Gran Turismo HD: Concept

It's often said that the best things in life are free. This idea doesn't normally apply to computer games, but in the case of Gran Turismo HD: Concept, that's exactly what it costs to download this game and it's an extremely enjoyable experience. Available from day one of the PS3's life in Europe, Gran Turismo is a welcome addition to the Playstation Store and an excellent indication of things to come. GT HD Concept is a technical demo giving players the chance to try out a small piece of the full game due next year. It's small and limited, but is a wonderful, free taste of the future.

Gran Turismo HD: Concept

Players are given the chance to drive just one track, but expecting more than that would be unfair for a free demo. The track has several tight turns, as well as faster bends and other tricky sections to test your racing skills and really gives you an idea of the new handlig mechanics that are being developed for Gran Turismo on PS3. The range of available modes doesn't include any championships, nor cars to race against, but allows you to take part in time trial events and drifting challenges. The latter could turn out to be a key addition to the GT franchise as it encourages racers to try out a different driving style to the traditional methods used in previous games. So far it works effectively, but how it will play out in a game against computer controlled cars remains to be seen.

The demo has a decent range of cars, eight vehicles in all from Mazdas to Ferraris (a latter are a welcome new feature for the Gran Turismo series) with additional tuned versions unlockable as players progress through the time trial challenges. I have to emphasize again that this demo is free, so there's a generous amount of content here. The main thing to note though is that new ideas are being tried with Gran Turismo, but the overall solid gameplay areas remain. With development time likely to stretch into next year, the gameplay side of things shoudl hopefully be tuned to perfection by the time the game is released.

Gran Turismo HD: Concept

The lack of track choice is certainly a downer, but thankfully the course available is stunning. The road winds through the hillside with magnificent views of the Swiss Alps forming the backdrop, whilst the foreground detail is much improved on previous Gran Turismo incarnations. Having said that, the spectators still need more attention to ensure they never take the form of the cardboard versions featured in previous games, but other neat touches like the roadside buildings and plant life are quite beautiful. One of the most impressive features visually can be found at the exit of the tunnel on the course. After being plunged into pitch darkness, the exit as you drive out into bright sunshine is accompanied by a manufactured adjustment to bright light - the screen brightens sharply before gradually dimming, a process that immitates the human eye response remarkably well.

As always with Gran Turismo, the background is impressive, but the main offering is the quality of the vehicles. The Ferrari in particular, is quite beautiful, but the incredible effort poured into every vehicle is evident from the exquisite detail of every car. There isn't really anything to complain about visually. The little details on the trackside, in particular the spectators, need improving for the full game, but essentially, on the visual front, the road ahead for Polyphony Digital is likely to require only "more of the same" as they plow through the usual stunning variety of cars and tracks.

Gran Turismo HD: Concept

For me, music plays a very small role, if any, in Gran Turismo games. The style of racing always feels better when you are left with simply the thrum of the engine, the occasional squeal of tyres on concrete and a few other ambient sounds such as birds in the forest. Gran Turismo has always been racing in a completely pure form and music often seems irrelevant. What the game needs is top quality sound effects and, as always, Polyphony Digital deliver authentic engine noises and racing sounds that put you right in the action. It's noticeable when a free demo sounds better than a full game with the quality of Motorstorm, the latter rarely convincing on the engine noise front, except when the cars boost.

Having a free demo of such an excellent game is a brilliant gift. After the expense of Playstation 3 and the bad press that Sony gathered over the last year, it's nice to have a little something back. Whilst it's no doubt designed to encourage the purchase of more PS3s and copies of the full Gran Turismo game next year, for those of us already set on purchasing both anyway, the demo is a kind offering. The score below reflects the fact that this is only a small demo and that the full game has over a year to develop further.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Sony

Developer:

Polyphony Digital

Players:

1

Online:

Rankings

Release:

2007-03-23

Trophies:

0

Review summary

Gameplay:

Superb handling, but only a demo

Graphics:

Great scenery, shabby spectators

Sound:

GT always has top notch car sounds

Lastability:

Just one track, but free

5.0

Pyroclastic

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You know what I hate about deep space? Crap radio stations from two hundred years back. My gosh, we were idiots.