Will Gran Turismo 6 benefit from the PlayStation 4?
From a technical point of view, there is little to discover about the PlayStation 4, that should be unveiled in the following hours. Beyond specs sheet, how does it matter for Gran Turismo players?
The fourth iteration of the PlayStation living room hardware is showing a new strategy from Sony: no more costly specific chip development, from now the manufacturer will rely on existing engineering. This means more than ever that first party games will be key to success. Here’s how Sony’s flagship title, Gran Turismo, but also others racing games should take - or not - immediate advantage of these hardware upgrades.
More system Memory
First thing first: having loading times INSIDE menus navigation is something we shouldn’t have on a PS3-class system, so let’s hope this 2002 way of doing things will be gone for good. If Sony have learned lessons from Smartphone and Tablet rise, they hopefully made the PS4 system and game menus fluidity mandatory. Besides this, more memory means more stuff in the game engine : more details in scenery, more cars on track, or more different sounds engines loaded at once. We can also remember that PD blame the lack of PS2 memory to explain why GT5 support Eye Tracking (cockpit camera that moves according to player eyes tracked by a webcam that we’re likely to see included in every PS4) in Arcade Mode only.
More CPU power
A modern PC with 4 or 8 threads CPU (similar to PS4 one) almost never runs at full throttle during gaming session. A good share of the new power could well be a waste if we keep focusing of GT as we know it today. Nowadays, CPU architecture handles very well multi-tasking, which for a console would turn into features more than in-game world elements: a system ui always responding fast, a video recorder to capture any game moment and post them on internet without having to stop playing, or a more advanced data logger available anytime. Artificial Intelligence also depends of the system CPU but the source of complains has often more to do with the way AI has been programmed than a lack of system resources.
More GPU Memory
GPU memory usage is quite straightforward: higher textures, so less blocky images. GPU memory also stores 3D meshes (3D model skeletons), but lack of memory is usually less of an issue in this domain.
More GPU power
We don’t need much more polygons on current Premium car models, unless the game implements a better damage engine. But this could well be the case as modern GPU are very suitable for physics calculation too. The GPU extra power will mostly be used for shaders, in order to offer better lighting and shadowing (there’s room for visual improvement here, compared to current system - see the video at the end of the article). Last but not least, raw GPU powers help to keep 60 images/s at higher resolution like 1080p, which GT5 fails to do on PS3. About that matter, it is worth noting that current PC GPU are still impacted by higher resolution, which means that a game developer will still have to make the choice between a 1080p game and a 720p one with better overall image quality beside resolution.
What PS4 can’t do for Gran Turismo...
Every GT5 player knows that most (around 75%) of the cars in the game are rendered at a PlayStation 2 level of details. This is not related to a technical limitation of the PS3, nor to the Blu-Ray capacity, but to the huge amount of work required to model each cars.
Online play is also mostly dependant of broadband infrastructures, and PS4 won’t help here.
System power won’t bring design ideas on the table. If GT5 failed to surprise you, or even bores you, this is not related to PS3 either...
Bonus Stage : can we trust Poliphony Digital about what they’ll promise?
Well, it depends if we consider features, visuals, or the release date. About the later, we need to keep in mind that PD never keep up with original released dates. Never. And when PD postpones a game, it often means by many month, or even several years. PD is so used to delays, that they have to make use of re-branding (GT2000 to GT3, GT HD to GT5). They also releases half-prices half-games (Prologue editions) to feed impatient gamers.
On the opposite, what PD shows along the way to commercial release can technologically be trusted. Very close to hardware team at Sony, PD get an early access to development kits. Since PS2 announcement, they are among first developers who demonstrate realtime material. Note, though, that specific content shown in a PD demo, like a particular track, doesn’t guaranty you that it will make its way to the final game.
When it comes to features, things get tricky. PD doesn’t lack ambition, even planning to turn Gran Turismo series into a plateform with potent social features. But they already had this in mind from the very first days of PlayStation 3, only to deliver, three years later, a mere draft of this with GT5. In the mean time, their competitor have proven to be able to release every two years a game (Forza Motorsport series) of similar quality, if not better in many ways.
It may not be long before we see the first actual footage of Gran Turismo running on PlayStation 4. But here’s a preprendered CGI intro of an other racing games that we can consider to be a visual target for “next-gen” racing games, according to hardware improvements. This intro movie has been made by a talented team at realtime:uk company, for the System 3 game Racing Challenge:
You can also check this previous article and its video of a car damage engine.