Gran Turismo 5 Reader Review
I had always thought that the Gran Turismo series would make fantastic release titles for the Playstation consoles. The previous iteration of Gran Turismo on the PS2 was brilliant, it made promises of realistic physics and car control along with jaw-dropping visuals.
Those promises were all delivered, yet I couldn't help but think that with such high standards, it would be a joy to nit-pick all the faults in it. Faults such as the rear view mirror not displaying nearly as much detail as what I could see in front of me, which at the time I knew was incredibly petty. With the announcement of Gran Turismo 5, five years ago, there came promises of more cars, more graphical fidelity, more attention paid to car physics and more overall content. Again it appears that Polyphony Digital have been faithful to their promises and have delivered both Gran Turismo 5's strongest and weakest trait. It's more of the same.
Gran Turismo 5 was super late to being a launch title however it has spurred many on to buy PS3s and with good reason. I simply do not believe there is a finer pedigree of racing simulators out there. Forza definitely gives it a good run for it's money, especially given that 2 have been released in the time it took to make one more Gran Turismo. However Forza just doesn't look this good, it doesn't feel this realistic and it certainly doesn't captivate the love of driving as well as Gran Turismo.
That love of driving boils down to just one thing: . Whether it's a time trial or competitive race, you just have to beat everyone else. You need that gold trophy, the fastest lap times, the knowledge that at the end of the race you're number 1 and no one can take that from you. There is no greater feeling and for that, you'll push the limits of braking, acceleration and traction to its limits till they and yourself weep.
The issue is that these limits don't handle well when they're broken. A simple mistake at any corner or any overtake can cost you precious tenths of a second that take you away from that number 1 spot. But if you don't attempt to get those slivers of time you're just conceeding them. This is the curse that plagues us all as competitors and the biggest competitors here are Polyphony Digital, because they did not want to get beaten when they made this game.
The game looks fantastic. The French Riviera at the Cote d Azur looks stunning, the track is sharp and the cars of my opponents I must concede to them look luscious indeed. In my mind I somehow think that investing for a car wash just isn't a complete waste of money, . The car in front of me IS a Toyota, the body and glass reflects the world around it perfectly including the buildings which distort perfectly into the curves of the car, most notably around the wheel arches. The opacity of the rear window is just perfect.
I truly believe that if I look close enough I could probably make out the detail within the car. Even the rear view lights have been paid attention to and are modelled to perfection to the point that when I look at them I can count the number of bulbs in each brake light. I can even see my own car in the wing mirrors and I do wonder whether it's another universe in that mirror where everything looks as perfect as it does in this one. On top of all that, the same level of detail can be found on the other 11 cars on the track, including my own and the game doesn't stutter one bit.
Less attention has been paid to the environment though. The smoke that comes off braking tires and dirt and grass that kicks up when skimming the track edges looks great however the world outside the track is a world of graphical poverty when compared to the rest of this rich and vibrant game. Some buildings appear unforgivingly 2D, as if they're props in an old western. A painted board held up by wooden planks. If my car was capable of crashing straight through the track wall. I would expect it to punch a hole right through the building into some film set.
It's not all bad however as some maps have definitely been built more equal than others. The London track for instance has paid incredible attention to every vendor on the premises of Shaftsbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road, often I've crashed a car when trying to recite how accurate the city is compared to the one just outside my window (I do live a short walk away from Charing Cross Road and no I'm not The Queen)
The stars of this game are undoubtedly the cars themselves however they are slaves to the limits of the digital technology that fabricates them, on occasion there will be an atrocious level of blockiness when the game's anti-aliasing can't truly handle everything that's asked of it. This issue is most evident when in first person as the edges of the dials struggle to remain aligned and smooth.
Not all cars in the game will have this problem however as only premium cars are able to have first person view. The fact I can't play from the seat of every car isn't all that restrictive as I find personally that the road view the most comfortable as will the majority of other users out there. These petty graphical faults should not dissuade you from thinking you're in racing simulation heaven. The menus do that.
