Gran Turismo 5

Chinese Democracy was the name of the most recent album by one of my favourite groups, Guns ‘n’ Roses.  The album had been in something of a state of limbo for over ten years; it’s fair to say I had been waiting for it since it was announced away back in the 90’s.  When it was eventually released a few years back it was much as I had expected, nothing particularly new, a few decent songs and one or two stand out tracks.  There was a comfortable familiarity about it but ultimately it wasn’t what I’d waited so long for. Sadly, this is a description that I could also use to sum up Gran Turismo 5.  Delayed for more than a few years, GT 5 has its roots set firmly back in the Playstation 2 era and unfortunately it shows on more than one occasion.  Does this make the game bad? No.  Does this make it any less enjoyable? A wee bit.  Does this make it a tricky game to review? Yes, but I will try my best, anyway.

GT 5 is such a big game it really is hard to do it any justice over a few hundred words, and to be fair, I’m nowhere near any huge percentage through the game.  So instead of this being a thorough review of the complete game this is my impression of what I have played so far.  First up, nothing has changed a huge amount from any of the previous iterations in the GT series.  Licenses are there to play through, each offering harder challenges to pass, just as frustrating as before.  Arcade play is there to play through without any consequences other than win or lose.  A career mode under the name ‘A-Spec’ is the main meat of the game, and it’s here where you will probably spend most of your time, it is the most familiar of all GT modes.  Also included in the mammoth package is a photo mode (sadly only available for the ‘Premium cars’, which I’ll come to later), and a museum mode where you can unlock various facts about cars and manufacturers.  There are car dealerships offering up to 1,000 cars to buy and used car dealerships are also present as a way to pick up a cheaper, older car.  B-Spec mode is a game mode where you don’t actually race, but instead command a driver to race, sounds like an odd choice, and it is a bit.  Online play is also supported through a very non-streamlined lobby system, but once you get going it plays fine.  There’s also a track editor included, but I was saddened to see that you can’t actually create your own tracks, rather just include certain track elements that the computer suggests, nowhere near as comprehensive as I would have liked.

As has been the case for over ten years Gran Turismo 5 starts you at the bottom of the motor racing ladder, you have a small amount of credits to start with to purchase your first car from a limited range of underpowered vehicles.  I started with Mazda MX-5, which seemed to be the right choice because I sailed through all my first set of races.  At this point, though, the first set of problems show.  As I mentioned, GT5 features premium cars, these cars are super detailed, almost identical to the real thing, vehicles that you can own in game.  Every line, bulb, dashboard, trim etc has been re-created with staggering detail, but there are only 200 or so of these cars in the game, the other 800 are non-premium.  Sadly that translates to Playstation 2 representations of the vehicles and it really does show. I’ve never seen so many jaggy edges in a current generation game; it should be easy to overlook but on the standard cars it is so apparent, and a real shame to see.  I was also more than a touch shocked to see that the default button configuration has the “X” button assigned as your accelerator and the “O” for brake, even stranger still, the alternative is to use the right thumbstick for accelerate/decelerate.  Come on, Sony, all modern racing games use the triggers for a more natural driving experience, the old button, thumbstick configuration is as dated as some of the visuals.

After sorting out my button layout I was treated to some good old GT racing. Nothing feels particularly new. Yes the environments look stunning at times, but the racing is just as comfortable as it ever was.  You can tinker about with all the settings on your car to get the most out of it. Nothing quite beats the feeling of creating a monster out of a small car that was gutless to begin with.  Driving aids can be turned off to truly make the game more simulation like, but I found that going with the standard set-up offered a decent balance between arcade and simulation racing.  It’s a good idea to keep the suggested racing line on until you get the hang of braking points, these can make the difference between a slow corner and victory.  It all feels like the proverbial pair of familiar slippers. I found myself remembering the layout of tracks I hadn’t driven in years very quickly. It’s great to see them in HD glory, but that could also be one of the problems in the game.  Everything does feel so very, very familiar, almost to the extent that it could almost be GT5: The HD Remix.

Thankfully there are a few saving graces that attempt to introduce something new to the series, my favourite being the Challenge mode.  In Challenge mode you get to try out different vehicles and attempt to beat times set for differing tasks.  The first challenge sees you in go-karts trying to beat times; it’s a real departure from the serious racing and works very well.  In other challenges you race Nascar cars, VW camper vans round the Top Gear test track, and WRC cars under the tutelage of rally champ Sebastian Loeb. All are done very well and offer a break from the norm.  Sadly there are not many challenges included, but there are various difficulty levels for each challenge to offer some longevity.  I like the inclusion of being able to service your cars in the game as well as a wee wash, not a huge thing but it made me smile.

I have to confess to how much of a struggle it is to write this review. GT5 is not a bad game, far from it. If you have a PS3 and only intend on having one driving game this offers genuine value for money.  However, this year has been a great year for the racing game genre and we have been spoiled with some top class titles: Formula 1 2010 and Need for Speed Hot Pursuit to name a few.  Both of those titles reek of quality and a little bit of effort which is not instantly apparent with GT5.  In the years of development, games have moved on in huge bounds but sadly GT5 has shipped with only a small portion of the modern racing game and a huge chunk of what used to be.  If you are a fan of the GT series, this will be like GT porn to you, you will probably love it, but the niggle will still be there that you have seen it all before.  The frequency with which you HAVE to purchase new cars to compete in new races can be a pain when you want to build up one car, but that’s the way it’s always been.  The replays look absolutely stunning, but that’s the way it’s always been.  The range of cars on display is impressive, but that’s the way it’s always been.  Challenge mode is a blast to play through, there’s something new!







One response to “Gran Turismo 5”

  1. Simon avatar

    Looking back, my happiest times with Gran Turismo were choosing the very first purchase. So exciting……..

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