REVIEW: Gran Turismo 5
The most anticipated PS3 Title has finally arrived after six years in development with countless delays that make the game release feel like a miracle. Staying true to the real driving experience they claim in their title, Gran Turismo 5 provides the most realistic driving experience in video games to date. But with that much time in development, the longer it takes to make doesn’t mean a perfect racing game. Gran Turismo 5 is actually here but was it worth the wait?
Gran Turismo 5 Developer: Polyphony Digital Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Platform: Playstation 3 Rating: ESRB: E, PEGI: 3
I’ve invested maybe around 24 in-game hours going through each mode that Gran Turismo 5 has to offer and it’s quite a package. After the 40 – 60 minute installation you’re all set to finally enjoy GT 5. There are four modes to pick from, GT life, Arcade Mode, Course Maker and Gran Turismo TV.
Arcade mode is pretty much your standard quick race if you want to do some 2 player spilt screen races. If you played the PSP Gran Turismo, you can import your cars and use them in Arcade Mode only. Only in Arcade mode? Well better than nothing if you ask me. Course maker is hardly a course maker, choosing tracks already in the game and just changing the number of corners in the track. It’s quite dull and you can share your creations to the GT community if you like. Gran Turismo TV is where you can watch real Gran Turismo Races and other features for free, well free for now.
GT life is pretty much your career in the game. You’re given starting money, enough to buy your first car in the used car shop. From there your GT experience starts. There are two main modes to choose from in GT life. A - Spec mode which is you on the wheel and B – Spec mode which is you as the race manager. To progress you must level up. Yea I was weirded out at first when I realized that I must level up in a racing sim. You level up your driving level in A –Spec and B – Spec separately. When you complete a race, and depending on how well you did, you are rewarded with experience points to whatever Spec mode you are currently doing and money.
These two modes are the main focus in GT life. A- Spec mode that makes you participate in various races. We all know how this works. It’s pretty much the racing part in Gran Turismo 5. B spec puts you in the shoes of a race manager. You manage drivers that do the race and you guide your racer by barking orders at them. Have no idea why B – Spec was a good idea to bring back. It isn’t that engaging, especially at the early races. You create your driver in B – Spec and customization is dull. There is a button to press to randomize their stats, other buttons for their name and looks which will also be randomized. And that’s it! Your first driver is born. Each race you complete in B – Spec not only level up your B – Spec rank and give money but the driver class of your driver as well. Going up in driver class improves their stats…..again randomly. They become experienced and sooner or later your driver won’t be an idiot on the road.
When you enter one of these main modes you have 5 series’ to excel on. You start in the beginner series with basic races to get you familiar with racing. As you level, the other series’ gets unlocked if you meet the required level. A – Spec and B – Spec series’ are the same, the only difference that I noticed is the duration of each race. B – spec mode races are longer than A – Spec races which is a bit weird. It’s frustrating watching the race for a longer duration. Yes I’m obviously not a fan of B – Spec as you can tell, I’m level 10 in B – Spec and I’m still hoping it grows on me. As you level you get to manage more drivers. At level 10 I have 3 racers to pick from. I’m sure some GT fans love this mode but I’m surely not one of them.
Putting A – Spec and B – Spec aside, Gran Turismo 5 has special Events. Best addition in the game! This is where all the Nascar, Go- kart, Rally, and race challenges are placed. Each special Event needs to be unlocked but it doesn’t take long to have access to all of them. It’s pretty lengthy having races placed in 3 categories based on difficulty. It gives great variety in gameplay giving different kinds of racing. After numerous A spec races, its fun stuff taking a break from those long races and enjoy yourself in Go Kart racing or challenge your racing skill in rally challenges.
Gran Turismo wouldn’t be “Gran Turismo” without the tuning of your cars. Everything that you know in the tuning part is back and doesn’t seem to have that much change in it. In the GT life menu there is a tuning shop to tune your current car selected. It’s pretty self-explanatory what happens inside the tuning shop. You increase your current cars Horsepower, reduce the car's weight for better mobility, and purchase tires for specific races. Regards to the transmission and suspension of cars, there are two preset to buy to improve performance but what’s best is you can buy a fully customizable transmission and suspension. With these that are quite costly for early racers is where the tuning fun starts. What I enjoy most in Gran Turismo 5 is that I can feel the difference of each car and how it handles and I can also feel the changes made to any part under the hood. Changing the transmission depending on what race to either suffer in max speed or excel in acceleration makes a difference in races and keeps things interesting. You can’t get any deeper in racing than this.
There is a maintenance shop that well….where you can maintain your cars. You can do engine overhauls and such here, paint change, rim change and add aerodynamic parts into your car. You can even convert certain cars into a race car but I’m still currently looking for the right car that can use this feature.
GT life has three kinds of shops to purchase your dream cars. That 1000+ cars Polyphony claims are all there but is divided in two categories. Premium cars are the well detailed cars with interior views while standard cars are the less detailed with no interior views. Some standard cars even look like a cut out from Gran Turismo 4, Very sad indeed. The Dealership is where from my experience houses all the premium cars in the game. They have so many car dealers in this shop it’s quite impressive. Some car dealers I don’t even know. The used cars shop is where all the standard cars are placed. Funny how the not so detailed cars are placed as used cars. So far when I check the used cars each race, it’s always different with a lot of cars to choose from and it always seems to have just standard cars. It’s good to check this place out once in a while since you need specific cars for certain races in GT life. The last one was added this December. Online dealership shop that house specific cars that are hard to find in the other two shops.
