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Gran Turismo 5

 

Gran Turismo 5

Platform: PS3
Category: Racing
 
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9
9.5
7.5
9
8.9
 
Author: Sam K

Developer : Polyphony Digital
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertaiment

Features:

Players 1-2
Network Players 2-12
HDTV: 720p/1080p
256mb of HDD Space Required (full install take up more space)
Dual Shock 3 Compatible
Headset
Racing Wheel Compatible
3D Compatible
Downloadable Content
Leaderboards
In-Game Friend Invite
Lobbies
Matchmaking
Messaging

It was way back in December of 1999, just before the computerized world was about to end thanks to the YK2 bug, when your intrepid reviewer picked up a copy of Gran Turismo 2. It was heralded as the best racing simulator ever. Being a fan of racing games like Need For Speed, Sega Rally, and the many other arcade racers that I have played since the days of Atari’s Pole Position, I was expecting to be blown away. This was exciting to me because I have been a racing fan since my childhood in Finland, going to Rally Cross races to see my father and his brother race. As I put that disc in my PSone, I was told I would have to pass a license test in order to play the game! One of the first tests had me take a fast car and manage the cork screw at Laguna Seca. Well let’s just say that the copy of GT2 went back to Blockbuster quite quickly. I mean really, what kind of game was that? Punishing!

Well it took me a couple of days of thinking before I would try the game again. So back to Blockbuster I went. And it was then that I actually read what the game wanted me to do: brake before the corner, go slowly into the corner, and then accelerate out of the corner. WHAT? You mean I couldn't just rush thru the corner? So I tried what the game suggested and I was hooked. My god, it was just like real racing, with real lifelike physics! Who would of thought it? Fast forward to present day and I have been playing Gran Turismo 5, Sony’s latest sequel to their long running GT series. The elation and joy has been very hard for me to contain, as I have not had the pleasure of playing GT3 and GT4. So did I find the gaming nirvana of so long ago?

Graphics

The visuals are an area that most fanboys and haters alike have been taking to the internet and debating about. It has been foretold by some that GT5 graphics are beyond compare and that they are so life you cannot tell real life from the game. So when I originally loaded up GT5 and entered my first race, I was pleasantly impressed. The race courses look vibrant and lifelike. The races in the cities are amazing. The premium cars are also quite graphically brilliant, and the in-car views are to die for. The game runs at 60 FPS while maintaining a consistent 1080p picture. For me this has been worth the wait to look at and play.

As much as is said about the graphics, there are some glaring faults with this area. For a title in development for such a long time, the constant screen tearing is quite annoying. Screen tearing does not happen in just a few spots,it happens more often than not; however, this has been an issue with a lot of other PS3 games. There is also a lot of draw in. It is almost as if the game is thinking too hard about the physics, and sometimes forgets to put in trees, guardrails, and other trackside scenery — all of a sudden they just appear. In a racer with a fixed course this does not seem proper in my opinion. It's not like this is an open world game (e.g. GTA or TDU) where this is expected as these types of games are so wide open that the graphics engines do not know where you are going to go. Some of the courses have been imported over from GT4, and from what I have been told, the courses look the same as they did in GT4. To this I cannot comment, as I have not played the other GT games, but from my understanding you can tell they are tracks from a previous game on older hardware.

There are two types of cars in GT5 and they are grouped into standard and premium. Some people have said that the difference between the standard and premium cars is a huge game breaker, but in all honesty I did not find much difference between the two sets other than the fact that only the premium cars have an interior view. That being said, you’ll find a lot of pictures on the net showing the differences, which in some cases exemplify what people are talking about. The other glaring graphical oversight by Polyphony Digital is the dust trails left behind when racing a rally course. From afar they look beautiful and elegant, but once you get close, you can see blocks of graphical errors in the dust. It's almost as if you have a bar of dust, a bar of no dust, and then it repeats. Like the old black and white off air screen you get from a TV station that has signed off for the night.

Overall the visuals have some issues, but they are not game killers in my opinion. That being said, they are definitely not what was promised so long ago.

Sound

I am somewhat confounded trying to rate this category. How can you rate car sounds when in real life you've never heard the roar of a 1971 Ford Mustang Mach 1 with its 302hp V8 engine? To me the sounds of the cars are fine. There are obvious changes to a vehicle's engine when one installs a turbo kit, which does make it sound incredible.

The music can be OK, but the ability to put in a custom soundtrack is a welcome addition. The problem is that it is not easy to do, and the menu system does not help out. Perhaps this is the reason you get a trophy for being able to install one of your own music tracks into the game. Overall the sound and the custom soundtracks are a good thing in GT5 and do not detract from the game. As for the audio package as a whole, it gets the job done, and that's what counts.

Gameplay

Is the game fun to play? Of course it is. As a fan of the genre, I am quite impressed by the controls, the physics, and overall enjoyment. When I pre-ordered my game I got a cheap steering wheel as an incentive to order from a specific store. What I found was that the controller, as cheap as it was, gave the game an incredible immersion I have never had before. It made me go out and track down a Force GT steering wheel and racing wheel stand. No other racing game, even with a wheel, has made me feel in so much control. This is not to say that game cannot be played or enjoyed with the SixAxis or DualShock3 controller, it is just that I found the use of a steering wheel very immersive.

