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Gran Turismo 5


Itís been a long six years since Gran Turismo 4 was released on the Playstation 2 (and two years since the glorified tech demo, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue was released). I do have fond memories of playing the early Gran Turismo games with my roommates on the cheap Playstation that we bought at EBGames. We were all working hard at unlocking new licenses, each of us specializing in different tracks. Racing games have come a long way since then with games like Project Gotham Racing, Forza and others clearing the way for advancements in A.I., damage models and more realistic driving experiences. I was really intrigued how Polyphony Digital was going to adapt some of these advances into GT5, especially after playing the disappointing GT5 Prologue. For the purposes of this review, I used both the dual shock controllers as well as the Logitech Driving Force GT steering wheel controller with force feedback, definitely my preferred way to handle the cars using the driverís seat view.

gran turismo 5 racing track

Regarding the gameís structure, Polyphony Digital adopted the ďif it ainít broke, donít fix it approachĒ. You will see an identical design to unlocking cars and tracks through beating track times and performing specific driving tasks in the A-spec challenges. As you progress and complete the races, you gain experience points that dictate what tracks / cars are open to you. You also earn the in-game currency and gifted cars along the way in order to gain access to higher quality automobiles. Itís the same type of career grind that you have seen in previous titles, thus trading off these tasks with a group of people in your house is often easier than playing alone. In the latter stages of the game, gaining a single level can often take 2 to 3 hours to complete.

One negative aspect to reaching the latter stages of the game is that Polyphony Digital assumes you know a great deal about tuning your car. The game does a mediocre job of explaining how each modification changes the carís performance and the convoluted menus system doesnít help either. If you donít know anything about cars, it takes lots of trial and error to figure out what to do next and is frankly somewhat intimidating to the laymen. Another problem after reaching level 20 is that damage is unlocked for the premium models. This wouldnít be a bad thing if the repair costs werenít so ridiculously high for the limited amount of visual damage on your car at the end of the race. If you bump the car a couple times during a race, your car is likely looking at 100K in damage costs (and thatís on the low end). I can understand that damage is designed for the racing simulation fanatics, but it sucks the fun out of the game more often than not.

gran turismo 5 cockpit view

Another problem with the game is that the artificial intelligence hasnít graduated into the Forza era; itís still stuck in PS2 land. The A.I. isnít competing for better positions for the majority of the race, but rather content in staying in formation while racing around the track. They also canít handle obstructions in the track either and ram right into them over and over until the obstruction is pushed out of the way. In fact, if you can tune your car correctly and get a jump on all the cars at the start of the race, it simply becomes a tour of the track rather than a competition between cars. The only challenge I saw where in the latter stages of the game when cars had to be specifically tuned to handle the rigors of the course.

If you get tired of driving yourself, thereís a mode called B-spec that allows you to direct an A.I. controlled racer around the track. Itís designed to let you earn more dough without having to contribute much to the race. You watch the driver race around the track in an over-produced movie mode and offer instructions on overtaking the opponents. The driver is actually pretty good on his own though. I setup a couple races with some decent cars, did some house chores and came back to find that I had won the race as well as earned a new car. Polyphony Digital also included some new racing modes if you get tired of Spec racing, go-karts, rally cars and even NASCAR. These are split off into special events and can be an entertaining diversion from the main game. Just be wary of the freakish version of Jeff Gordon included in the game as he may scare off pets and small children.

gran turismo 5 black car compete

The game also comes with online multiplayer racing with specific requirements to the cars in each race. Sadly, the convoluted menu system once again rears its ugly head and it becomes overly difficult to see what the requirements of the race are without joining the lobby first. However, there are no shortage of players in the game and finding a race with requirements that you can meet doesnít take long. Performance during online racing was typically good, although I had a handful of dropped connections and rubber-band racers due to poor online connections. Thereís also a high level of morons racing online, so beware of idiots racing the wrong way. Itís best to play with friends or within a community thatís serious about racing properly.

One interesting aspect thatís sure to encourage communities is the ability to gift cars to players as well as share your achievements with friends. Thereís a Facebook style wall in place for you to post blurbs about your day or photos of recent races. If you are an online trophy junkie, the game comes with plenty of them. Most of them will naturally unlock as you progress in the game. There are fairly unique ones in the mix like owning 1000 cars or finishing a race in a specific order. Reaching level 40 is likely going to be the toughest for people to achieve, especially as the grind becomes harder in the late teens.

Graphics

The attention to graphical detail on the 200 premium cars is really quite astounding. Everything from the damage models on the outside of the cars to the intricate detailing of the interiors is definitely worth seeing. Unfortunately, the remainder of the 1000+ total cars looks terrible by comparison. In fact, Iíd be surprised if they werenít directly ported from GT4 on the PS2 and given a slight face-lift. These are also the majority of the cars on the track during a typical car, thus itís always an odd mixture of PS3 quality environments and PS2 quality cars. The area surrounding the tracks looks fantastic, if not somewhat lifeless. I really wasnít a fan of the weather effects, most of which looked out of place for the typical visual level of a Playstation 3 game. However, the game runs very smoothly.

gran turismo 5 1080p shot

But itís no surprise that these gorgeous high-resolution car models and tracks take their toll on the loading times of the game. Itís highly recommended that you spend time doing the 55 minute, 8GB install before playing the game. Even with loading content from the PS3 hard drive after the pre-install, the load times are still about 20 seconds. Just for giggles, I also tried the game on another PS3 without installing the content. Itís laughable how long the game takes to load content from the disc, typically at least a minute or more for each track. However, you can speed up your load times by logging out from PSN, especially when the servers are under the heaviest loads. Sadly, this can be attributed to poor implementation of PSN implementation on the part of the developer.

Audio

It may just be me, but the auditory punch of car engines seem to be lacking in Gran Tursimo 5. Perhaps Iíve been spoiled with the visceral impact of other racing games. That being said, the cars all have customized audio based on the model. Polyphony Digital does fail completely on the musical front though. The Eastern-influenced musical choices beg to be replaced with your custom soundtrack.

Conclusion

Frankly, Iím extremely let down with the work of Polyphony Digital, specifically in how entrenched they were at not evolving the series or getting away from the nagging problems of Gran Turismo 4 like incompetent A.I. controlled cars. While all of the cars handle amazingly similar to their real-life counterparts and the cockpits in the 200 premium cars are spectacularly detailed, the lack of attention to the 800 other models is incredibly disappointing; specifically the lack of damage models, cockpit view or even higher resolution details.

Donít get me wrong, Gran Turismo 5 is everything you would expect from the series. There just hasnít been a great deal of emphasis on improving how the game actually plays, very confounding for a title thatís been in development for many years. Ultimately, fans of GT4 are going to find a great deal of value in GT5. Just donít expect to see the same advances that have been made in racing games over the last three years. On a side note, I really canít stress how much better the game becomes when you have a steering wheel for the cockpit view on the premium cars. Pick up Gran Turismo 5 if you donít mind overlooking the flaws in the series and want to relive the entertainment value found in GT4.



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