The evolution of Gran Turismo

The evolution of Gran Turismo
In the article regarding the technical analysis of Gran Turismo 5, Digital Foundry dug into its gaming archives and compared the new Poliphony Digital title with game sections taken from GT4. Which made us wonder if we would be able to draw some sort of family tree that spanned all the major versions of GT released so far, from the franchise's inception in 1997 to today.

The video below represents the final result of our experiment. We took the same five routes and the same five cars that run in the Gran Turismo series titles on PlayStation, PSP, PlayStation 2 and PS3, and the comparison was truly extraordinary. It's a shame that the position of the cameras for replays haven't been standardized before, because while the jump from PS1 to other platforms is quite noticeable, these are really the same angles of the same paths. This video therefore shows us the evolution of both the programming ability of Polyphony Digital and the hardware power of the PlayStation consoles that have followed over the years.

Putting the video together was an interesting exercise. First of all, after looking at the video clips, we have decided to omit the images of Gran Turismo 2 and Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec. In the first case, the PS1 title could not help us as there was no way to delete the HUD information in the replays; a shame, as this could have allowed us to include more cars and tracks in the comparison. GT3, on the other hand, was cut because its limited content was such that it made it impossible to show the same cars and the same tracks on all platforms. Plus, it lacked progressive scan support for high-quality images (while PS3's backward compatibility runs both GT1 and GT2 in non-interlaced mode).

The loss of both games was not a big problem, because a clear pattern emerges from Polyphony's work. The first game on each new platform establishes the engine and provides a good amount of content. The sequel adds more tracks, cars and modes, but inevitably the engine remains the same. For the purposes of our video, leaving these games aside still allows us to illustrate the progression from console to console albeit in a more concise manner.

Our first test video was promising but showed a qualitative gulf between GT1 / 2 and its sequels on PS2, illustrating the huge leap of new hardware in the hands of Polyphony Digital. As a bridge between PS1 and PS2 we added the episode for PSP, which worked quite well: although the portable title was released after GT4, the technical limitations of the platform make it fair to position itself between our GT1 and GT4 images. .

The first Gran Turismo was a milestone but replaying it today is clear how limited Polyphony Digital must have felt in making it. The low-resolution graphics and 30FPS frame-rate damage the purity of the simulation that comes to life after the leap to 60FPS. You can see where the developer wanted to go with the inclusion of 60FPS HiFi mode in the original title: stripped to the bone but with a distinct qualitative leap in response to controls.

With PlayStation 2, Polyphony has found the computing power necessary to realize its vision, and the game has acquired a new dimension in terms of visual fidelity and pure driving sensation through the controls.

Replaying the PSP version it is obvious how much this game has been a missed opportunity. Graphics and resolution have been scaled down, sure, but the simulation is as good as it was on PS2; A shame therefore that GT Mode was not included, making it look more like a mega-demo based on time trial and collecting cars rather than as a real game. It could have been one of the greatest portable titles of all time also because, as you can see from the video, the native resolution of 480x272 holds up very well compared to HD.

Deciding the source format of the video was a dilemma. Of course 1080p was the natural choice, bearing in mind GT5's support for this resolution, and we also used the PS3 to capture GT1's images at this same resolution. The PDP version was captured at native 480p via component cable, while in GT the 480p mode was used then upscaled on the fly during capture thanks to our TrueHD hardware.

Once we were editing, we had 1080p60 material for all games. The fact that the video is focused on replays means that we needed 30FPS at the higher resolution (sadly, GT5's replays only run at 30Hz), but changing the settings to make the video at 30FPS would have been a bad move: GT4 and PSP would have really suffered, losing 50% of the fluidity.

So in addition to the 30FPS streaming video we have here, we will update the blog shortly with download links for 720p60 and 1080p60 versions of the movie. An exaggeration? Of course, but it is the only way to be sure that the charm of each game is worthily represented.

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