Gran Turismo 5 (Revisited) User Review
First of all, one of the things I mentioned in the original review was the main menu. and to be honest, my opinion of this part of the game has hardened as I have played the game more. I've developed software and managed projects for a living, and the menu always struck me as wrong somehow. You can put it down to personal taste, but I think it's more than that. The menu feels completely thrown together and unfinished.
Compare the GT5 menus against the slick, polished presentation of GT4 and it's career mode, or the very easy to use, and easy on the eye menu system with GT5 Prologue. GT5 looks OK, but it also looks and feels like it was thrown together in a hurry to make sure that all the key elements were presented to the user in one place. That feeling continues into the S-Spec racing events. The screens that present the race events to you are - to me - very basic. They're simple to use, which is fine, but they are just extremely basic. Again they feel and look like they were thrown together in a hurry. This is one area I hope that Polyphony addresses through an update.
I'll put all my cards on the table up front when it comes to progress in the game. I am at level 20 and have completed all the tests up to and including the International C. I have completed most of the special events for my level, and completed the Beginner, Amateur and Professional races. I've made a dent in the Expert series, and my car collection approaches 100. I have 30+ premium cars, and a variety of standard cars.
Playing the game is hardly a chore. The races are enjoyable and at the higher levels the game get's better. One of the frustrations of the lower level races was the AI. At level 20, it seems that in the appropriately leveled events the drivers are of a higher standard (AI) than in the lower level races. When you Play B-Spec your AI driver you guide starts off as a bit of a hot head who isn't very accurate, nor does he control the speed of the car well. But as his level increases he get's better. When playing A-Spec races.
I get the feeling that the AI driver level is equivalent to the level of the race, so if it's a level 16 race, that is the level of the opponents that you face. The advantage here is that unlike the level1-5 drivers who will PIT you as soon as look at you, the drivers at higher levels 15-20 (for example) do a better job of staying out of your way, though they will fight for corners and they'll even block you if you're not obviously quicker. They are far less likely to PIT you into a wall at these higher levels. they will still rub doors with you, but they're far, far less likely to pin you to a wall for 30 seconds. Which is more realistic, and shows a greater awareness by the AI.
With my extended play time with the game, I have found that the race tracks are well modeled and rendered with good detail almost everywhere. OK there are a small number of spots on some of the courses that do not appear to be as detailed as the rest. However, apart from those quite trivial spots, the game is gorgeous.
I'm still working from a DS3 controller, and the progressive sensitivity of the L2/R2 triggers is excellent for use as brake and accelerator. The thumbsticks are not ideal for steering, but they work well enough to drive smoothly, once you learn how. The driving itself is wonderful. The car moves appropriately based on drive train, engine location, speed, grip and all the other factors. The physics of driving are well done.
There are course in this game I could drive over and over - and have driven over and over. Tokyo R246 for example, is just plain fun to me. Sarthe and the Nordschleife are incredible experiences. That's the key to this game for me, the physics and modeling are so good, that it is just plain enjoyable to take the GTR out of the garage and drive some laps in these wonderful locations. It's enjoyable in almost the same way as taking a regular sporty road car out onto some roads in rural Scotland on a quiet, pleasant afternoon and just driving for hours is a great way to spend an afternoon.
I still haven't take the game online, and may not. I just don't feel the need to.
Three weeks later and my initial impressions of the game have remained the same. However the deeper you delve into what GT5 has to offer the more slight deficiencies you find. But the key thing is that they are - in general - very slight. There is however one major problem which is just impossible to downplay. The Fully Customizable Transmission isn't fully customizable.
In fact, all you can do is alter the top speed, and the gears are set automatically for you. Even though the options are very apparently available in the game, they appear to have been disabled. The game's own online manual describes the ability to change the gear ratios manually, the GT5 features page at Sony.com describes being able to customize the gear ratios as well. However, you cannot. This feature was clearly disabled at a very late stage in the game's production, so late that it was too late to remove mention of it in the game's documentation.
Now, you can still alter the top speed of the car. But, because you can no longer set up the gear box in a way that suits the course, you have to vary engine power and top speed configuration to alter the acceleration of the vehicle. So the lack of customization is annoying and inconvenient, but does not break the game. It seems likely that PD will patch the custom transmission in some future update.
Because the game still has immense depth and the number of cars is so huge, along with the HD visuals and online capability, I still think that on balance, this is the best GT game so far. All in all, the game lives up to it's name and despite the flaws, is remains 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: Continued poor online service availability and lack of leader-boards. The disabled custom transmission feature - this is an ugly one for GT fans because we've all been tuning gear ratios in the previous versions, and now we can't.
Final word: This game shows that developing a game is an art and a science. PD has the science down, they have the art down too, although the art of managing the development process appears to have failed them a little this time. There are a few ways in which the game feels like it was hastily pulled together for release. the core game play and underlying physics, controls and graphics are all top notch. However the user interface/menus appear to have been put together with haste. The inability to configure a custom transmission is also apparently related to the User interface. Too little time and resource was allocated to the User Interface, it almost feels like an afterthought. these things can be fixed, and almost certainly will be fixed, by some future update. Although annoying, these things do not really dent the enjoyment of the game itself.
If you haven't already got the game, treat yourself, it's definitely the best realistic driving/racing game on any platform this generation. Polyphony Digital has committed to supporting the game for a long time, and in fact Prologue received updates through much of it's lifetime. So we can anticipate that GT5 will be updated, and become a better game.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.