The main gist of the game is that it plays like a CRPG ( Car Role Playing Game ). At the beginning of the game you are allotted a set amount of money and can only buy a small underpowered car. As you enter races with this car and win, or even lose, you accumulate XP. This XP can then be used to purchase upgrades for the vehicle and make it more powerful. This in turn allows you to win other races you were not able to win before. As you accumulate more XP, your racer level increases and you are able to buy different vehicles for different races. The only problem with this scenario is that some of the races are vehicle restricted (e.g. - one race requires you purchase a Japanese vehicle that is older than a 1979 model year). This sounds good in theory, but the problem is that the new and used car dealerships don’t always have the car that you want. For example, the used car dealership has an ever changing inventory of cars, so when you need a specific car, it may not be there. You will find this part of your GT5 experience takes more than a few virtual trips to find that one specific car you are looking for.

One of Sony’s biggest statements for GT5 was that it included over 1000 cars. I have to say, that is a lot of vehicles. That being said, only 200 of these cars are “premium” vehicles. What this means is that they are the cars with the most attention to detail. The other 800 or so are ported over from previous games. So in many ways, you don’t get the full meal deal as only 200 cars, or 20% of all the vehicles, are true GT5 specific ones. Of course there are a lot varied types of specific models too. I mean really, how many Honda Civics do I really want to choose from? In many ways I think the whole “we have 1000 cars” is misleading as there is no way you will want to go through that many to pick just a few specific to race. Add to this fact that only 20% are true next generation cars, and well you may forget about the other 80% sooner than later.

Some may ask, what about damage, isn't a simulator all about simulating real life? Can I take my car, ram it against a wall, and still continue to drive? This area is another hotly debated topic on the internet. I found that there is no damage and no ramifications to reckless driving. I rammed into many walls to check this out and low-and-behold, the damage was not an issue and I could keep on racing with no issues. Now GT5 is a HUGE game, and I put a lot of time into it prior to writing this review. I will be honest, there is still more for me to do at this point. It has been reported that once you gain higher levels you unlock true damage, but I have yet to do so. Perhaps it was done this way to allow newcomers to the genre a little bit of time to acclimatize to the simulation aspects of the game. That being said, Forza III does offer damage from the get-go, and I know many new-comers that have played Microsoft’s driving-sim and enjoyed it from from the start.

A-Spec is the career mode of GT5 and it really shines. There is also the B-Spec career mode where you are the team leader and you manage a racer. Unfortunately this side of the game is not my cup of tea, but in no way does it detract from the game at all and kudos to Polyphony Digital for adding this mode. For GT5 you can still acquire licenses. In previous versions of the game these licenses were required in order to advance to higher level races in the game. Now they are a side quests of sorts. The interesting thing with the license tests is that they help you learn how to race in GT5 and it is the same as it would be in real life. For example, one of the license tests asks you to enter the Laguna Seca cork screw (again?), but this time I was fully ready for this test. Accelerate on the straight away up the hill, break and slow down, enter the cork screw slowly, and then accelerate out of the corner — what is in GT5 is as it would be in real life racing. The bottom line is that racing and practicing in GT5 is a lot of fun.

If I had one complaint it is that the AI can still be annoying. Yep, it seems that Polyphony Digital has kept some programming logarithms from even the earliest days. You can still use AI cars to rub against in order to help you get through corners, and it still seems that the AI cars love to hog the lines, and don’t pay attention to many others out there. Sure, you will find a few new things, like the odd AI car that may branch out from a traditional racing line now and then, but in the end the AI is very GT like, and you will still find some annoyances with it more often than not. With the announcement that they stared on GT6 already, it is my hope that this is truly fixed, but who knows when we will see this next game, given how long it took for GT5 to finally come to store shelves.

I do believe that this is the first time other than GT5 Prologue that the GT series has had a true multiplayer aspect. There are two types of multiplayer game modes in GT5: Open Lobby where you race against the world, and Private Lounge where you can play and tool around with your buddies. With multiplayer one would expect a reason to play the multiplayer modes as GT5 has always been about the single player experience. But unfortunately even in the Open Lobby there are no experience points to be gained and no leveling of your driver. The private lounge is where, in my opinion, the best fun is to be had with GT5 multiplayer. This is where you can chat with your buddies, set up races, choose your cars, and then talk smack as you race against each other.

As seems to be the way with PlayStation games online, PSN does not make this easy. In order to play there is a somewhat complicated process you have to go thru. If you are used to how PSN operates it's not an issue, but to someone who is not, it can be a bit frustrating. The other issue I found notable is that that in order to race with customized vehicles you have earned and worked on in the single player portion of the game, you have to add them as favorites. I just do not understand why they cannot be in the multiplayer section of the game just as they are accessible in the single player portion. I hate to make the obvious comparison, but Forza III has no such issue with their online racing.

The main problem racing games have is with multiplayer modes. The biggest issue is how do you make it fun for the gamers? The only thing you can do is race cars around a track. The best experiences involve racing with your online friends, but hanging out with friends online goes for any other game out there. Overall the multiplayer part of the game feels like an add-on forced upon Polyphony Digital, and it shows. Is it bad? No it's not, but could it be much better in my opinion. One of the biggest additions that should be added: more race variations. It is my hope that we see DLC in a big way, as I think it could add to the multiplayer experience in spades.


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