Racing enthusiasts were introduced to perhaps the greatest racing simulation series in video game history when Gran Turismo was released in North America in 1998 for the PlayStation. Developed by Pols Entertainment and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, gamers got behind the wheel in the most realistic racing simulator on the market. We’re earning our license in this Gran Turismo review!
Gran Turismo Plot:
No silly plots or storylines in my Gran Turismo review, just pure speed, handling, and lots of revving!
Gran Turismo Gameplay:
Let’s talk about what makes Gran Turismo special right away. At the time in 1998, gamers were blown away by the attention to detail, visually stunning graphics, accurate sound effects, and the sheer amount of cars to choose from when Gran Turismo hit shelves. It’s a beautiful game on the PS1. Polygons aren’t always gorgeous but with Gran Turismo, they tuned every one of them into a near-perfect assembly of power and beauty for each car model.
The opening intro in my Gran Turismo review blew me away, even over 20 years after its release. It’s just a glimpse of what’s to come in the game but it showcases all the best aspects from the soundtrack, cars, tracks, and graphics. If you played the intro to any gamer in 1998, I have a hard time believing they’d be able to refuse playing Gran Turismo.
Gran Turismo offers two different modes with simulation and arcade. The arcade mode is not typical of other arcade racers, where you would find boosts, turbo, or anything unrealistic, but it essentially offers a “race now” mode. It gives you some tracks and some cars to race with if you are too impatient to work your way through the career mode in simulation. It’s nice to have this option because simulation mode is brutally difficult. I almost think of Gran Turismo as the “Souls” driving simulator. It’s so realistic that most gamers won’t be very good at first. I sucked, and I was surprised because I used to love playing Gran Turismo 3 in middle school. During my Gran Turismo review, I had to really learn the track and car. Just knowing when to break wasn’t enough. You had to know the weight of the car, if it was front or rear-wheel steering, how quickly it accelerates, and the texture of the track. It’s a lot to take in and won’t be mastered quickly.
There were some surprises for me as I competed in my Gran Turismo review. First, there are no parts to buy to increase speed, acceleration, handling, or any other specifics of your car. In Gran Turismo 3, I was used to buying parts to make my cars faster. No such thing in the original version. Sunday Speedway was a Godsend in Gran Turismo 3 or maybe it was 5? I forget as they blur together but I would always race on it to earn cash. It was an easy option to get better cars but Gran Turismo doesn’t offer any “easy” tracks. There are beginner tracks but it’s anything but a guarantee to win.
To advance in Gran Turismo you must continually earn new licenses to compete on different tracks, and championship cups. I struggled the most in earning new licenses. It’s a skills challenge for a variety of cars. To earn a license you’ll have to complete challenges like braking the car into a specific zone or crossing the finish line in a certain time. It sounds easy, but it’s not. This is where mastering the car and course comes into play. I had to replay some challenges 20-30 times to get it down. You’ll need to complete multiple tests to earn a license before competing. I couldn’t master them all and didn’t have the patience to master them. Gran Turismo truly means the car simulation game and any car enthusiast would love it.
In 1998, Gran Turismo overloaded gamers with 140 cars to earn and race with. That’s a huge number even today, as most of it would now come as DLC. Gross, another reason why modern gaming sucks. There are 11 tracks to race on and they can be reversed for a total of 22 unique racing experiences. That’s a great amount of content and Gran Turismo made sure that anyone willing to put the time in to master it, was rewarded. Gran Turismo was extremely hard to develop and it took the dev team 5 years to complete it. It was all worth it in the end as it earned the title it set out to claim as the world’s best racing simulator.
I briefly played Gran Turismo as a kid in elementary school. I had two friends that had it but we didn’t spend a lot of time playing it as it was too hard and not arcade enough for our simple minds. I asked my dad for Gran Turismo 3, and later 5 which I have a lot of fond memories of playing. Gran Turismo is stunning and I couldn’t believe that the PS1 was able to handle it. I tried my best to give Gran Turismo a fair shot and I played it for a week, over and over trying to earn licenses and win courses but it didn’t hook me as 3 and 5 did. If I had an easy course to race on or some clear way of getting better, I would have stuck with it more but damn, Gran Turismo isn’t for the faint of heart.
Gran Turismo Review Score:
From start to finish Gran Turismo will blow you away at every turn with the graphics, soundtrack, car models, and sound effects. The amount of content and gameplay is special but due to the tough nature of the game, most racers will fail to cross the finish line in first place.
Gran Turismo scores an 8.8 out of 10.
What would you write in your Gran Turismo review? What was your favorite car to drive? Did you have trouble earning licenses? Did you play Gran Turismo when it first came out? Let me know your thoughts and comments on Gran Turismo, I’d love to read them.