If you feel like you want to just admire your premium cars, well you can in photo travel. Photo travel is where you can go all out and just take pictures of your precious cars in gorgeous areas to brag and share to your friends. Never thought I’d enjoy it but with how well they detailed these premium cars, I too was just amazed and was enjoying the detail. After taking pictures, they are placed on the photo album in the GT life menu. The pictures taken can be placed exported out of GT5 and into your PS3 and from there you can grab those pictures and put them on the net to brag about your virtual car.
What I honestly prefer and enjoy aside from the photo travel is the ability to take pictures on your after race replays. Capturing these well detailed cars in action provides a better use to the Photo capture feature and gets quite inspiring getting that great shot during a race.
Gran Turismo now has online racing, which is more fun than following that imaginary line the AI follows during a race. With this being a true driving simulator, having real drivers on the road makes the experience more satisfying. The online so far seem very simple by joining either an open lobby in the GT life menu screen or join a friends lounge where other friends can join in. in the lobby, the host has a series of options to set the race up.
The host may change courses, decide how realistic the race will be(for example removing or adding the driving line), mechanical damage(updated two weeks after game release, giving childish crashes a penalty), car restrictions, horse power limitations, which tires, pretty much everything really. By giving a horse power limitation to for example 400 and below gives the race an equal footing and will show the winner won by skill rather than having a stronger car.
The online part of GT feels young but does the job for now. On online races, fuel and wheel durability becomes a factor which for those long online races makes you think when to go for a pit stop. Mechanical Damage, fuel and Wheel durability is all present in Online mode but in GT life I am set to experience it but I’m expecting these on the later levels.
Gameplay, Graphics and Sounds
Gran Turismo has always been about two things. Realistic Gameplay and stunning graphics. And by those you’d think they would focus mainly on those two things. The driving gameplay in Gran Turismo 5 has no comparison and is easily the best realistic driving simulator out there. Its fun, it’s realistic and the only problem I have with the gameplay is the horrible AI that seems to be just like the AI on the first Gran Turismo, following that invisible line.
Car damage is finally present in this game and is nothing great. Well for one, in Gran Turismo, it isn’t about the crashing but people do have a point that your car feels like a tank when hitting a wall at 180 with minimum damage. When heading to a wall at the same speed in Gran Turismo 5, damage will be present when you hit the wall but the damage is nothing bad really. It looks like a deformation of the car model than car damage really. The cars when you crash still feel like a tank and only specific cars like rally cars have devastating car damages when they crash. For me, I never really had a problem with Gran Turismo not having a realistic crash because it’s all about how the driving in the game feels for me. Again, this is a Gran Tursimo, not Need for speed.
Mechanical damage I haven’t seen in GT life but it was instantly added in online through a patch to avoid people from driving like kids on the road making them race properly. When you crash with mechanical damage, your engine and wheels gets messed depending on how you crashed, ruining car speed and handling forcing a pit stop. They should have implemented this in GT life because I still have the bad habit at times to use AI cars to take those tight corners by crashing in them for fun.
The graphics in the other hand, yes it’s stunning and looks like the real thing at times but I can describe Gran Turismo 5’s in one word. Inconsistency…. Like I said earlier, that 1000+ cars Polyphony has added into the game was divided into two categories, Premium and Standard. The difference in detail compared to a standard car from a Premium is staggering. Each Premium car was highly detailed from inside and out and is almost close to the real thing while standard really looks like they cut and paste some standard cars from Gran Turismo 4 and placed in in Gran Turismo 5 but in HD. Some standard cars have pixilation in some edges of the car design which just irritates me at times when seeing it. You can tell some of them have a lower polygon count than the rest. Each standard car from what I noticed too is that its windows are so tinted you can’t see the interior unlike the premium cars. It’s hard to appreciate Gran Turismo 5’s stunning visuals when once in awhile you see a car with horrible detail in the race or in the shop.
Graphics on the tracks are the same but are hardly noticeable compared to the standard cars. Some Tracks seem less detailed with the jagged tree detail and weird looking people watching the race. But for me it really isn’t a problem because I only notice bad detail on some tracks. Most of the tracks can be quite stunning and the weather changes are great and frustrating to race through.
When you drive you need that perfect music to keep your pumped and concentrated for those tight corners. Gran Turismo 5 has a wide variety of music in the game, half being dull and boring and the other perfect for the game. If a certain song just doesn’t do well in the game for you, GT 5 gives you the option to disable that horrible dull jazz music in the menu screen or simply take out all the GT 5 music out the window. You may use your own music stored in your PS3 which is a neat feature. On day one launch you had the option to use your own music during races but with a recent patch it is not possible for both during the menu screens and races.
Gran Turismo 5 is a great Racing game in its own right but has those issues that are unforgiving because of such a long development time. For any PS3 owner, this game should be an instant buy. For the people who love racing and don’t have a PS3, get one and get this game. I’ve been playing it for quite a while now and Polyphony Digital has graced us with a lot of patches improving the game further by adding online experience, seasonal events and mechanical damage and more. With these patch changes; it gives the impression that Gran Turismo 5 that was six years in development is still unfinished.