Gran Turismo 5 User Review
Where I come from, this is the first title ever to have a midnight launch, and I was there to lap up the Collector’s Edition. As I was driving back home impatiently with the game, I remember wondering what the game would think of my driving skills! Such is the craze this series has inspired amongst its fans. So does Polyphony Digital’s latest effort, Gran Turismo 5, live up the all of this hype and anticipation?
Eager to find out the answer, I popped the disc in to my PS3, and opted for the initial install. As the game installed itself on the hard drive, I drooled over the additional contents that came with the package. 50 minutes later, I was witnessing a brilliant opening cinematic with a foolish grin across my face! I dived straight into GT Mode, the main “career” path of the game. After setting up a few initial preferences such as driver appearance and menu setup, I was taken to the main GT Mode screen. I know that this layout has received strangely contrasting reviews from people; they have either loved it or hated it, and I fall in the prior category. The entire layout presents everything you need – license tests, multiple racing modes, car dealerships, tuning options, garage, preferences, online component and much more – in a slick manner. Once you navigate through the menus to get into an event, the load times are definitely longer than one would have hoped for, particularly after the initial install. However, once an event is loaded, things are butterly smooth.
For those who are new to the series, you would traditionally start by going through a few license tests before earning the right to participate in events. This time, however, the license tests have been made optional (but highly recommended, especially if you have never play a Gran Tursimo game before). For the main racing events, the game offers you A-spec and B-spec modes to begin with. A-spec holds the traditional races where you are in the driver’s seat, where as B-spec allows you to be a manager of a racing team, guiding your driver through a race. As you progress through the game, a few additional modes open up, the most popular of which are kart racing and NASCAR. As you would expect, A-spec is where the meat of the game is at. You are given a certain amount of credits (in-game currency) to begin with, which you can use to buy yourself a decent ride that will see you through the first few races. As you win races, your rank goes up and you unlock more advanced races. You also acquire more credits, which in turn allow you to either customize various things under the hood of your car to make it better, or to buy new ones. It’s a simple, zero non-sense approach that works fantastically well.
If you have played a Gran Turismo game before, you will find yourself right at home with how the cars handle. Vehicles with different drivetrains will have visibly different handling characteristics, but with one common thing binding them all – realism. The implementation of car physics is incredibly lifelike, and you will feel a very obvious difference as soon as you modify anything under the hood. Even a simple oil-change will have an effect that you can very distinctly make out as you drive. However, oil-change is the most basic customization you can make. The game offers a staggering range of tuning options. One of the only complains I had about the previous iterations of the game was that these options were too overwhelming for the uninitiated. This time, however, the developers have done a fantastic job of making it accessible to one and all, while still retaining the advanced options for serious tweaking enthusiasts. One omission that I did notice was tuning the braking system. I am not entirely sure behind the reason for leaving it out, and wonder if it can be added with a future patch.
If you need a break from the serious tweaking and racing around, the game offers you an abundance of “special” modes to play around with. These include the above-mentioned B-spec, which is a welcome addition to the game, but needs more fleshing out, a freakishly realistic kart racing experience, getting into NASCAR under Jeff Gordon’s guidance, racing on Top Gear’s test track and more. These modes offer a welcome change of pace from the A-spec events, and give an additional bang for your buck.
Making its debut in the series with this instalment is the online racing component. Admittedly, I am not a big fan of online multiplayer games, but I can tell you this – racing against actual human opponents in 16-player races does add a whole lot more to the GT experience than I had originally thought. In a way, this is also a grim reflection on the AI in the single player component, which, for most part, lacks awareness to what is happening around them. Very rarely does the opponent AI anticipate my tactics and counter it, which is why the online multiplayer adds a completely new dimension to the game. To go along with the races, all the usual online features such as chatting, messaging and lounging are present. It is a well documented fact by now that the online servers struggled to keep up as the game made its way into people’s hands. However, Polyphony Digital has just issued a patch to increase server capacity, and things did seem a whole lot snappier after I installed it.
Visually, this is one of the best experiences on the PlayStation 3. The frame rate is consistently top notch, and there is hardly any screen tearing at all. Most cars have been crafted with a stunning level of visual detail. One of the things that was talked about a lot pre-release was the cabin view for some 200 “premium” cars. Get inside the cabin of one of those premium models, and you will instantly know what the hype of was all about. These vehicles look absolutely brilliant, and the attention to detail is impeccable. Simply put, this is the next best thing to being inside the car in real life. The non-premium, standard vehicles also sport great exterior details for the most part, except a few jaggies here and there. The racing tracks have received the same amount of masterful visual treatment, and the weather effects elevate them to a completely new echelon. A great deal was also made about the crash effects being added to the series for the first time, which unfortunately don’t quite live up to its hype. Yes, you will notice a few dents and scratches after a burst of rash driving, but they are not necessarily consistent or realistic. I also did notice a few poor textures sporadically, especially with some of the shadows. However, none of these are really jarring to the eye and probably not even noticeable once you start your ride and take off. The only times you actually will notice them are either when you are revving your machine before the race begins, or during replays – none of which interrupt the gameplay in any way.
The sound of the game is on a familiar high level. The engine rumbles sound incredibly lifelike, and you can literally "hear" an error of judgment in driving. The in-game music has a nice variety to it, and you can even customize it this time, which is a new addition to the series. The game hardly uses any human voiceover, and for the modes that do use them, the implementation is perfect.
So the answer to the question we all had in our minds – of whether this game lives up to the hype and expectation – is a resounding YES, and then some more! It is obvious that the game was created with a whole lot of affection for cars, and the overall quality of the game is top-notch. If you like racing simulators, this is the best title on the shelves today. If you are a hardcore car enthusiast yourself and love motorsports, your most insane wet-dream has come true!
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.