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Published on July 14th, 2014 | by Corey Milne


Gran Turismo and Car Damage- A Detour and A Distraction

Racing games have often been used as showcases for a console’s graphical prowess. Their relatively non-chaotic nature means they can usually be engineered to run smoothly at higher frames per second, while being able to dedicate more power into graphical quality. Shiny cars will continue to become shinier,  an obsession that sometimes boarders on the absurd. Evolution Studios’ Matt Sutton’s fetishistic lust over his digital leather seats during DriveClub’s 2013 E3 presentation, shows what kind of  thrall cars can have over a middle-aged man.

Nowadays games cannot simply rely on their good looks alone. Simulation racers such as Forza and Gran Turismo, the heavyweights of the genre on Microsoft and Sony’s consoles respectively, have to contend with getting the feel of driving just right. Gran Turismo in particular has billed itself as delivering the most authentic driving experience possible. Its subtitle, The Real Driving Simulator, makes no bones about the game’s ambitions. The series’ partnerships with the likes of the tyre manufacturer Yokohama and suspension company KW shows what lengths the creators go to get the best out of their simulation, basing everything on real world data informing the physics. Hell, they find future racing champions through the GT Academy initiative.

Gran Turismo 2 

There is however an area that GT has always been lacking in, when compared to its competitors. I refer of course to the incredibly dodgy car damage models that the games use. For the longest time the people at Polyphony Digital refused to implement car damage. A collision at 200mph would see cars bounce away happily, unhurt. How could this be considered the real driving simulator, when a smash that should have resulted in a twisted metal husk had no consequences?

 There were murmurs that car manufacturers did not want their license used to see their very desirable products smashed beyond recognition. Nonetheless crash damage was finally added in the fifth instalment of the series, and it continued to be present in Gran Turismo 6. It would seem to the casual observer that the series had finally caught up with every other modern racing game.

 The thing is though, they should never have implemented car damage in the first place.

 Gran Turismo 5

A bold statement it might be, but there is no denying that the addition of car damage is the absolute antithesis of what the series has always been about: the racing and utter appreciation of the motorcar, in all of its forms. This is the game that presents every car with precision detail to their design. It makes sure that the people who know the differences between all of those Skyline models are happy, and includes a detailed production history of each and every car. The photography mode in GT6’s replay option alone is something to behold. Gran Turismo is also a digital time capsule, a history and monument to a world that will have disappeared in as short a time as the next 100 years. The lifespan of the conventional car may be a lot shorter than anyone could have predicted.

 There is a sense of reluctance in GT6’s crash physics. While everything else in the game is treated with artistic delicacy, the car damage is superfluous. GT5 had cars warp in strange ways, and it took an awful lot of battering to actually have a piece of your car fall off. GT6 has improved on this, but it is still unsatisfying. At most you will finish a race with some dents and a paint job that looks like it went through a hedge trimmer. It has no effect on the actual racing or car handling. It smacks of pandering to reviewers who were simply unable to overlook the fact that Gran Turismo wasn’t trying to be every other game. That they “needed” it so that they could tick another box on a check list.

Ultimately Gran Turismo is about preservation rather than destruction, and crash damage is a detour that is totally at odds with the experience it tries to convey.

Gran Turismo 3


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About the Author

Corey Milne has been into video games ever since he went on an adventure with a bandicoot. Other interests include history, science fiction and Judge Dredd. An Irishman living in Scotland, he is attempting to make a living from writing to justify his masters degree. He can be found cradling a Guinness on Twitter @Corey_Milne

  • Wolf

    While I haven’t played much of the new GT’s, got the basic version of 5, but it just didn’t hold my fancy.
    Totally agree with what you are talking about! GT held a very specific place in the racing genre as being a simulator for racing enthusiasts.
    That all said, I’d love them to take out all car-degradation completely. It’s one thing to change tires and fuel up on a endurance race, but the stupid oil meter (at least it was there in GT 3 and 4) was a way to break ‘series’ races.

  • Wolf

    I’m a light GT fan. Granted I only played the launch version of 5, but I played a lot of 3 and 4. I feel like the series is best served by focusing on the driving and tuning only, and getting rid of the ‘vehicle degradation’ entirely.
    I remember the ‘oil’ gauge from those games, and how while it didn’t hinder the AI, it made some of the higher level ‘series’ races nearly impossible.
    I do remember thinking they NEEDED to improve the AI drivers.

  • SiNGH


    When you say “(crashing) … It has no effect on the actual racing or car handling”

    You sir are wrong. In fact, you sir, are so wrong that, you sir, are a tool.

    There are 3 settings;
    1. No damage
    2. VISUAL damage only
    3. Engine & handing affected, all the way to car being useless to drive.

    Such a flaming tool, spreading your F.U.D.


    • Napoleon1066

      A flaming tool? Wouldn’t that be a torch? And how is that an insult? I mean… torches are revered. Think of the Human Torch, for one.

      Hey Corey… random internet dude thinks you’re a member of the Fantastic Four.


      • Corey Milne

        No they are right. I am a flaming beacon illuminating the path of the masses, through the darkness of existence. It’s good that these fine qualities are finally gaining recognition in the public eye.

        As a player who drives their car to destruction, you Singh are in need of my guidance most of all.

        • SiNGH


          I must confess that I was really tired when I came across this article, & reading that negativity about Gran Turismo when it was in fact wrong just hit me hard.

          Overall the article is okay, but that line I mention above, it just seemed like you were taking a stab at GT that wasn’t deserved.

          Have you actually played it much? I mean the options are right there!

          BUT as I type this I just remember something important – OMG LOL, I just remembered why I was searching for car damage & GT in the first place! o_O (don’t laugh!)

          In the single-player career mode (GT5), the car damage is visual only UNTIL level 40, where it’s then full damage (including mechnical)

          (I haven’t played GT(5) in years, skipped GT6, but was searching on any news on PS4 GT7, & car damage, namely; to learn if they enable car damage from the very start, & to conclude that if they don’t; I’m not buying…)

          So, bottom line, I was right, but as far as you knew from your experience in-game, so were you. You may as well have been, as it takes ages getting to level 40, & by then interest is lost & there’s only so much time we can give to one game, without missing out on the rest (& movies, & social life, & …)

          Like I said; I was tired.

          Sorry, & thanks for the article – it was a good read 🙂
          & thanks for the positive attitude – I guess I came across a bit grumpy – sorry!


  • GravityBeats

    Gran Turismo leaves much to be desired on the physics front of things, the cars capabilities are well within there respective limits and minimums, but the physics are numbed down and made accessible to the casual gamer. Because of this, I think graphics should be of a higher concern, including damage, sound, resolution, and all that kind of stuff, leave the hardcore physics stuff to the hardcore sim like Assetto Corsa, rFactor, Project Cars etc.

  • Erik Malkavian

    What a stupid comment and article! “they should never have implemented car damage in the first place.” If you don’t want damage in racing game go play “Bumper Cars 2016”..sheez!

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