Well, it’s finally upon us. You’d have to be living under a rock to not know of the lengthy development that made Gran Turismo 5 the fabled racing simulator of this generation, and after years of anticipation, patience, and the wishes that came with it developer Polyphony Digital has given us their debatably overdue masterpiece. We’ve all knew of Kazunori Yamauchi and his aspiration to create a a true driving ‘simulator’ unparalleled to the competition – even his own. Something that promises to become the best installment yet played.
The recipe is indeed right for being the latest standard in racing finesse, but when all is said and done I can’t help but feel quite torn on how everything turned out.
It truly is a matter of fact that a lot of effort went into the looks, sounds, and feeling of this game. There are a little over 1,000 vehicles that catalog the remarkable offerings of nearly each popular automobile manufacturer, dauntingly improved physics, latest revision of courses, and a vast number of options and other long-awaited features ensure the faithful will find a great game somewhere within the long and complex ride.
You’ll return to a slightly updated formula that made the series so rewarding, or in many cases such a chore, as the infamous license tests will again teach you the strenuous but vital driving techniques needed to win. As before, these tests are required if you plan going big in the career mode which also returns in rather tame fashion. The entire progression from amateur to professional undergoes minor tweaks as events and missions are now gated not only by license status but experience levels as well, this is done to keep balances in check so you can experience everything this game has. It initially seems restrictive and you definitely won’t be overpowering the opponents in that coveted Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG until you properly earn the right to own it. The idea behind of guiding players through the ranks is a sensible approach that adds another dimension to an traditional structure, not only for anxious beginners but for those expecting the predictable.
Other mainstays like the A-Spec racing events where you get behind the wheel yourself is relatively unchanged but the B-Spec mode where you play driving instructor instead of actual racer has been touched-up. Through one of your six potential A.I. drivers it’s basically race management on a grander scale that provides the chance for more experience (XP) and credit points (Cr) based on how smooth you can instruct your ever-evolving protégé. You’ll actively issue commands and see how well you can teach your stable of racers and see how far you can take your impressionable roster of drivers to the top until their inevitable retirement.
Taking in some of the challenges through Special Events is certainly a treat in breaking up the monotony, if not the best additions seen yet for the series in WRC certification rally racing, endurance, and for the first time licensed NASCAR, go-karting, and Top Gear challenges. Returning events like Rallying and long-distance time trials are still fairly engaging as you navigate between everything from snow banks to sharp ‘S’ curves, with modest improvements sprinkled in for good measure. The aforementioned inclusions like NASCAR learning school with Jeff Gordon bring the biggest surprises and actually had me rethink how much depth is really involved when understanding the dynamics of them, so much in fact that it’s almost a shame that some of these activities are limited to relatively brief affairs.
Needless to say GT5 still plays strictly by the book that it helped write and while the package remains cut-and-dry the format is now easier to embrace without abandoning its traditional demeanor. Most will definitely appreciate the more forgiving learning curve, but it doesn’t take much to see where the game consistently stumbles upon itself to produce what many would hope to be the perfect racer.
The first bout of frustration comes when you initially begin your long-awaited journey onto the asphalt because choosing not to the install cache data on your PlayStation 3 is probably one of the biggest mistakes anyone could make. Roughly 8GB of HDD space is needed for this game to even load in a respectable manner and, despite the prompt estimating 20 minutes of wait time the process inaccurately took a little over an hour to complete. It’s a painfully obtrusive requirement that’s a lesser of two evils because without performing this task waiting for the game to load can become even more grueling as single track can easily take upwards of a minute to load, each time; in other words, just install the game and help save yourself a lot of trouble.
I can’t help but think that something was lost in translation for the rest of this game as issues also reach into the essentials of upgrading and tuning your ride which aren’t as extensive as many would like. Those who expected full customization are left in the cold as much of the setup is streamlined to its barest and questionable form and for gearheads that had great ambitions making a supercar this oversight is nearly sacrilegious. Gran Turismo TV (GT TV) has potential as you can watch select material like the Super GT highlights and Top Gear inserts, but many of the good videos aren’t free and already woefully outdated by the time of this review.
Thankfully, course maker was interesting because with a little patience you can create the ultimate speedway with any combination of physical attributes within reason, and with some imagination you can build some pretty intensive tracks for you and your online friends to race on. For people who like to admire their automobiles the Photo Mode appears to have considerably more weight than some other areas of this game; here you can pick your adored car (I picked a ’08 Nissan GT-R as my model) and take pictures in some pretty elegant places around the world with plenty of photographic filters at your disposal, and export them as polished JPEG images, not exactly racing but it was surprisingly enjoyable to get that portrait you want.
Nonetheless, the compromises build up here as all cars are not created equal. As much as I hate to say it the biggest criticism comes from the “soul” of the game itself which offers over 1,000 vehicles, 200 of which are labeled as ‘premium’. These entries have almost everything most fans have been asking for such as better exterior detail, full viewable interiors, and collision damage – quite frankly these machines are sculpted beautifully. The other 800 cars are considered ‘standard’ and are not as comparatively gorgeous that merely feature an outside appearance with no cockpit interior, that’s about 80% of the cars that lack the fidelity of what many were hoping for.
This also goes hand-in-hand with the rest of the graphics that also show evidence of contrasting details. Those premium car are indeed superlative in represented scale but all it does for the most discerning gamers is portray how everything looks less visceral with plenty of locales and effects looking mostly like they did in the previous game. This reining oversight doesn’t make the game look obscene but when you realize what could’ve been, in lieu of this other features like EyeToy motion detection and available stereoscopic 3DTV conversion (which isn’t available in ‘Full HD’ 1080p/60) which feel all but irrelevant.
On a lighter note though, online matchmaking is accounted for and from here you can easily create a room with whatever rules you want and wait for others to join from the lobby. For the most part many will be satisfied that this feature is here despite how underwhelming the integration is, the glaring lack of definitive ranking classes and network synchronization leaves something to be desired at the very least, if your waiting to enter a room the delay could last over two minutes in many worst-case scenarios. I myself am glad that Gran Turismo finally introduced online gaming for everybody to enjoy, but like others I just wish the implementation wasn’t an archaic experience to endure.
I’m at a crossroad on how I really feel about Gran Turismo 5. In many instances Polyphony Digital has indeed outdone themselves in developing something worthy of being proclaimed as a real, if not definitive driving game for the PlayStation 3, but you can’t help but stand back and look at the equally questionable faults that sometimes hamper the experience. When all is said and done, however, the craftsmanship shines through despite the overreaching ambition, and even after you accept those said issues in aesthetic refinement you still have one of the best racing games around and certainly not to be missed, despite a couple of floundering promises.
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Sony Computer Entertainment