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Gran Turismo 5 Review

by William Schwartz

The next installment of the award-winning Gran Turismo simulation racing franchise, Gran Turismo 5, is designed for play exclusively to the PlayStation 3 system. Known for its signature beauty and precision, this highly anticipated racer showcases new jaw-dropping cars, real-life tracks, and diverse racing styles. Gran Turismo 5 promises to deliver exciting advancements to the series, and in the process deliver in the most comprehensive racing experience ever. [Sony]

Gran Turismo 5 is a confusing game at times, especially at the onset.  The sheer wealth of things to do in the game is overwhelming.  It deviates from the traditional racing game experience in such a way that it takes some time to get adjusted.  But when you do get adjusted, Gran Turismo 5 becomes something that transcends beyond a video game.  It is a hobby in and of itself, and a hobby that is going to take a lot of your free time.  If you are just stopping in to play a quick race, you can do this.  You can hop right into Arcade Mode and race among computer controlled racers split over three difficulty settings, or try the other modes such as Time Trial, Drift Challenge, or Local 2 Player Versus, where you are given a variety of cars to test over all of the games classes on just about any course offered in the game.  You can also try your hand at creating your own customized track, which allows you to fine tune the specifics of a track. It’s not the deepest editor in the world, but allows for basic track adjustments.  Thrown in for good measure is a Gran Turismo TV  feature which streams on demand videos of Trailers, Concept Cars, Polyphony Events, GT Academy Episodes, and a lot more.   There were at least 100 videos that I saw,  plus a cart feature and all deemed ‘free’ at this time, and whether or not there will be charges in the future was not apparent.

But these modes aren’t exactly the meat and potatoes of Gran Turismo 5.  The hobby experience, or the addiction as I like to call it, is in GT Mode.  GT Mode is likely the place that most owners of the game will gravitate to.  Here’s where you get into your Gran Turismo 5 career modes, online play, and personal garages and tuning shops.  There’s a ton to do and see in GT Mode.  Styled as your Gran Turismo Desktop, there are so many buttons on here it would make even a helicopter pilot  a bit uneasy about what to do first to get the ball rolling.  Which is why I said there’s a little bit of adjustment needed.  It can be a bit overwhelming.  But a great place to start is by taking your License Tests, or the ones that you are qualified to take. Here you will be tasked with completing different driving objectives, earning trophies for completing these objectives under a specific time.  Trophies will earn you credits and increase your XP, pushing you from level to level.  You are going to need both.  You are going to need cash for, cars, upgrades, paint jobs, rims, repairs, among other things.  You are going to need XP to unlock new events, cars, and features in the career mode.  Which was absolutely brilliant by Polyphony Digital.  In any other game you would call this pacing.  In a racer it’s confusing because it’s just not done this way.  Making players ascend from the lowly ranks of a beginning racer slowly unlocking the features and cars that only a professional driver could handle.  And it does this so well.  Real time damage progressively gets harder to deal with and gives the player another reason to keep at least two wheels on the track at all times.  Dealing with repairs and other vehicle damage in the latter stages of the game is one thing I’m glad I wasn’t tasked with doing while I was still wet behind the ears.

Similar to previous GT games in a lot ways.  You are going to be entering into class specific races starting at Beginner and working your way towards the Extreme Series.  These races have a curb in difficulty, and as expected you aren’t going to be driving a Zonda in the beginner stages.  What you will be doing is a building a base, learning the ropes, and most importantly having fun.  The driving experience  is the best, bar none, in any racer, period. At least in my opinion.  Perhaps the attention to detail in the way that each car handles respective to the road and it’s conditions makes each experience different.  This only gets better and better as the career mode expands.  Moving from Standard to Premium vehicles, you will earn meticulously crafted car interiors that further submerge you into the experience.   In fact the A-Spec mode is one that you may not want to try to rush through.  You’re gonna be needing as many credits as possible to buy cars for new races.  So it will be necessary to complete things at a staggered pace switching from A-Spec to License to B-Spec back to A-Spec.  See completing different races will net you different cars aside from earning you points and cash.  It’s actually like putting together a jigsaw puzzle and when you can’t find the piece you need, you start working on another section.

