Gran Turismo 5 Review (PS3)
In December 1997, Polyphony Digital released the first entry of the GT series for the original Playstation. Since then, GT has been considered a marquee title for not only the PS1, but the PS2,and now the PS3. The lead producer of the series, Kazunori Yamauchi, is well known for his pursuit of perfection, and his direction for the fifth installment was no different. Kazunori’s attention to detail in the series and strong desire to create the Holy Grail of racing titles is both a blessing and a curse. While his motives are admirable, his aspirations have their drawbacks as GT5 was delayed multiple times. Gran Turismo 5 was in development for over five years, and in a lot of ways the extended development cycle has paid off, but the game still stops just short of the finish line.
Polyphony Digital wanted to create a true driving simulation experience, and taken as a whole, the developers have accomplished this. They have packed about as much content onto this disc as possible and given users access to over a 1,000 different cars, including the VW bus (ARGHH), and over 26 different tracks with 71 different configurations. This is almost too much to try and take in, and what it means is that users need to spend time with this title in order to truly appreciate it.
Once you head into the Career mode or offline exhibition, the game begins to shine. GT5 gives you difficulty options to choose from that are based on your perceived skill, as well as a standard set of track and race options. Once you have picked the options you want, it's time to hit the ignition switch or simply turn the car on.
The type of car and track you choose can really affect how much fun you have on the track. Choose a NASCAR COT at Daytona International Speedway, and you will hit speeds of about 230 mph (last time I checked Daytona was a restrictor plate track) and will be trading paint with the other cars around you. If you decide to go with the VW bus and choose a generic track, the fun level will dramatically decrease. This is one of areas where the developers dropped the ball. The driving experience should vary drastically depending on the car, but the fun level should not drop as badly as it does -- and it does drop dramatically in certain cases.
The AI can be also be hit or miss. It really depends on the car, track and difficulty level you choose, which should never be the case. In some cases the AI will trade paint in a racing-hard type of way, and in other cases it would rather force you off the track or into a wall then to be bothered with you. There are other situations where the AI acts as if it does not even know you're there. The AI interaction is always a very tough item to master in a game, but it seems a little too erratic in GT5. However, if you do find a happy medium of difficulty, smart AI and a fun track, the experience can be as good as any around. There are moments in this game that are just stunning, and it truly lets you appreciate all that the developers have created for us.
The actual gameplay on the track is incredibly detailed and very simulation oriented. There can be a drastic difference between how each car handles, and you will need track time and repetition to master the art of controlling all the vehicle types at a professional level. The cars react to the track in varying ways that will force you to understand a specific car's handling, power, aero package and weight. All of these factors play a huge role in real life, and GT does a wonderful job of re-creating that experience for the user.
Seeing as this is a GT title, the game includes the acquiring of licenses and playing special events. Some examples include kart driving and the Jeff Gordon school of NASCAR, A-Spec and B-Spec (take control of a stable of drivers as team manager). Social networking has also been incorporated into the game, so you can upload and show off your accomplishments on Facebook and Twitter.
The Career mode does not include many surprises, and it works much like how it has in past GT titles. In the early stages of your GT career, you will start off having to buy your first car with funds that are already at your disposal. There are plenty of cars to choose from, you just need to spend the time to figure out which one is best for you. As you participate in events (length varies on these events) you earn credits to purchase upgrades and new cars. If you win certain cups, different manufactures will also gift you a car that can be used at the appropriate time.
The Career mode is rather deep, and the further you go into it the better it gets. It really does offer the gamer a chance to drive in almost any racing genre, including Off-road, Kart, NASCAR, Touring and many more. The cars also range from late models to vintage so the experience can vary greatly -- in this case that is a very good thing.
Arcade mode is exactly what you think it would be. It gives the gamer a chance to jump into the many genres of racing available and take a car for a spin. You can setup a race, do a time trial or simply do a ghost race against your best times.
