The Gran Turismo series is one of the biggest racing franchises out there. It continues to be a hit with gamers even after four iterations in the original PlayStation and the PlayStation 2. Gran Turismo applies a formula of technical simulation driving, while still making the gameplay fun for players. It's a delicate balance and the series mainly focuses on cars for its bread and butter. Well not anymore! Tourist Trophy aims to change the Gran Turismo heritage by using Gran Turismo 4 gameplay with the fastest bikes on the planet.

At first glance, the game definitely feels like a kind of budget title. The graphics for environments look exactly the same as in Gran Turismo 4. Tourist Trophy also shares the same tracks present in its four-wheel cousin. But looks can be deceiving. The main focus of Tourist Trophy is on bikes and the developers have nailed a lot of customization features. You can choose the rider's height, aesthetics and other features unique to a motorcycle game. You also get some customization with bike parts, which include tire, drivetrain, brakes, suspension, and exhaust enhancements. The way to acquire these parts is very different from GT4. You don't actually pay for parts and the way to obtain them is by acquiring certain bikes or by winning races and getting new bikes. The game has no money system at all and whether or not you get the desired motorcycle depends solely on track performance.

Players are also presented with a couple of different modes for the outset. You get Arcade mode, which puts you right in the action with some mild customization available. These include transmission, tire type, and rider form presets. The other way to play is with Tourist Trophy mode. This works a lot like the Gran Turismo mode from GT4 in the way players have access to a garage and can obtain new cars by winning races. Within Tourist Trophy mode, players also have the ability to take license tests, which allow access to more advanced races. You also get challenges within this mode that allow players to pick a specific bike and race for it. Beating the challenge nets players the bike they want instead of racing for a surprise bike. There are also various levels of ride style customization with minute things such as arm angle, leg angle, head pitch angle and other technical nuances. Photo shooting features are also present in this game, letting players take pictures of a particular bike and upload them to a memory stick or the PS2 memory card. If you enjoyed this on GT4, you'll probably enjoy it here as well. There's also a kind of clothing mode where you can change helmets and boots but that depends on whether or not you care about how good you look while you race. None of the aesthetic changes have any consequence to your performance however.

Well how do you go about comparing Gran Turismo 4 and Tourist Trophy? Motorcycle games usually differ from car oriented ones quite a bit. Tourist Trophy does share a lot in common with GT4 but the game's bike control system is very different from its racing partner. Tourist Trophy tries to emulate the way a bike handles and it does so very well. It doesn't feel like driving a car in Gran Turismo and you might fall off the bike a couple of times before actually getting the hang of it. In some sense, this is where the true brilliance of this game lies and it's certainly a treat for bike fanatics everywhere. The positives include license tests that are just as challenging as in GT4 and the gameplay mechanics feel show a lot of depth. You even get bike instability when going downhill at high speeds and the level of detail on the handling of the bikes is quite astounding. That's not to say it's all roses though. You can still crash and have your motorcycle back on the track within a heartbeat and there are no damage physics playing a role here. These are shortcomings that made a lot of Gran Turismo fans switch over to Xbox's Forza and they're all present in this game. But the biggest problem of all is how this game feels rather incomplete and more like an expansion pack than a full game.

Adding insult to injury, Tourist Trophy still lacks an online gameplay mode. Racing bikes with buddies would have added a lot of replay value to this game and frankly, made it quite a bit more fun. There's only so much you can do when racing against AI and an online feature would have been enough to not label Tourist Trophy as a sort of GT4 cash-in. Players are able to race with a split screen but that does limit the view quite a bit. Yet another problem is the fact that the game is even more unforgiving than Gran Turismo and might put off other gamers willing to give this title a chance.

The best way to describe Tourist Trophy would be to say that it's the motorcycle expansion pack taken to the extreme. There's a lot to love here for fans of motorcycles and most of the big names are included. You can ride Ducati, BMW, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and others. If you love motorcycles, then this is the game for you. For some reason this game seems even more fun to play than MotoGP and similar titles. The handling of every bike is fairly solid and if you're into collecting bikes, you should have a lot of fun playing Tourist Trophy. If you've played GT4 before however, this will feel a lot like a rehash of the same old tracks in a brand new package. It makes people wonder why they didn't just put the bikes into GT4 in the first place. Even so, Tourist Trophy does have a lot of staying power for those passionate about sports motorcycles and is definitely worth a look if you're a racing fan.