If you don’t feel like working on your puzzle, there’s still more to do in GT5 yet.  You can go online and test your mettle with the community, take your car collection on a photoshoot with Photomode, or just hit the practice track.  And when you think there’s just nothing left to do and see there’s a whole slew of bonus content to sink your teeth into.  Rally Car Racing, Nascar, Go-Carts, the Top Gear Test Track, and a bunch of other interesting challenges that demonstrate just how dynamic Gran Turismo 5 really is.

There’s something special in the way that Polyphony Digital creates their racers.  If only judged on the track, Gran Turismo 5 is the mecca of video game racing.  I have probably played 90% of the racers in the last 10 years,  and none have come close to the feeling of driving that Gran Tursimo 5 achieves.  I touched on this earlier, how I think bar none there is no better racer in this department.  It’s hard to quantify exactly why, but for starters, it feels natural with both the six axis and a racing controller.  Precise controls make for great gaming.  Precision driving controls that limit the amount of jerkiness in the steering give a smooth feeling, that in turn makes it feel realistic.  It’s one of my pet peeves with racers, the constant tug of the analog to remain on course.  It’s not something that you find in Gran Turismo 5.  Sliding through turns you took a little too quickly, and regaining control of the vehicle, it just feels right.  Every nook and cranny of each track feels different and controls different with the bumps in the road all reinforcing a sense of speed.  A long time ago I abandoned anything but in-car or first person views in racers, and GT5’s premium selection of interior views is amazing.  They further the illusion and immerse you with the realism and detail of the car interiors.

Options…Options, if you have anything in GT5 it’s options.  The customization and tuning options in Gran Turismo 5 are numerous, and their on track effects are satisfying.  In a game with tracks as detailed as Gran Turismo 5, I had my doubts about suspension tuning in GT5, those worries were put to rest. Measurable results are apparent when adjustments are made, aside from the car going faster.  These numerous modification options  can be adjusted for performance on almost all of the 1000+ cars in the game.  Not being one for viewing the outside of my car, I didn’t focus too heavily on painting my vehicle,changing the rims or the other barbie doll-esque options that you have to purty up your vehicle, but they are available as well with respect to car class.

Six months ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed that I would be saying that the graphics in Gran Turismo 5 are resoundingly average.  With nearly every other PlayStation exclusive pushing the boundaries of graphical fidelity, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit disappointed by the graphics in this game.  But let me make it clear, I don’t think the game looks bad by any means.  It actually looks amazing at times, and at others not so much.  The perfect example is the disparity between tracks.  Some look amazing, others look average.  They all drive well which is the most important thing to me, but some of the textures used on some tracks are boring and could almost be considered last gen.  This same disparity goes with the vehicles as well.  The premium cars are almost all extremely polished and beautiful, but some of the standard vehicles are downright ugly.  With as many cars as GT5 offers, it’s hard to fathom the time it would take to model each one as realistically as the premium vehicles, but it’s still a bit of a let down.  For me these graphic missteps are hardly noticeable in my time with the game, but one that rears it’s ugly head each and every race is the shadows.  Jaggie shadows are jaggie and I tried to figure a good reason why these shadows look so bad, and all I came up with was exhaust fumes, or heat?  Then I said to myself that’s a bit of a stretch.  It’s just something that was overlooked.  Hard to believe with all that time in dev, but hey nothing is perfect.  Weather, particle and damage effects in Gran Turismo 5 are phenomenal as well, but like I said it’s a game of give and take.  As well done as some parts of this game are, they are offset by imperfections that stick out like a sore thumb in an otherwise beautiful game.