The reason this mode works so well is that it gives the gamer a chance to experience a lot of different cars, tracks and locations without having to spend an incessant amount of time acquiring licenses and unlocking cars to do so. This is a great part of the game because, let's face it, not everyone is into RPG racing or has the time to do so. The developers did a nice enough job of taking care of that by providing this mode right out of the box. If you never wanted to touch Career mode at all, you could still enjoy this title by simply taking a spin on the arcade highway.
In any game the presentation interface can really add or take away from a game's fun factor and immersion potential. GT5 does just enough to "enlighten" the situation, but its presentation style seems a bit outdated, if not antiquated. The menu system can be a bit cumbersome, and the race introductions and trophy presentations are absolutely archaic. And if I ever get a chance to talk to the person who was in charge of the music score for this game, it will not be pleasant day for said person. These days you almost expect a great soundtrack to accompany a great game, but Polyphony Digital has fallen horrifically short in this department. Some of this experience can be changed by adding your own music, but it should never ever be this bad.
As far as the graphics go, well that's a bit of a mixed bag. Depending on the car classification (premium or standard), you can get a car that is absolutely beautiful to a car that is just passable. The standard cars have no dashboard cam, and the level of detail just seems a bit on the drab side; the premium cars usually look stunning, and at times they explode with detail.
The tracks and track surroundings are another area where the developers have given us a mixed bag of goodies -- think of it like getting an apple in your Halloween bag. Certain locations like Daytona, Indianapolis, Nurburgring and Fuji can look vibrant and full of life, while other tracks like High Speed Ring, Cape Ring and Autumn Ring look like very polished PS2 tracks. With the amount of cars and tracks in the game, I would normally cut the development studio a little more slack here, but Polyphony Digital did have five years. There should be more consistency across the board here in regards to both cars and tracks.
The online portion of GT5 really is a depiction of the good, the bad and the ugly.
There is plenty of good offered online. Users can easily access any lobby, find a race with relative ease, watch a race in Spectator mode and race virtually lag free at any time. The developers have also included a private chat feature, private lobby feature and a messaging system that all help to create a very user-friendly experience.
There are no true league setups, and in this day and age that is not acceptable. If there is one thing gear-heads love to do more than collect cars, it is race those cars in a league format. Trying to find the right race for you can be a bit difficult because you have to scroll though pages and pages of lobbies to find what race may suit you the best. The developers could have easily included a true filtering system to make this part of the game a strength rather than a weakness.
There really is no true leveling-up system online, which means there really is no way to measure up against other users (except by height, of course).
Some people may be upset that a game that took over five years to develop has the shortcomings that GT5 has, but it really is a very subjective matter. If you are looking for a Forza 3 type of game, GT5 may not be your best option. If you are a car lover and love racing in general, then GT5 should sit nicely inside your garage.
There are so many options in the game that it really could have ended up as an intimidating endeavor, but the developers pulled off an experience that should not scare users away. Because of the way you level up in the game, you get a real chance to dive into almost any type of racing your heart desires. Not only are there plenty of options, but the experience that these cars give on the track are second to none. This may not be the best racing game to ever hit a console, but it does not mean it's not the best racing simulator to ever smash into your console.
Before picking this game up, make sure you educate yourself on what type of game you are actually getting. If you are expecting NFS: Hot Pursuit, then you may want to look in another direction. This game is really meant for the car enthusiast, and the person who loves cars and racing in general. You will not find a full season of WTC or NASCAR on this disc, and Polyphony Digital never set out to do such a thing. The developers simply wanted to bring the world of cars, racing and international locations to your PS3, and they have delivered that in way that no game has before.
On the Track: Great as a simulator, good as a racer.
Visuals: At times outstanding, at times just average.
Sound: Engine sounds can be lacking, and the music will underwhelm you.
Learning Curve: Accessible for all because it has many options.
Entertainment Value: There is plenty here to come back for again and again
Online: Easy to find a race and the races are usually lag free, but this area is still not incredibly deep.
Score: 8.5 (Excellent)