makes entry of various kanji characters trivial. It blew my mind.