The computer game revolution left Sean O'Grady behind, but Sony's latest offering has got him revved up

A few years ago (actually about 20, but I don't like to face up to the march of time), there was an odd Disney science fiction movie called Tron. The precise details of the plot escape me, but I seem to remember it was something about a bloke who gets dragged into a video game and then has to battle around the various challenges for real.

A few years ago (actually about 20, but I don't like to face up to the march of time), there was an odd Disney science fiction movie called Tron. The precise details of the plot escape me, but I seem to remember it was something about a bloke who gets dragged into a video game and then has to battle around the various challenges for real.

Riding around on a computer graphics motorbike figured quite prominently. I thought at the time that it was a pretty exciting but totally silly set-up, not much more probable than me being lured into a fruit machine down at my local games arcade in Leicester or being captured by the Space Invaders swarming around in the machine in the Queen's Head.

So for the past two decades or so I have sceptically and placidly watched the whole computer game revolution pass me by. But, having been offered the chance to play Gran Turismo 4 on Sony PlayStation 2 I think I have just lived through an experience infinitely more thrilling than anything the chaps on Tron had to go through.

Virtual reality is here and kicking. Gran Turismo's rendering of the cars, cities and racetracks is stunningly realistic, as are the noises the cars make. And what cars. Everything from the new Ford GT and the Bentley Speed 8 race car through to the Jaguar S-Type R, Subaru Impreza and even a classic Lotus Europa. Choice is a wonderful thing.

Nor is just sight and sound. Your sense of touch is assailed bythe programmers' ingenuity as well. The little handset even vibrates when you crash, and jiggles when the driver hits a grass verge.

Better drivers than me say that the game cars faithfully reproduce the driving characteristics of the real thing. So rear-wheel drive cars oversteer, front-drivers understeer and the four-wheel drive vehciles behave rather better.

My trouble with this game was that, whether I was using the hand control or the steering wheel (Plus foot pedals!), I was a rotten driver, and it took me so long to complete the Nürburgring that even in the interests of self-deprecatory humour I cannot publish my times here. It was more like the dodgems, and even more fun.

For those more ambitious there is also a "simulation mode" in which players ar e invited to acquire licences, earn money, buy and sell cars and compete, a bi tlike the football manager game.

And it's all so cheap. For far less than the (real terms) price of a VHS recorder back in the Tron wonder days of 1982 you can buy yourself your own virtual reality world. It doesn't get much more exciting or realistic than this - for now. Twenty three years has yielded startling progress. But where will we be by 2027 I wonder?

PlayStation 2 + Gran Turismo 4, £124.99 (bundled)

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