With all there is to do in GT5 you will be bouncing from menu to menu.  Doing things like checking race requirements, modifying vehicles, painting, you name it, and you have to change screens.  This wouldn’t be a problem if there wasn’t a small loading screen for each one.  In fact,  it seems like there is a load screen between menu items on every button press.  It makes navigation a bit tedious and it’s a small price to pay for the huge amount of content.  The loading times aren’t contained to the menu items though, you will also have longer than average load times when firing up a race.  All in all, it feels like there could have been a bit more streamlining of some of the processes to limit this downtime.

Gran Turismo 5 is a game of doing what you can, and not what you want. There are always requirements to complete certain races.  You must own certain cars, or drive-trains, years, or models, and it’s not always clear as to how to go about getting that car, or model.  You rely on earning new cars from winning races, or buying them from the new/used car dealerships, but specific vehicles that are  necessary aren’t always readily available, at any price.  Furthermore, some of the lists for what cars are required for the race are so extensive that they need to be written down so that you can navigate to the dealerships to see if they are in stock.  A much easier solution would be to have included the option to buy the car from the list given on the race requirements.  Instead, you wait through the load screen, see if it’s there, go back, wait through a load screen, check the list again, go back, wait through a load screen… you get the picture?  Streamlining would have been nice.

One thing I also would have liked to have seen is value being returned for tuning or modifying a vehicle.  As it stands, you receive no compensation for the work or money that you spend on a vehicle.  This was the one of the times where Forza came to mind.  The auction house from the Forza series is a great social platform and I would have loved to see something similar in Gran Turismo 5.

You would think by this time that Sony has gotten the message from gamers.  The popularity of the Xbox 360 shows that online is something that gamers want.  If you are going to offer it, you better do it right.  Gran Turismo 5, in my eyes, fails at the online portion of the game for a number of reasons.  The first being the lack of options.  From GT Mode you will be able to access the Open Lobby.  Here you can join other members on the PlayStation Network to race races with zero consequences.  There are no leader-boards, times kept, or game modes.  The host of the lobby can select what track and more recently through the first update can stipulate engine sizes and car classes. Aside from it’s lackluster options in this department, the net coding is horrendous.  Cars contacting each other look unnatural at you would be hard pressed to find a game that runs smooth in any sense of the word.  From the players perspective some of these things aren’t very noticeable, if no other drivers are around.  But if you are to engage another driver you are sure to notice lag, and unreliable locations of vehicles due to this lag can lead to race ending crashes if you had any hopes of winning.  The poor net coding extends onto the Spectator Mode as well.  While beautiful this mode is plagued by cars “glitching” all over the place and would be otherwise a joy to watch as well.  My hope is that Polyphony implements some type of fix in the near future and with so many games these days launching with problems such as these, it would not surprise me to see these problems patched, as well as content added to GT online universe.  The creator of the game has already described the game as something that would be under on-going developmental changes and let’s hope these things are being targeted.

Gran Turismo 5 is a highly addictive racing experience.  It’s technical shortcomings in some areas are negligible when taking a look at the full package, but still they are hard not to notice on such a high profile title.  Without a doubt Gran Turismo 5’s strong point is on the road, whatever road that may be.  I found myself scurrying from event to event enjoying whatever this game threw at me.  Nascar, Go-Carts, you name it, and GT5 handles it all exceptionally well.  If you own a PS3 it’s a should get.  If you like the racing games in the slightest it’s a game that will usher in a rekindled romance with the genre. GT5 exceeded most of my expectations of what a racer could or should be this gen.  Polyphony stayed true to it’s roots, and some may say too true to it’s roots, but fans of the series will find themselves right back in the saddle in bigger and better fashion.

"loved"
loved

  • Available On: PlayStation 3
  • Published By: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Developed By: Polyphony Digital
  • Genre: Racing
  • US Release Date: November 2010
  • Reviewed On: PlayStation 3
  • Quote: "Gran Turismo 5's technical shortcomings in some areas are negligible when taking a look at the full package, but still they are hard not to notice on such a high profile title."
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