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Posted by eddierichards on Dec 13, 2010
Gran Turismo 5 – Polyphony Digital/SCE – Playstation 3

Gran Turismo 5 – Polyphony Digital/SCE – Playstation 3

OK – I often go on about my dislike for this racing series, with its need to be too real, and stuff. I make no secret of my former dislike of all things Gran Turismo. Yes, that’s right: ‘former’.  Maybe old age is creeping in. Maybe it’s because I’m currently learning to drive in the real world. Or maybe it’s because using my new steering wheel on Ridge Racer is a total nightmare. Whatever it is, I now have a new-found appreciation for what I see as a beautiful game. And when I say ‘beautiful’, I’m not just talking about GT5’s mouth-watering visuals. I mean, everything, the whole game as a package. It will take some doing to beat this. It’s not perfect, but I’m impressed.

GT5 has received a completely mixed bag of reviews and comments so far so I decided to switch off to all and make up my own mind. I was also aware that many others who attempted to review this game could never have really done it justice, as the game was only released for review purposes a mere 24 or so hours before its official release. And so, having had plenty of time to peruse its huge amount of content, a great deal of the negativity surrounding the game is unwarranted. That said, there are a few niggles. But I enjoy this game so much now, that I (mostly) overlook them.

Upon starting up  Gran Turismo 5 you are hit with a six minute intro to whet your whistle. If you are looking for instant gratification look away now. After a few button presses, the loading starts. Oh, that loading. There’s a lot of it. A LOT.

To try to dispel some of the horrendous loading times you are given the option to install game content. Installation takes a good fifty minutes (Although it will claim it is only thirty, it isn’t!) and unfortunately, there still seems very little improvement, especially after an 8-gig install. You can forgive some of the load times due to the very mass of information stored inside the GT5 disc. I have a lot of patience, but loading is needed for pretty much every screen you go to and sometimes it is painfully slow. After looking around and getting familiar with everything, I started up a race in Arcade Mode.

Graphically GT5 is gorgeous. I’ve seen nothing like it. There I was, driving around Central London against eleven opponents, taking in the sights of Piccadilly Circus, crying out “S***! I was just down that street an hour ago!”, as I looked at all the shops and statues, and grinned at the perfect attention to detail.  Stunning work.

A number of stages also feature real-time weather as well as day/night effects. Some stages start in pouring rain, and eventually the sun comes out, and soon after that your headlights switch on as day turns to night. It looks amazing but it would’ve been nice if those changes were more dynamic rather than sequenced so as they always run in the same order. Whilst GT5 looks stunning there are a few downsides for the picky. There seems to be a lot of content ported directly from Gran Turismo 4. Firstly, the crowd of people who watch you race from the sidelines are terrible, resembling motorised mannequins that have been propped up to stop you feeling lonely. These creatures are less animated (or rather, less suicidal) than their previous counterparts, which you would spot standing on the road trying to get a good photo of you, and suddenly jumping out of the way. These guys are better-behaved, and stay safely away from harm. But even as you speed past them, they look like they are not quite human. At least they’re not in every stage – but they’ll do for company – although, the tracks they’re not propped up in (such as the Madrid course), can feel like ghost towns, or a scene from 28 Days Later. Also, with the 1,000+ cars to choose from, you have what are referred to as a ‘Premium’ and ‘Standard’ range on offer. The Premium models are glorious – perfect representations of the real thing, and they also allow an awesome view from within the cars cockpit, (Check it out during the rain, it is truly awesome!) Pick a Standard model though, and the differences in detail are obvious. These cars have been lifted straight from the PS2 version. I’m no ‘Graphics Tart’ – but it IS very obvious. When the courses look so stunning,  these dated looking car models look out of place. It is a lack of cohesion that detracts from GT5’s overall experience.

Polyphony have had to make a few graphical cutbacks, to allow for all the new modes and vehicle types. It may be nice to have up to twelve cars in a race instead of six, for example – but cutting back does leave GT5 looking a little unfinished and unpolished. Unforgivable in a game that has been six years in the making. Sometimes quality should outweigh quantity and that is something Polyphony don’t seems to have gotten their heads around. Shoe-horning tons of new game modes and ideas into the game whilst not polishing what is already there.

