Reviewed: Gran Turismo 5


7 Dec 2010

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It’s been delayed for years, but finally, the long-awaited driving simulator has reached our shores. So how has it held up after such a long development time?

Start your engines …

Gran Turismo 5 is the latest edition of the acclaimed driving series. The game is more for car enthusiasts as opposed to boy racers. With more than 1,000 cars, 20 tracks, such as the Mazda raceway and the Top Gear test track, and the huge variety of modes available, it’s a game you can really sink your teeth into.

Car enthusiasts will love it, though it could be somewhat alienating for those who aren’t well up to speed (excuse the pun) in the area. So much love and energy has gone into fine tuning each individual car and creating the whole experience, that it may fly over the heads of those who aren’t the biggest of car fans.

While I certainly admire that that they were so passionate about the subject, for someone who is simply looking for a fun driving game, it could be a bit much. Nonetheless, for those who want more depth? You’ve got it here.

Visuals

The Gran Turismo series is known for the visual finesse it applies to the cars. Here? It’s … somewhat hit and miss.

Tracks in general look simply “OK”, with some coming across as quite bland. Car models are either separated into premium models or standard models. Premium cars are really where all the love went. They were painstakingly detailed and perfected and as a result, look absolutely beautiful. Watching these cars in replay mode is almost as good as driving them.

However, standard models are … not so impressive. Some seem a bit basic, with rough textures and rough corners. It’s quite a pity that the same level of detail didn’t go into every model, but when the game looks good, it looks amazing.

Normally, I don’t really focus too much on a game’s menu system, but I found this one was worth mentioning. While on the surface it looks classy and visually appealing, using it can be a bit of a chore.

There are so many options to drill into and some annoying design flaws. This could be a result of the long development time, where the menu system became outdated since it was developed. It’s not a huge hang up, but in GT Mode, you do spend a lot of time trawling through menus, and it would’ve been nice if they were a bit more user friendly.

Controls

The sheer volume of cars available in the game is astonishing – from classic cars to power-hungry machines to small compact vehicles which cover numerous car brands, such as Ferrari, Nissan, Lamborghini and Ford.

And the difference in vehicles isn’t just aesthetic – each individual car handles differently and has its own feel to driving it. And that’s not mentioning the impact that the terrain of the track will have on the race. It’s this kind of focus on the physics which really adds to the game’s pedigree as a “driving simulation.”

You really need to get a feel for each vehicle’s strengths and weaknesses, especially when racing. Knowing whether a vehicle is speedy but unwieldy around corners, or not too fast but handles well will work to your advantage. Though it also depends on how you tune up your car, as well.

As it’s aiming towards realism, a lot of care is needed in controlling the car. Braking to turn can be awkward, similarly to driving an actual car. The focus here is more for the car enthusiast than the speed freak looking for quick thrills.

I played it with a Dualshock controller, which worked well, but I’d imagine a steering wheel controller would be fantastic for it, for anyone who really wants to splash out.

I wasn’t too impressed with the AI, however. I found that, when racing, all of my opponents seemed to drive almost in a neat little line behind each other. So rather than treating each car as a potential opponent, I found myself aiming at over taking clumps of cars. This AI could’ve been improved to give a better sense of competition.

Modes

Along with the huge variety of cars, there are also several different modes to try them on. GT Mode is basically career mode and there’s a whole host of ways to play through here.

A-Spec is how you run through your career as a race-car driver. You start from beginner’s mode and work your way up through the ranks. It really feels like a racing RPG – you can buy new or used cars, kit them out in your garage and you can even level up in order to qualify for other races.

This is probably the main mode you’ll be playing through here and it has a great level of variety and depth that will keep you going.

B-Spec puts you in the position as a manager of a driving team, where you give out orders to your AI-controlled racing team in order to win races. You manage their stamina, instruct them and as they race more, they improve. This mode is more for enthusiasts who like to focus on the strategy side of racing.

GT Mode also has special events and driving lessons, though if you wish, you could probably avoid the lessons. The game includes arcade modes for quick racing without the career, time trial to challenge yourself and drift trial, which awards points for players who make controlled slides.

There’s really a huge amount in this game, and if you can devote the time to it, you can get a lot out of it.

Online

Online mode on Gran Turismo 5 seems a little outdated. Perhaps it’s an effect of suffering from such long delays. There is no way of matching players to those at a similar level. In fact, entering a race is like entering a chat room, a somewhat random encounter. There is also no leaderboard, which is a pity. Considering its audience, you would expect that it would have that functionality to allow players to show off their skills.

Of course, it’s still early days and developers Polyphony Digital promises that these features will be implemented. From what I can tell, they seem to really want to focus on developing the online community for the gamer, so I hope they succeed at this, as a game with such a niche could support this quite well.

Overall

Gran Turismo 5 is, in many ways, an amazing game. The depth that has been put into its psychics and modes is astounding and it will keep car fans coming back for more.

However, in other ways, it could be a lot better. I can’t help but feel that the time devoted into development hindered it rather than helped it, as many of its flaws are due to outdated design as opposed to carelessness.

That said, anyone who has a passion for cars will feel right at home here and will take a lot from this highly anticipated title.

Gran Turismo 5 is available on the PlayStation 3 in three editions – Standard Edition is €59.99, Collectors’ Edition is €69.99 and Signature Edition is €179.99.