luke kalamar is in the driver’s seat …
There have been countless variations on the car racing genre throughout the very long and expansive history of video games. If it’s not driving carts with characters from popular franchises, it’s doing everything you can to smash a vehicle to pieces. Everyone has their own favorite for any variety of reasons. However, no matter how many titles pop onto shelves, there has always been one dominant king of the racing genre: Gran Turismo.
Gran Turismo has been a PlayStation only title since it first came out in 1997 and has since appeared with multiple games on every system Sony has developed. So many companies have tried to make their own version of this legendary franchise, but none can hold a candle to the influence that Gran Turismo brought to the gaming industry as a whole. Sure, Gran Turismo wasn’t the first racing game to ever exist, but its precise realism made the series an overnight success. On May 15th, Sony publicly announced that a brand new game, aptly titled Gran Turismo 6, is coming to the PlayStation 3 during the 2013 Holiday season. Seeing as the PlayStation 4 is coming out around the same time, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this became a launch title as well. In light of this news, I decided to take a drive down memory lane with this groundbreaking series.
There is no explicit plot to Gran Turismo. Like all racing games, you are an unnamed driver who participates in a wide variety of races, championships, and license tests. You start off the game with a small number of vehicle options and progressively unlock more cars from wide variety of manufactures through the game. The cars range from Formula One racers to luxury sports cars from the Lamborghini and Porsche lines. Throughout the course of the game, you take part in races across the globe ranging from short beginner events to multi-hour endurance races. That’s right, I said multi-hour. The graphics are always pristine and the games are frequently used to showcase the graphical capabilities of the current system. Each vehicle is even molded on how they are handled in reality, along with physics based tuning and using the actual sounds of the vehicle’s real engine. The games are truly made with excruciatingly accurate detail. Players can even pick up official simulator kits that allow you to play the game with a steering wheel, gas pedal, and even a chair similar to what’s in the vehicles themselves.
Like billions of gamers throughout the years, I dedicated a lot of time to the Gran Turismo series. I never purchased the first game, but in late 1999 my brothers and I got a hold of Gran Turismo 2. We’ve all played racing games before, such as Ridge Racer in 1995, but Gran Turismo 2 quickly stood out to us. Naturally, it was the realism that really kept us going. Sure Ridge Racer was a ton of fun, but that game quickly fell by the wayside. After the PlayStation 2 came out, it was our love of Gran Turismo 2 that spurred us to buy Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec. Gran Turismo 3 was one of the dominant releases for the PlayStation 2 and is even one of the best selling games of all time – with a whopping 14.89 million, the most of the entire franchise. For one reason or another we didn’t continue with the series, but that doesn’t stop us from remembering it with fondness.
Despite how much I enjoyed playing the Gran Turismo series, I personally never even scratched the surface of what the games provide. This most likely stems from my lack of interest of getting so involved with the realism, but it also didn’t help that my brothers ended up playing the games all the time. I’m going to be honest, it was a ton of fun watching them unlock all the new cars throughout each game and even take part in those multi-hour endurance races. The focus they put into making their best cars move faster and handle better is akin to those who spent their afternoons tuning up their own muscle cars back in the day.
Even though I never made playing Gran Turismo a top priority like other game series’, specifically RPGs, there’s no denying how this series changed the video game landscape forever. If I was a car fanatic like some of my friends, I have no doubt that I would’ve been sucked into this franchise like millions of others. There’s a reason why people keep coming back for more, and despite the fact that I’m probably not going to buy Gran Turismo 6, I already know several people who will probably buy the game on launch day.