Before the interview with his excellency I took the chance and played Gran Turismo 5 myself. Just as you should play being a proper nerd in 2010: Playseat with Recaro in it, Logitech wheel and 3D glasses on my nose. Welcome to the final Nerdiversum - with the glasses as the ultimate sign of recognition.
I first chose - like Yamauchi later in his presentation - a Ferrari 458 Italy 09, in red of course. I switch as fast as possible into cockpit view and the first few yards on the Top Gear Test Track (for the ignorant: Top Gear is the best TV show about cars in the world) are already extremely impressive. The 3D effect adds an amazingly realistic feel while sitting directly inside the cockpit. All instruments feel tangible, though the graphics actually suffer a bit. The otherwise sharply drawn cockpit looks a bit muddy and blurred in 3D.
But due to the high speed this gets less important real quick. I reel off my rounds and think: "Put a videogame journalist in an unreasonably priced car." Thank you Kazunori Yamauchi, thank you Jeremy Clarkson, that the Top Gear track is in here. I'm in love already. Unfortunately, it remains with a few rounds in England and a bit (not quite as convincing) rally fun in Tuscany. The pressure from waiting colleagues is enormous. And why should I stop the italian journalist in my neck from embarrassing himself trying out the karts?
Exactly. There are karts in Gran Turismo 5. Actually, thye were intended to appear in Gran Turismo 6, but we can shove the little beasts around the corners already. The handling of the racing karts is brutally accurate. More direct steering is not possible, and if you play around with the gas too much, you immediately lose it and leave the curve. I've played it, believe me - and i have seen all the disaster watching the helpless colleague from Italy.
The 3D effect by the way is also very impressive when seeing the cars from exterior view, but the cars seem strangely small sometimes. I can imagine Gran Turismo 5 being an argument to buy a 3D TV early. With games like this 3D is certainly many times more useful than with the available movies.
When playing the game at Gamescom in Cologne Yamauchi had another big surprise, which I hope will not affect the release date once more: Gran Turismo 5 turns - in a special way - into a racing RPG. Two main modes are availbale: red A-spec and blue B-spec.
The B-spec mode transformes Gran Turismo 5 into a racing simulation RPG, as Yamauchi himself describes it. Being a team director, you control the driver, indirectly, by giving him commands. Each driver has it's own personality, you can control up to six riders in a team and level them up. To pass a 24-hour race you need at least four drivers simultaneously. "This is a new lifestyle for Gran Turismo 5", Yamauchi says.
The new style starts with command view, the simulation of a team manager's workstation. A large monitor in the middle, above it a bar with mini-cars indicating their position in the race. A leader board on the right, a track-overview and a small car showing off damages and tire wear on the left. Below the monitor you see the status of the driver, his physical and mental strength are displayed as bars. There is also a bar that shows his aggressiveness. If he is very upset, he could easily overhear the comments of his boss. The commands we can use are throttle, brake, overhaul, Pit-Stop, No-Pit-Stop.
Using the Full View mode, the menus are largely hidden and B-spec turns into the prolonged replay of a race that you can interact with, somehow because it's not a replay. Number-nerds will love the Live Time mode, that views all the times for seperate sectors of a race in a beautifully converted Excel sheet.
In B-Spec mode, the races are a little longer than normal, and there seems to be no function to let the time run faster. This racing game-RPG should have been implemented already for Gran Turismo 3, but they did finish "more" than an A-spec version back then.
A-spec mode represents the classic racing simulation. The Gran Turismo that you know and love. There are license tests, races, car dealers - all with an "evolution of physics," as Yamauchi puts it. The cars will feel better and more realistic, because the behavior of the tires and the geometry of the suspension is specified for each car. The physics engine now correctly distinguishes between simple production cars and super cars which are bound to the tarmac by pressure. And Yamauchi emphasizes that Gran Turismo 5 still "is fun for beginners, even if the game really is, of course, being made for racing professionals."
As being a longtime fan of Gran Turismo, I can confirm that Yamauchi is right about this. The cars which I drove felt more than ever like a real car. With the super race cars hardly anyone of us can really judge this. The Fiat 500 in any case, feels like a real Fiat 500 and the karts like karts should.
The love for cars is visible with Kazunori Yamauchi in many details of the game. It get really obvious when he begins to talk about these details. He introduces Monza, a new track, using a subordinate clause - to then immediately start talking about important things: about cars. About examples of additions to the game, and he has a story for every car. A reason why they may be involved or have to be. The Pagani Zonda R 09 for example, ("has just broken the track record for production cars at the Nurburgring"), the Lexus IS F Racing Concept 2008 ("was scheduled to be used in the German Touring Car Championship") or the Ferrari 330 P4 67 ("my favorite car ever, has dominated the podium of the Daytona 24-hour race in 1967 taking first, second and third place).
Most obviously neither the Ford Mark IV Race Car 67 ("they've beaten the Ferraris at Le Mans devastating the same year") nor the Jaguar XJ13 Race Car 67 ("the project was cancelled right before the race, Jaguar owns a single car and we've looked at it in England and now reconstructed it") are allowed to be missing here
With a modest smile on his lips he shells out this remarkably calm sentence: "You can now simulate a race, that never was." Damn, there you go, that guy is not just someone making a racing game, but also someone making automotive history comprehensible. Why else should you go the extra mile and travel to the United States to visit a collector to get his Lamborghini Miura P400 Bertone Prototype 67 in the game ("one of two that have been constructed, them being one inch lower than the production car").
Then, real quickly, two more gadgets. First, the Course Maker, a reduced course editor. You take a theme for the track (Belgium, Tuscany or the Nürburgring, for example) and then adjust various parameters and the track will be automatically generated as a surprise. These tracks can be shared online with others. Yamauchi said: "The result is not an accurate representation of a real course, but a surprise mixed from the parameters entered by yourself." Now, in detail, a section can be modified by frequency of its curves, the width of the trail, the sharpness of the curves, the slope of the line and the way how it is oriented related to the topography of the subject. An up to ten kilometers long surprise waits in the end.
The second gadget they have built is a 3D image mode - "currently the best way of using 3D," Yamauchi underlines. The cars are photographed with a "normal camera": viewing angle, exposure time, everything is adjustable. Even the angle of the front wheels is and probably also the angle of reflection of light in the mirrors. At least that's car porn for the lovers. They can export their 3D images using the MPO-file format. Of course they can.