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Gran Turismo HD Concept
  opened by paleface at 03:01:52 04/11/11  
  last modified by paleface at 00:21:42 06/05/11  
  paleface [sys=PS3; cat=Driving; loc=NA]
As far as I vaguely recall, Gran Turismo HD concept was supposedly taking the driving engine of the PS2 Gran Turismo 4 game (see entry 766), and updating it with high-definition models and textures for Sony's new console, the PS3. I also think I vaguely recall rumors that a non-Concept GTHD would eventually be a full game, maybe starting off kind of small but expanding constantly with downloadable content.
Concept came out in 2006, at or near the beginning of the PS3's life, as a free download on their new online marketplace. This was pretty cool: a look at the next-gen Gran Turismo, for free! Sure, it only had one small track, twenty or so cars (half of which are "tuned" versions I think that unlock gradually with playing time--or something like that; most of the cars are Japanese sports cars, but there's a Ferrari and a Lotus in there), two camera views (bumper cam, follow cam), no car tuning, no AI, only two modes (time and drift trials), and no online mode, but it did have leaderboards, 1080p graphics, and hey--free!
At some point--before Gran Turismo 5 Prologue's release in 2008, I *think*...but I'm by no means sure of that now--Concept was quietly removed from the online store; you can't download it anymore. Kind of strange to remove free content, but I'd guess that they didn't want Concept representing Gran Turismo anymore.
It didn't strike me back in 2006, when I was new to console racing (and pretty much any type of sim racing in general) and the PS3, and when I was controlling it with the standard PS3 gamepad, but going back to it now with a driving wheel (actually was rather surprised Concept had wheel support), it does not handle well. Driving even the lightest, most responsive car the game represents--a Lotus Elise--with the best tires still feels like you're trying to race around the small, twisting, sunny alpine "Eiger Norwand" track in a jump jet--in flight, I mean. There is no sense of vehicle weight or contact with the road; you're just sort of gliding around the track. If you do go airborne, though, which is easily done at the crest of a bump in the road just ahead of the starting line, there's almost no way to avoid wiping out, as you simply have no chance at controlling the car's landing.
Once you learn to brake heavily before that bump, you can get around the narrow track with its significant elevation range with no particular trouble, but it doesn't really feel like you're doing much, what with the detached gliding sensation of the control. In a way, it's kind of soothing, and I'm sure that control was sufficient for the game to fulfill the purpose of being a decent-looking tech demo, at least.
Graphically, the game looks reasonably sharp, in a sort of plain, low-surface-effect way. The cars don't look bad, although if you look closely you'll notice they don't have the details they do in later GTs. The track has a long draw distance, with big mountains seemingly miles off, and lots of trees and spectators, but there also isn't all that much to them--at least some of the mountains are just bitmaps, and the spectators are pretty low detail models, if you stop to look at them up close.
After checking it for this little write-up, I'd planned to delete HD Concept, even though I can't get it back, because, well, it's not all that great a driving experience--compared to later games like GT5, anyway--and heck, I could use those 626 MB it takes up for other things on my PS3's original 60 GB HD.
But then I noticed one thing that made me reconsider consigning the game's irreplaceable bits to the Delete button: the leaderboards are still working. Furthermore, since hardly anyone has/plays the game now, even a chump like me can get first place on a lot of the tracks. Sure, they're an old system that doesn't actually stick your name up there right away, and the scores appear to be cleared frequently--maybe every week or so--but still, for a little while, I could *believe* I was number 1 in a Gran Turismo game, with a reasonable chance of being correct, technically.
Also I kind of like the smooth jazz music that plays if you highlight the game's icon on the XMB. >_>
  paleface 00:21:42 06/05/11
Looks like I was wrong about not being able to get it back if I delete it: it's in my Download List in the PSN store (download #1!), and I can just re-download it from there. Nice.
· Gran Turismo 4 (PS2)
· Gran Turismo 5 Prologue (PS3)
· Gran Turismo 7 (PS4)
· Gran Turismo Sport (PS4)

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