Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness patched upon 'em. When it launched last November, Gran Turismo 5 was certainly marked with brilliance; a work of slavish endeavour, its dedication to recreating the automobile in many of its forms elevated the simulator to a form of art, with a poetry at the heart of Polyphony's game that its peers have failed to emulate.
This single-mindedness did more than bless Gran Turismo 5 with a certain genius, though. So studied was the studio in its craft, so obsessed with its work, that it seemed to take its eye off of the fast evolving word of driving games around it, and when it launched Gran Turismo 5 was as archaic as it was artful.
An online mode crippled by an obtuse front end, an interface that was willfully difficult and a spread of content obscured under a dense lattice of menus all suggested that Polyphony's attention was elsewhere.
But the past year has seen Polyphony turn its attention to the community, compiling feedback and slowly chipping away at its creation, fine-tuning it with iterative tweaks. Nearly twelve months after the initial release playing Gran Turismo 5 is a markedly different experience, and undeniably a better one.
Since day one the updates have been steady and constant, reaching a head with last week's Spec 2.0 release that's the most serious overhaul yet. Placing such a weighty patch up against the release of Forza Motorsport 4 was endearingly combative if a little crude, and it brazenly invites comparison between the two.
On-track it's still Gran Turismo that's the superior game - and it helps that Polyphony has recently adopted one of the world's greatest circuits in the long overdue first batch of DLC. Spa Francorchamps provides the perfect arena to highlight Gran Turismo's handling supremacy, and this famed stretch of tarmac that runs through the Ardennes has arguably never been so well adapted in a game.
The fast uphill sweep of Eau Rouge highlights how Polyphony have managed to convey a tangible sense of weight through mere code and plastic, the car's balance shifting perceptibly as you reach the kink and the tarmac sucks you in. Elsewhere, Pouhon shows how well Gran Turismo communicates the differences between cars - you'll need to show your intent a couple of hundred yards beforehand in a Lotus Elise, unbalancing the rear end with a dab of brake before sending it to the apex, while in one of the newly added race-spec GTRs sweeping left hander can be handled in the moment.
Meanwhile Les Combes and La Source show where Gran Turismo 5's real genius lies. It's in the braking zones, where cars dance and skitter with an alarming intensity, that Polyphony's work really marks itself apart from Turn 10 whose Forza 4 feels comparatively timid.
Gran Turismo 5, now as ever, demands wide-eyed attention at every turn, and in this regard it's very much the Dark Souls of driving. It's got its own Blighttown too, in the form of a drive around the Nordschleife in the dead of night, an experience that's as terrifying and as challenging as anything in From Software's game.
It's a combination that featured in the original, unpatched release of Gran Turismo 5, but now it's more openly accessible. Gran Turismo 5 was once infuriatingly coy about its offerings, hiding its variable time and weather options and limiting them in their implementation.
They're front and centre now (or at least they are on the handful of tracks they're available on), adjustable in the race menu that precedes an event. Track conditions can be set, as can the time of day and the speed with which time passes - and these simple options work together to unlock much of Gran Turismo 5's potential, allowing you to attack Le Mans under a setting sun or to burst the clouds that hang over Spa Francorhamps.
It also unlocks the diversity that's Gran Turismo's own, an aspect that's been boosted by the introduction of in-car cockpits for the game's 800 plus standard cars. Lacking the splendor of the premium cars', they're admittedly little more than a silhouette for the majority of models - though it certainly helps bridge the gulf between the standard and premium, and makes the prospect of driving some of Gran Turismo 5's curios a little more palatable.
It's a diversity that's acknowledged in the downloadable car pack. Yes, it's clogged by the inclusion of another batch of Skylines and an assortment of Japanese racers that fail to stir the heart, but in the X2011 - a slight tweak of the imagined supercar designed by Red Bull's Adrian Newey - and the trio of new karts it goes to illustrate the breadth of this automotive encyclopedia.
Those karts are bolstered by the addition of Kart Space II, an all-new indoor track that, with its excess of colour and neon, has something of Fun House about it. It's as lurid in its design as it is in its aesthetic, a pleasing collection of fast right angles perfect for clipping through and a central loop that can be taking in one long, lazy slide.
It's unfortunate, then, that neither new tracks are included in any meaningful way in Gran Turismo's A or B Spec campaigns. They're yet to be acknowledged in the Seasonal Events either, though that's certain to change shortly.
In the twelve months since Gran Tursimo 5's launch it's those Seasonal Events that have provided the incentive to return on a regular basis, with the rewards ramping up to the point where, quite recently, it was possible to become a multi-millionaire on the back of one quick race. A broken economy, yes, but one that was certainly entertaining to indulge in.
The overblown Seasonal Event rewards of recent months have now been replaced by a consecutive log-in bonus and a renewed emphasis on online races that Gran Turismo 5's multiplayer suite still struggles to support. Despite a constant trickle of updates and the slightest of overhauls, Gran Turismo 5's online racing remains deeply flawed, its convoluted Lounge system a poor replacement for half-decent matchmaking.
It's one area that makes Sony's decision to place Gran Turismo 5 toe-to-toe with Forza 4 seem particularly unwise, as put in relief to Turn 10's broad and compelling online aspects Polyphony's game feels criminally lacking - and a large number of the issues raised just after release are yet to be addressed and likely never will.
It's a rather large blot on what's otherwise been a remarkable journey for Gran Turismo 5, and one that you have to applaud Polyphony for taking. To choose between this and Forza 4 would be a fool's work; both offer takes on the genre that are now different enough to complement each other, with Forza's emphasis on Community marking it out for one audience while Gran Turismo's precision marks it out for another. If you're looking for a diversity of driving experiences, then Gran Turismo's always been the best - and now it's that little bit better too.