The single greatest aspect of sequels that I enjoy above anything else is that I expect it to be a refined version of a previous iteration. In many sequels recently such as Mass Effect 2, Halo:Reach and Assassins Creed Brotherhood developers learnt from their mistakes and delivered a friendlier experience to the gamer. They have time to absorb the fan feedback and filter out between the gripes of a loud minority to a universal problem that's holding the game back and then get to work. Streamlining the menu system should have been one of Polyphony Digital's top priorities.
To get to a race I have to press X about 7 or 8 times and that I don't mind . What I do mind is having to see the [GT] wait screen of those times! Never have I held so much animosity towards a logo yet still enjoy the actual brand behind it. The experience is akin to having to go through security checks at the airport. Regardless of how good the flight actually is, if anyone ever asks me about the overall flight experience, I'd give them a heads up about the numerous airport checks first. If someone asked me to reminisce about my experience with Gran Turismo 5, I'd deliver a sigh and tell them about that [GT] logo and the endless hours of my life spent aging while staring at it.
Now, there's only one thing I hate more than the [GT] logo. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? That's right, the game has pop-ups! I get notified every single time I'm rewarded a new track/a new car/a new challenge to the point where I don't care. If Facebook or Twitter tried to pull that on me, to make me acknowledge that I had received every single notification and not allowing me to continue on till I did. I'd start enacting my zombie plan and board up my home because people would riot!
Not only do I have to deal with the pop-ups but every time I get rewarded a new car I have to go into the car delivery menu and acknowledge them (again) that I have received them and to place them in my garage in what seems to be a completely arbritary exercise. The game then has the audacity to tell me on the garage list that this car is "NEW". As if the previous 3 menu's I had to navigate to receive the car wasn't indication enough. Unwise PD, unwise indeed.
Besides the unending load screens and pop-ups, everything is there that you expect to be there. In GT mode you have your A-spec races where you compete in various championships and then you have special challenges where you're taught how to drive in Nascar, Karting and around the Top Gear test track which has some hilarious and sometimes torturous challenges. You have your various licenses, the garage, the new and used car dealerships etc. There are no big surprises to be found here, instead Gran Turismo is brimming at the seams with content making this game not just a game but a treasure trove of petrolhead goodness.
The Course Maker in Gran Turismo 5 is a great addition to the series. Unfortunately the level of complexity is not what you expect as you can't draw your track layout or control the gradients of the turns. So making a torture roller coaster track would be out of the question. Instead you're given 7 template environments which will control all the environmental controls such as hilliness, climate and track style (between tarmac and rally etc). The customisation comes in when you decide the overall length of the track by the number of sections and provide a section complexity, road width and corner sharpness for each section. This allows you a whole jigsaw of pieces that you can mix and match to tailor make your own course however ultimately, you can't make your own pieces.
B-Spec makes a return where you assume the control of race director, making strategic decisions as you command a driver who competes in the circuit for you. I find this part of GT quite casual in comparison to the rest of the game and it offers just enough of something else to justify it in the game. When I play B-spec I do enjoy it and can take time to relax a bit however I am still aware this is not the meat of the game. The rest of GT includes arcade mode where you can also play 2P split-screen as well as the photo mode where you can take photos of your car in action in all of it's HD glory and then upload them to the internet.
Speaking of which, the online multiplayer facet of GT is incorporated as part of GT Mode. The system is overwhelming at first however a bit of trial and error gets you where you need to go. This is the most evident incarnation of GT's overall menu system problem in that it all lacks solid direction (and no pop-ups are not the solution). It is entirely possible and as a matter of fact, very likely to end up in a race you can not possibly win as your opponent is in a monstrous 1000BHP Bugatti Veyron while you may still be in whichever car you beat the "Hot Hatch Challenge" in the beginner series. For me that was an Aston Martin DB7 Coupe. For a game with so many menu's you would expect there to be a rigorous category system. Many of the championships can be beaten by finding the right car for the job, as opposed to yourself being the right driver.
