Arguably the best PS2 racing game available is Gran Turismo 4. However, as its subtitle, The Real Driving Simulator, suggests, this game isn’t your average racing game. Need For Speed games are known for adding tweaks to your car that boost the HP, but aside from that you just go ahead and race. The racing in NFS is primarily about letting off the gas on turns, and maybe a little braking. Anyone can pick the game up and start winning races if they have a superior car. What makes Gran Turismo 4, and all the Gran Turismo games, different is the fact that it is super realistic. Sure, it may not be 100% like driving a car, but if you attack GT4 with the same techniques used in NFS, you will be losing everything except the easiest of races. Simply put, the speed of your car becomes less of a factor, and it is more about how you as the player handles the corners.
I, for one, was utterly killed in Gran Turismo when I first started playing. I got a Nissan Skyline used and won the Sunday Cup, the first and easiest races of the game. With the few thousand dollars I won, I souped up the car and got it well about 250 HP. It easily outperformed every car in most of the Beginner Hall races, so I went to the FR challenge, the next step up above the Sunday Cup but still relatively easy. However, I got smoked. Absolutely destroyed. I made a lucky race and got 4th once, but on every other course of the FR Challenge I came in dead last (6th place). I didn’t understand it because I had such a better car than everyone. It all came down to the fact that I wasn’t taking the corners right and often went off the road. After going through the B and A license tests and following the tips in the manual, I learned that the technique called out-in-out cornering, usable for most of the early courses. Essentially, you start near the outside of the road, then when you get to the corner you brake and turn toward the inside of the road, and follow that around the corner. General inertia will pull your car back to the outside of the road, but if you do it right this will give you a huge advantage coming out of the corner. I mastered that in the Sunday Cup, and then went ahead and tried it out in the FR Challenge. Unfortunately, I still got beat.
I went online and looked for help on GameFAQs. I soon found a Beginner’s Guide, and saw that in there the author uses an old 1983 Honda Civic for all the early races. I took his advice and restarted my game with the slower but easier to handle Civic. I soon started to win races, even the FF Challenge (the Civic’s equivalent of the FR Challenge), and also won the Honda Civic Challenge at the Honda dealer. Every time you win a particular Cup or Challenge, you get a car as a prize. I followed the Beginner’s Guide further and did the Capri Rally special condition race. This netted me a crazy Toyota Rally Raid car with over 410 HP. Since I had improved my cornering substantially, I was now able to handle faster cars like the Toyota, and even bought another Skyline, but this one was souped up to 600HP. With that, I won most of the races in the Professional Hall, and am now trying to do some of the Japanese Championships.
However, cornering isn’t the only difficult thing in Gran Turismo 4. In fact, purchasing parts can also be daunting. Until NFS-type games, it isn’t all about the speed. I didn’t even know what half the parts did, as I’m not really a car buff. Flywheel, Limited Slip, Drivetrain, and Transmission… I didn’t know how any of these would affect the performance of my car. Again, GameFAQs helped a bit, and so did the in-game descriptions of these parts. It isn’t that bad after you spend some time experimenting, but I definitely wasted a lot of money on parts that didn’t help all that much. One piece of advice I can give people is do not underestimate tires… they are ESSENTIAL. Getting the S3, Soft Sports Tires, helps you own the Beginner Hall. Also, don’t overestimate HP. While raw horse power will help in the straight aways, one of my best cars is a Honda S2000 with only 210 HP. It can beat all kinds of other cars with 300+ HP simply because it handles corners so well. Plus, GT4 calculates the A-Spec points awarded for every race based on your HP and number of add-on parts, so if your car has less bling than the others but you are a good enough driver to win, you’ll really rack up the A-Spec points.
I have still yet to dwell upon the most complex part of the game, but also the most helpful: Tuning. Almost every aspect of your car can be tweaked and tuned in the wonderful Settings menu accessible before starting any race. Many beginners don’t even know it is there, and those that do get scared away by its complexity. But with a little initial help, you can be off on your way to becoming a tuning expert. The best part about tuning is that it gives you a major edge on your opponents. Also, based on specific courses, you can balance peak speed and acceleration, just to name an obvious example. The end result is that tuning lets you get every last penny’s worth of your car, and truly helps in the more challenging races that I am now starting to enter in my racing career.
