Reviewed: February 7, 2011
Released: November 24, 2010
I was starting to think this day would never come. Weíve all been waiting so long for the much-anticipated release of Gran Turismo 5. Even as I write this were are two months shy of my last review for 2008ís Prologue; an ambitious attempt to release a ďpreviewĒ of the game as a retail product. If youíre like me, Prologue kept you entertained for a month or more and then you moved on. I had all but forgotten about the title until it was shown at E3.|
So is GT5 the best thing since sliced bread or is this overly hyped racing simulation too little too late? If Polyphony delivers anything, itís perfection, but at what cost. Suffering from some inconsistent presentation, at times GT5 can blur the lines of reality with stunning visuals that would have you swear your TV is tuned to the Speed network. At other times you might think you accidentally fired up your PS2 copy of GT4.
The superior horsepower that resides under the hood of the PS3 is more than adequate to deliver some of the best physics and sense of realistic weight to the more than 1000 cars that populate the GT5 garage. And despite an ďarcade modeĒ, if you play this game with anything less than realistic settings and a kick ass steering wheel and pedal combo you are doing yourself, and the game designers a huge injustice. Still, those rookie-driver assists are all available should you find the need to ease yourself into this daunting simulation.
GT5 expands upon its roots of track and road racings events from previous games and now adds Kart and NASCAR events. Toss in ice and dirt racing and you pretty much have an all-inclusive racing title with something to please drivers of all preference. As is expected with the title, there is no true career mode or any organized events. You merely go through the menus earning licenses to unlock various class-restricted events, then you race in those events to earn money so you can buy more cars. Itís a shame that a game so massive has so little structure, and it can be a bit off-putting to casual racers and newcomers to the franchise.
As for those inconsistencies; of the 1000 cars, only about 200 of them are truly next-gen in their design and attention to detail, often making them more enjoyable as the target of a photo op rather than racing. And shutterbugs are sure to lose themselves in the elaborate camera mode where you can tweak numerous settings to achieve a photo worthy of a magazine cover.
But what about those other 800 cars? While they certainly rise above their PS2 designs itís not by much. Textures arenít as refined, damage is limited, and car interiors are absent meaning no dash view Ė just instruments hovering over pavement. Sadly, much of your earlier driving experiences will be in these last-gen cars since youíll likely be shopping off the used car lot until you bankroll some winnings.
As with the cars, the tracks are also of dubious quality, with some of the city and road courses taking the spotlight with real-world details, while all those favorite tracks from previous GT games return with minimal improvements, and some, like the Indy and Daytona ovals downright boring. If you donít like what Polyphony gave you then check out the Course Maker, but even this is limited in scope. Rather than pieces together or draw your ideal track, you merely define a set of variables and the game will create something to meet those demands. Itís far from ideal but itís better than nothing.
The menu system is a convoluted mess of icons with a dashboard that you can customize to a certain degree. This is your HUB to all your GT5 activities from game setup to car and track selection and online racing for up to 16 drivers. Prepare to spend obscene amounts of time in the menus and watching load bars stretch across the screen. A default install will guarantee you a 40-60 wait for just about any decision you might make. If you feel like dumping the entire 8GB game onto your PS3 hard drive you can halve that time. At least once a race has been loaded restarts are fairly instantaneous.
Controls are excellent provided you have a decent steering wheel, but the analog control on the DualShock 3 is pretty pathetic, impossible to maintain smooth racing lines, and youíll be bouncing off cars and walls like a DUI suspect. I was very disappointed they didnít even put in SIXAXIS support so I could use my controller as a virtual wheel. Trying to find just the right amount of gas and brake or a combination of both using the limited range of the triggers is also an issue in such a realistic sim.
I found the games AI (or rather lack thereof) a bit suspect in the A-Spec race modes. Gran Turismo has never had the best computer opponents and once again it seems any non-human racers are merely programmed to follow the ideal racing lines and trade some paint if you interfere with their predetermined path. B-Spec is also back and allows you to coach a team of computerized drivers with a set of rules and instruction. This is akin to choosing plays from a playbook in Madden rather than playing the actual game.
GT5 had me flashing back to my Driverís Ed days and my weekends at Skip Barberís Racing School. Personally, I think the franchise needs a bit more structure and emphasis on fun. Gran Turismo 5 is a surprisingly realistic sim, especially for the console crowd who generally favor fun over realism. Polyphonyís attention to detail and real world physics may intimidate a lot of gamers, but those looking for impeccable realism with some gorgeous, albeit inconsistent graphics, and a massive stable of cars (even more if you import your unlocks from the PSP version), will be salivating on their steering wheels.