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Polyphony Digital has been one of Sony's most prized, respected and trusted development houses. The Gran Turismo series has sold innumerable copies and garnered countless praise and awards from the press, and for good reason. Polyphony has practically become synonymous with street racing, and though the company has begun including rally racing in its tour-de-force racing series, it has yet to touch on the world of two-wheeled racing - until now, that is. Polyphony's first venture into motorcycle racing is Tourist Trophy: The Real Riding Simulator, an offshoot of sorts of Gran Turismo 4 that seems intended to test the waters for what's possible.
On the whole, Tourist Trophy feels something like a kissing cousin to Polyphony's own Gran Turismo 4. Many of GT4's assets and features have been carried over into Tourist Trophy, everything from the menu system to the music to even the tracks themselves. When it comes down to it, it really is just bikes vs. cars that separate the two games, with a few changes to the career mode path thrown in to both simplify and mix things up.
Just as Polyphony has done with a car's physics and driving mechanics, it has absolutely nailed the feeling of hopping on a motorcycle. Well, I've admittedly never actually driven a motorcycle so it's sort of guesswork, but playing Tourist Trophy feels exactly like what I'd expect a motorcycle to drive like. It's difficult yet natural, unforgiving yet fluid - it's almost like trying to come to grips with a new pair of legs.
There's certainly a bit of a learning curve here as many of the skills you may have acquired with Gran Turismo or other driving sims are actually opposite of what you'll need here. For example, in a car, if you tap the gas in a tight turn you can cause the rear wheels to lose traction and use your car's over-steering to help you take the turn a little tighter. On a bike, you'll actually want to use the brakes to do this instead, pulling down on the front brakes in order to flip the rear end of your bike out.
Aside from these subtleties, those who aren't used to motorcycle racing will find that it's a very different beast than any other vehicle. For one thing, since leaning and shifting your weight is more important than turning a couple tires, you need to lean into corners really early in order to get your bike to take the turn well. You'll also find that it's better to be conservative than aggressive, especially to start, as the slightest misstep can send you careening off the track, and dirt doesn't play well with motorcycles.
Like Gran Turismo, it's the subtleties in the driving mechanics that make Tourist Trophy shine. Dropping into a corner feels like you're actually shifting your weight and committing to the turn, allowing gyroscopic forces to take over and keep you inches off the ground as you whiz around a turn at 100mph. There's a sense of weight to the bikes that transfers to your controller so well that it's easy to tell exactly what forces are working for and against your bike at any time. Should either of your tires lose traction, you'll feel it. After one turn, you'll have a pretty good idea of how heavy a brand-new bike is and how hard you can try pushing it. Polyphony manages to translate simple bits of information into feelings of speed, weight, power and traction of four wheels better than anyone else, and Tourist Trophy is proof that it can do the same with two.
The differences between all of the game's bikes are readily noticeable from the first time you hop on each one. From weight to turning radius to power, every bike feels wholly different and like its own beast. You'll even find that some bikes handle high speeds much better than others in terms of things like stability and speed wobbles. It might take some of the heavier bikes forever to get up to speed, but their weight translates to a smoother ride at 150mph+ than some of the lighter, quicker bikes as the wind will start kicking the ride from side to side. In other words, speed, handling and acceleration don't quite mean everything, and it's great that Polyphony has been able to pick up on and transfer these aspects of each bike directly to the gamer.
As mentioned, much of Tourist Trophy's content is borrowed directly from Gran Turismo 4. This makes sense in many ways and is something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it makes the game feel something like an expansion or half-baked rip-off rather than its own game. But, when you consider that many of Gran Turismo's courses are real-world locations, and some of the most well-known courses in the world in fact, it only makes sense that they're here as well. It certainly does help that the artists and designers at Polyphony have become masters at recreating real-world tracks and designing original courses. So even though you've seen all of these areas before, they really couldn't have gotten any better, and though it would have been nice to have seen at least a few new
Game Traits applied to Tourist Trophy (PS2) by ROBelMERCENARIO