Gran Turismo 5 (first impressions) User Review
I'll start where the game does - the install. The installation takes between 25 and 60 minutes. When you first start the game there is also a 133MB update for it to download, so do set aside sufficient time for this process. You can play without installing, but you'll appreciate the benefits of the install immediately if you do it.
My first impressions are that I do not really like the menu structure. GT4 implemented a more stylized menu based around a map, and I think that worked better than what we have here. There is no order to it, the various options are in different sized 'buttons' or clickable areas on the screen. Your garage on the other hand is available from a round car symbol to the left. The menu does it's job, and it is understandable, it's just not very nice to look at. If I had to guess I'd say that someone was trying to make the menu echo the style of the multiple split screen elements in the intro movie. I wish that they hadn't.
The game is Gran Turismo through and through though. All the usual elements are here. New car dealer, used car dealer, tuning, car maintenance, license tests, A-spec events, B-Spec events and now special events. The main menu structure is actually a bar that runs down the left side of the screen where you can access some settings and change which screen you are looking at. You can also select your garage here. This look and feel is maintained within the garage display with the menu bar on the left. Your garage is split into premium an standard cars (more on this later). As usual you can sort by various things and choose which car you want to use.
I completed the National B license before running through the beginner events. Having got gold in all the race events I did the National A license and am working through the amateur races now. My garage is expanding and all of the things I love about GT5 are here. The tracks are beautiful. The cars are beautiful. You can tune the living crap out of them, change the tires, ad a spoiler or two and even repaint the car before taking her back onto the track.
In play this game is a dream to drive. with two exceptions I have noted so far. The first is the tendency of the AI drivers to clip the rear end of your car and 'stick' there killing your speed. Now the thing is, that this hurts the other driver as much as it hurts you. I've gone from first to second last thanks to an AI driver who simply would not back off. Granted I shut the door on him a little early, but once contact is made there is no attempt to break off.
The second thing I have noted is that it's possible to get the car to do some odd things, which I don't think it should be able to do. I took a tuned up Civic to the Top gear track and was playing with emergency/handbrake turns - why not? It's fun. I found that if I got the wheels spinning enough when I was going backwards, that once the car was in a skid, it would move counter to your expectations. Plant the accelerator and put full left lock and instead of the car flipping around to the right, it would move left. Now, I know the car was in reverse, and at lower speeds with the wheels not just spinning, the car behaves as it should. I'm not sure why it responds this way, but it does.
However, aside from occasionally annoying AI, the driving is excellent. The cars have the proper sense of weight, they move as you would expect. Put a set of hard sports tires on a high powered rear wheel drive car that revs freely and learn to skate - because your car will slide around the course and be a handful. As you put stickier rubber on the wheels and add some downforce with a wing, things improve. A suspension upgrade helps too.
All in all the car physics look and feel right. I had a 300HP Lexus coupe flying around a circuit on racing tires and it held the road nicely, hitting a high curb on a high speed corner pitched the car up on two wheels momentarily and the loss of grip was immediate, then once the car came back down you were fighting to control the skid.
Rear wheel drive and front wheel drive all feel right. I've driven both in real life, and have experienced what happens when the car looses it's grip on the road in both. The behavior in GT5 is (as far as I can tell) accurate to that real life experience.
The controls are responsive. I don't use a wheel (yes, I know, scandalous isn't it?), and the controls are responsive and delicate enough for decent steering and throttle control.
I mentioned the difference between standard and premium cars earlier, and I know a lot has been said online about this. In truth, although it's a little disappointing not to be able to change the wheel rims on a standard car, or flip to a dashboard view, this hasn't been a problem for me. If you really must have that in-car dash view, you will have to stick to the premium cars - of which there are more than 200. However, if you use the bumper-cam, or the windshield-cam, or even the third person driving views, you will not really see an issue here. The standard models are a bit less detailed than the premium ones, this is particularly evident around the wheel arches. During a race though, you don't notice this cosmetic difference, and in photo mode all the cars are gorgeous.
I believe that some have suggested that the GT tracks are too boring and sparse. Well, I have to say that they are presented cleanly, but I did an interesting experiment on the way home from work. We had clear skies today and with the strong sunlight the roads (which were pretty empty thanks to it being the day after Turkey Day) actually looked not unlike those in GT5. They were wide, and clean and clear. In my personal opinion, such criticism is completely unjustified and wrong. The tracks look very real, and the trouble with looking very real is that very real can look quite drab next to augmented real. So comparing GT5 to any other racer is going to leave you thinking it looks a little sterile - because it looks real.
OK, this has been a long first impression. I will try to add to it later once I have got more into the game. I might even try online and the course creation by then.
All in all, the game lives up to it's name and despite a few small flaws, is most certainly the best GT you can buy.
Good: features are limitless, so many cars and courses, 1080p, sound is great, physics are great, controls are superb. Drives like real.
Bad: Stupid AI that rear-ends you and doesn't have the good sense to back off. A few jaggies on the standard models, lack of interior view on the standard cars.
Ugly: The failure of the online portion of the game is a very ugly event. I can't in all conscience include this as a factor in the scoring of the game itself, but the online fiasco is something that should not have happened. Annoying menu that you do get used to - but...
definitely buy it -if you like a realistic racer, and are not after crashes and action like you find in an arcade racer.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.