Now on to the car damage issue. You wanted it – and the good news is, it is in there. The bad news is, you have to unlock it. Why you must work for it, I do not know. But at it is there somewhere. A racing game where you have to earn car damage and even then it is only on the new car models not the imported ones from GT4.

In terms of audio, all the music you could want is here. GT5’s music library consists of 189 music tracks to pick and choose from, and set to be played during races, or just in menu screens, and so on. There’s plenty of dance tunes, Drum & Bass, Classical even Jazz. You can also play your own music during races, from the PS3’s hard drive. The sound effects do still sound a little dull though. The cars themselves sound a little muted, most sound okay, but others like my favourite American Muscle cars don’t have that ‘oomph’ that they’re well-known for. The collisions still sound like two Tupperware tubs being hit together rather than two cars hitting each other at speed.

Gran Turismo has always been the daddy when it comes to realistic handling of the cars, despite whether they are Premium or Standard models. The series has always been consistent in this department, but I’ve never known it to be this good. Using a steering wheel is highly recommended, but even with a regular PS3 control pad’s anolog sticks, driving feels fantastic, and highly enjoyable. It feels right, in all aspects – powersliding, driving in snow, sand, or rain – it all works perfectly, and makes navigating through said conditions very intuitive to take on and master. The new Go-Karts are very funny to drive, but they too, are exactly how they should be. As well as the karts, you have all the cars you could (probably) ever want, and this time GT5 also introduces the Nascar models to play with. Connect the PSP version, and you can import your portable garage, too.

One of the major gripes with previous Gran Turismo games was the opponents A.I. Happily the old formation-dancing automatons have gone. What they’ve been replaced with may not be good news for many as here we have some real Sunday-driving bastards. Okay – that’s harsh – but I tell you these guys can make Mario Kart A.I. look friendly. They care little about the best lane at times and are masters at spinning you off the track. They seem to be happy to mess you up, even if it means taking themselves out of the race, yet for all their ‘faults’, I love it. GT5 races are far more entertaining for it, and they almost seem human if maybe quite stupid humans. Just make sure to watch out for them on long straights!

Much kudos must be given to the ‘GT Mode’. As before, here is where you live out your ‘GT Life’. In the ‘A-Spec Mode’  you buy your cars, look after them, fill up your garage, earn your licences, enter tournaments to win trophies, vehicles, money, experience points and more. Or enter ‘B-Spec’ you can sit back, instructing other drivers you manage, yes the ‘B’ does stand for ‘Boring’.

You have a photo gallery to store all your Hi-Res pics in. A Museum full of collectible car history. The online section allows you to converse with friends, and if you like, you can give each other cars as gifts. Buy new vehicles. Old vehicles. Tune them. Upgrade them. Give them a wash and an oil change. Endless. And never a chore, once you get into it.

More history can be delved into via Gran Turismo TV – a PSN-based area where you can download various movies about your favourite cars, or films about famous tournaments around the world, etc. A nice touch, but you’re looking at roughly two quid a pop for videos no longer than 10 minutes sometimes. There’re a few free downloads in there, but they are very much the minority.

At the time of writing, GT5’s Online mode has many issues. So far there have been three update patches, but at this moment, I haven’t been able to race anybody over the ‘Net. Hopefully, this will have been sorted by the time you read this.

Whatever you make of it, Gran Turismo 5 has a huge amount on offer. There is a hell of a lot in this package. It has its undeniable flaws and setbacks, but I can’t remember ever dedicating this much time to the series since the first game on PSOne. I have trouble even considering playing any other racing game in my collection. My love for Ridge Racer will never die, but for now, it’s been replaced.

Ignore the criticism people have aimed at Gran Turismo 5. Fair enough, some may wonder what the hell Polyphony Digital did for the six years it took to create it. But if you like your driving games, this is an essential purchase.

‘Firstly, the crowd of people who watch you race from the sidelines are decidedly dodgy-looking, PS3-wise. They look very poor, resembling motorised mannequins that have been propped up to stop you feeling lonely. These creatures are less animated (or rather, less suicidal) than their previous counterparts, which you would spot standing on the road trying to get a good photo of you, and suddenly jumping out of the way. These guys are better-behaved, and stay safely away from harm. But even as you speed past them, they look like they are not quite human. At least they’re not in every stage – but they’ll do for company – although, the tracks they’re not propped up in (such as the Madrid course), can feel like ghost towns, or a scene from 28 Days Later.’

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