Gran Turismo: The road to realism

As we found outlast week, Sony is prepping a taster edition of Gran Turismo 5 - Gran Turismo 5Prologue. But, wait. How long has it been since we had a proper GT? What is it exactly that developer Polyphony Digital gets up to?

Thison-site footagegivesyou an idea of the lengths that Polyphony goes to, in order to tie downthe slippery fish of realism, and give Gran Turismo gamersthe trueReal Driving Simulator.It's all seriously dedicatedstuff, and they do itall from scratch for every single edition.

But we've always known that GT was a triumph of realistic visuals and sound. Nothing much has changed, really, has it? In fact, though GT5 Prologue is instantly recognizable as part of the series, there's a world of difference evident over the franchise's last nine or so years. Just take a look:

Gran Turismo, PSone [1998]
Now, these images look grubby. Back in '98, Gran Turismo was one of the prettiest videogames we'd ever seen. It successfully brought curvy, gorgeous racecars to our screens - even if the detail was nothing more than effectively a skin stretched across a shaped box.

But with impressive reflection-tech and superbly designed car models, Gran Turismo was already a visual achievement.

Gran Tursimo 2, PSone [2000]
For the sequel, Polyphony built on GT's already high level of detail. There's not a huge leap in terms of quality, but it's the subtle things like branded grills and shiny chrome badging that makes GT2 stand out. Car models also look sharper.

Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec, PS2 [2001]
Just a year after GT2, but the leap to PlayStation 2 meant sharper, smoother and crisper visuals for Sony's fantastic looking series. Deeper car models - just check out those bonnet cutouts - and alloy wheels made an immediate visual impact.

As an early PS2 title, Gran Turismo 3 was a superb example of how Sony's second generation machine could throw around gorgeous visuals with ease. So long as you knew how to use it...

Gran Turismo Concept: 2002 Tokyo-Geneva
The first "in betweener" in the GT series (with GT4 Prologue and now GT5 Prologue following), this wasn't so much a step forward as a car update. Exhaust pipes are still a bit angular, for example. There's an early indication of the driver-models, though with some concept models.

Gran Turismo 4, PS2 [2005]
The last "proper" Gran Turismo release brought an even higer level of detail - mainly with the inclusion of visible driver models. Check out the Nissan above and its window-visor, too. Yet again, the evolution was in subtle but satisfying detail. But by this fourth installment, GT had reached its ceiling on PS2.

Gran Turismo HD, PS3 [2007]
It's not just the cars in GT HD that are breathtaking - the Alpine course features a stunning mountain backdrop. It might still look a bit clinical and lifeless (the crowds need plenty of work) but it's hard not to admire the high-def detail that Polyphony managed to tweak from Sony's new hardware.

Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, PS3 [2008?]
Comparing GT5 with the original PSone installment is ludicrous now. Visually, Gran Turismo 5 is leading us into territory resembling the holy grail of photorealistic graphics. In fact, we're still not entirely convinced that the top left snapshot above isn't actually a photograph.

So, in case it's not clear, Polyphony Digital really put their nose to the grindstone where realism is concerned. They've achieved some incredible visual feats. Which is why, no doubt, it's taking so long to get GT5 out the door. Each car now has more polygons than were in the whole PSone game - multiply that by the entire GT5 garage and you've a hell of a lot of work.

But, on this evidence, when Gran Turismo 5 finally emerges, it'll have been worthour longwait. Unless they cut the online multiplayer again, of course...

July 24, 2007

Ben Richardson is a former Staff Writer for Official PlayStation 2 magazine and a former Content Editor of GamesRadar+. In the years since Ben left GR, he has worked as a columnist, communications officer, charity coach, and podcast host – but we still look back to his news stories from time to time, they are a window into a different era of video games.