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Gran Turismo 4

Much of the recent news about GT4 has focused on disappointment - the promised online mode has been deleted. For now. Sad, but don't get too caught up in that. There's plenty to celebrate. No other driving game - possibly no game full stop - has ever been created with such scope, depth and ambition. It's huge. It will be huge. And, for the first time since the series began, a lot of it is genuinely new.

All previous GTs had the same physics model (with a few tweaks), but GT4's has been built from scratch. We've tested it at length and can tell you it's at once instantly recognisable and completely refreshed. It's much more of a challenge, particularly once the driver aids (more comprehensive than ever, newbies) are switched off. And a decent wheel really will help, and how many games can you honestly say that for?

Then there's the new 'B-Spec' mode, where you oversee races instead of drive, assessing performance with replay/stat screens in the pits. You monitor fuel use, sector times tyre wear and anything else you can think of, then instruct your driver to pit, be more or less aggressive; whatever you deem appropriate. Again, unlikely to set pulses racing, but a big temptation for Ross Brawn-style tactical geniuses.

But let's get to the heart of it. Polyphony is claiming an enormous 650 cars, of which 450 are new. Well, new to the game - although it focuses mostly on the '80s and '90s, the selection runs from now all the way back to 1945. Significantly, your garage holds up to 1000 vehicles, which indicates just how much it's possible to alter them. Tuning is deeper than ever, and you've got nitrous to add now, too.

And it's all more useable: horsepower and other limitations have been relaxed. You can cane everyone with vast bhp if you like, but now you score points - and winning from a disadvantage scores more. Races aren't all simple do-X-laps-and-stop affairs either, but 'missions' instead - start in second but a lap down, for instance, and win from there. See? There's a ton of new stuff to look forward to, more, in fact, than we can fit in here. But don't get too caught up in that. Watch out for big updates very soon. When you know that it takes one designer a month to create one car, and there are 650 cars, you begin to understand the delay..

Gran Turismo 4 will be released for PS2 in early 2005

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