Hopefully Polyphony Digital will patch this issue of David vs Goliath on steroids in the future. PD have mentioned that they intend to have regular meaningful updates to GT5 and they've come true on their promises thus far which makes me quite excited to what else they could add!
A great addition to GT5 is Gran Turismo TV. It's a part of the game where you can satisfy your car lust with a whole catalogue of movies just about car culture. Most videos currently at time of this review is free however there are some items on GTTV which do cost which is linked in with the playstation store. For those with Xbox 360s, this section of Gran Turismo is a lot a kin to Halo Waypoint however instead of a focus on one franchise, the focus is on car culture as a whole.
No DJ Atomika, move on.
It doesn't. Nothing really will. Lexus are giving it a good shot with their new super huge driving simulator. But to think that GT5 will recreate driving in your living room is a bit overzealous however it will give you the best simulation there is. As discussed in the preface to this review, the game really draws you in. As you begin you'll learn about the balance of acceleration, turning, traction and braking and how you can only do so much with a car. Then as time and experince go on, you'll refine the balance better and better to the point where you start to respect the track when it rises and falls so you know whether you have enough downforce to pull off a maneuver. It feels fantastic.
I've read many complaints about the dualshock controller being inadequate, frankly I don't believe it's true myself. The default control has gear up and gear down as the R2 and L2 respectively with acceleration and decleration being controlled by the right thumbstick. I immediately thought to hell with that and switched it round so that L2 was brake and R2 was accelerate with flick up and flick down on the thumbstick as gear up and down. It feels fantastic. I love balancing between the triggers and using my thumb to effortlessly change gears.
I do believe though that those with the vaunted steering wheel and pedal setup may have an advantage. I can imagine it being several fold more precise and many of the mistakes that I made with the controller would have been easily avoidable with the wheel. Too many reviews I read however have stated that "there is no other way to play the game" than with a wheel and pedal setup. I think they're over looking the game aspect of GT5 and too much into the driving simulation part. As a game it is perfectly enjoyable with the controller. I myself am not a console gaming legend as I'm sure many out there are so perhaps it is simply my thumb dexterity which is preventing me from getting that elusive Nurburgring gold lap time.
The AI has much to be desired too. Frequently on the narrow road circuits I'm vying for position yet the AI insists that it must strictly follow the driving line set out by the developers without regard for the 450BHP+ supercars that either of us are driving. I'll try to take the inside corner, something the game taught me how to do in a licence challenge, but the AI will just swing in as if I'm not there and perform what would have been an amazingly well executed PIT maneuver if caught on a high speed chase program. The AI has no regard whatsoever to the damage it could cause to either car.
Likely because there is none. Well when I say none I mean more a negligible amount. There is a difference you see. None would mean that all the bodies are rigid and invulnerable to crashes that would typically disintegrate a meak and fragile real world car. Negligible means that there will be a token amount of crumpling to the body, however performance remains near identical to how it was before. There is no significance in taking damage, this does alter my play style a bit and makes me utterly reckless so that sometimes to get a faster lap time I will simply refuse to brake and go full pelt into the car in front transferring momentum much like a Newton's cradle causing my car to have near perfect speed entering a corner while causing the car in front to shoot off into a tire wall. Michael Schumacher would've been proud.
Omitting the previous example I don't think it impacts (pun intended) gameplay all too much. 9/10 times a collision that strong will ruin a lap time or cost valuable positions in a race causing you to execute the trusty pause, right, X, X maneuver (Restart Race).  This is of course a lot different to the alternative path you would take if there was realistic damage and your car was ruined (pause, right, X, X).
Gran Turismo 5 truly stands alone at the top of the driving simulation mountain. Everything asked of a good driving game is delivered and more in Polyphony Digital's latest masterpiece. There are over a thousand cars for the petrolhead inside of you to delve into and while not perfect, it defintely gives an incredibly commendable effort to be perfect. All the flaws that are to be found in Gran Turismo 5 are usually flaws that in most games cam be easily glanced over. However because this is Gran Turismo, the standards of such a game are monumentally high and petty imperfections are the only ones we can really dwell on. Not the pop-ups though, those have to go in GT6.