As I stated above, I have very little car experience, as I barely knew what the parts were for. So, then, how is someone like me, and someone like you, who know so little about cars, supposed to know what to set things like Toe and Camber angles to? What about tweaking each separate gear of the trasmission? Well, luckily, GameFAQs comes to the rescue again. A wonderful gentleman by the name of here). The most useful part of his guide are the “presets”. They are a list of what you should set certain settings to in order to achieve a certain thing. For example, he has a Pure Speed build that you should use on a course with a lot of straight-aways where you want the max speed out of your car. Then there is the Acceleration build for the quickest acceleration. These are just the first two examples. The most useful, however, is the General Improvement build, which does just what its name implies. It doesn’t mess with the balance of your acceleration/peak speed much, but generally improves handling and performance of the car. I recommend anyone to use this on any car if they are unsure how to tune themselves. I know this particularly helped my Honda Civic win those Beginners races and the Capri Rally. The following is the General Improvement build, straight from his guide, presented with permission by the author:
'General Improvement' Build - Simply Put, a good tuneup.
SPRING SETTINGS<br /> Spring Rate: Front 75% Rear 75%<br /> Ride Height: Front 0% Rear 0%<br /> Shock Bound: Front 60% Rear 60%<br /> Shock Rebound: Front 100% Rear 100%<br /> Camber Angle: Front 4.0 Rear 2.0<br /> Toe Angle: Front 0.0 Rear 0.0<br /> Stabilizers: Front 20% Rear 20%
BRAKE SETTINGS<br /> Brake Balance: Front 25% Rear 25%
GEAR SETTINGS<br /> Gear Ratio (Note: ALWAYS SET AUTO FIRST)<br /> Auto: 50%<br /> 1st: +10<br /> 2nd: +5<br /> 3rd: +0<br /> 4th: +10 (If It Stops, its okay, leave it there)<br /> 5th: +20 (If It Stops, its okay, leave it there)<br /> 6th: +20 (If It Stops, its okay, leave it there)<br /> 7th: +15<br /> Final Gear Setting Set this how you want, put it between 50% and 25%. Higher means more acceleration, lower means more top-end max speed.
Initial Torque: 5%
OTHER SETTINGS<br /> Downforce: Front 75% Rear 25%<br /> ASM(Over): 50%<br /> ASM(Under): 50%<br /> TCS: 30%<br /> Nitro: 100%<br /> Ballast Weight: 0%<br /> Front/Rear Balance: 40%
The build is pretty easy to apply. There are just a couple things I’d like to mention. First of all, when k-wix states 40% or some other percent, you need to estimate for the most part. The reason it is in percent and not the actual value is because all cars have different max values for different settings, except the ones where he actually gives you a value. The bars used to modify the values of certain settings have three markings denoting 25%, 50%, and 75% respectively. You can use those to estimate the value. You can also use a little math to find the exact value if you want. (Max Val – Min Val) * .40 would give you 40% of one of the bars, where Max Val is obviously the maximum and Min Val is the minimum (which isn’t always 0). For the front-rear balance that goes from -50 to positive 50, I tend to just use +20 as the value. One final note is for the gear ratios. +10 actually means + 0.1, while +5 means + 0.05. They are given in hundredths. You will see when you’re in the menu that the settings are all very precise decimals. Also note that not all cars have the full seven gears. Just do the ones you can.
I would recommend that any beginning use that. Over time, you’ll begin to realize what some of the settings do and modify them for your needs. I noticed that on some really fast cars like my 600HP Nissan Skyline I need to tweak the above a bit to get the max performance out of my car. One major thing I change is the ASM (Over), ASM (Under), and TCM to 5, 5, and 5 respectively (not 50% but the actual value 5). Another thing I tend to change is just leaving Front/Rear Balance to 0. Other than that, k-wix’s General Improvement build is very, very useful for nearly every situation. I’ve used it to win many of the Professional Hall races and am on my way through the Japan Championships now.
I recommend that anyone interested in cars and looking for a challenge (you’ve got to admit that NFS is an easy game) pick up Gran Turismo 4 for PS2. It is a very impressive looking game, especially considering it is for the graphically inferior PS2. Beyond that, it is highly enjoyable and gives you a sense of how real race car drivers have to drive. With the pricey ( ~ $90 ) Logitech steering wheel, you can get the full experience of driving in races. Again, remember that tuning will give you huge advantages, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different settings. Happy racing!