Gran Turismo 5 Prologue
Prologue is, as you probably know, an appetizer for what Polyphony Digital wants to unleash on the world of PS3 owners and lovers of racing games. We’ve now driven a couple of rounds to determine whether this game is worth your money and if this self-proclaimed ultimate racing sim can live up to the expectations.
Important in this review is to find out whether you get enough content to play so the pricetag of 40 euros is justified. With a small sum of cash you start up the single player part, buy your first car and start sweating in about 30 events, divided into three classes. No license tests, and only one difficulty degree that luckily will offer a challenge to anyone. Most assignments consist of winning a normal race, but now and then you’ll also have to compete against time or play catchup after having started last.
Some things immediately get noticed. You can’t upgrade your cars and only later in the game tuning comes in, the AI is quick and challenging but still not worth writing home about eventhough the opponents do a bit more their best to make some mistakes here and there. The biggest downpoint, however, is still the lack of a damage model. Overtaking is a feast for those that love bumpers as colliding isn’t punished and neither you nor your opponent will have any problems with the impact. After the realism we got in this department from Forza 2 these imperfections more than ever make you feel like you’re driving a plastic car in a videogame. The lack of rumble in your controller only enhances this feeling and takes away an important piece of feedback on the driving behaviour.
An innovation that we now also see for the first time in GT is the ideal driving line with indication of where you need to brake. Very handy for beginners and even more experienced pilots, eventhough I sometimes had the impression that the parts for braking could be a bit more gradual and reactive.
Of course GT5 Prologue does not disappoint in the visuals department. This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful racing games on the PS3, with especially very detailed and realistic cars that will spoil your HDTV with tons of reflections, effects and impressive pictures. The surroundings are also top notch with lots of detail and almost photorealistic asphalt tracks. Only some farsights look not completely integrated with the rest of the game and now and then you’ll get a small framedrop. Too bad that all this realism, as with many racing games, doesn’t manage to transfer the adrenaline and excitement of the real racing to your screen.
Luckily the excellent sound comes to the rescue and breathes some life in the clinical visuals. Motor sounds, squeeking brakes and the wind that flows around your helmet are pushed out your surround system incredibly clear and especially with the volume very loud you’ll really get the impression of sitting in the car. Combined with the very well-made in-car view this is pure enjoyment for the true lover! Too bad that the soundtrack disappoints with some tracks that may be technically sound good and have a lot of variation, but in the end remain unknown.
If you were still doubting, let us reassure you that Gran Turismo isn’t an arcade game. Despite the previously mentioned disappointing AI and the lack of a damage model, you’ll still have to do your best to follow the correct line, brake where necessary, and steadily increase the throttle in order to not let the car get into a spin. The Six-Axis does its best, and even for someone like me who prefers the X360 controller due to the triggers for upping the throttle and braking, the controls are sharp, sensitive enough and the control immediately feels right.
There is also a clear and logical difference between the feeling of driving with one car or another, and with 70 different ones you’ll no doubt be busy for some time. Some top models are lacking but we’ll gladly forgive that since we’ll probably get to check out over ten times the current amount of vehicles in GT5. The Ferrari F1 is without a doubt the cherry on the pie, eventhough you’ll have to race hours before you can buy it. We’re less happy with the amount of tracks, as there are only six of which we know most already all too well, and two of them are ovals. Luckily the Eiger Nordwand is nicely challenging and the street track in London offers the necessary variation.
Personally I find the menus in racing games very important. Where GT5P shines are the short loading times (after a long installation procedure with the necessary problems, failed downloads and reboots we don’t think this is too much to ask) and some innovations like a news-section and GT TV. On the latter you can check out some HD features about new cars (f.i. the new Lancer Evolution X) and you’ll soon also be able to look at some stuff from Top Gear. The menus are without a doubt beautiful and pleasant, but it’s strange that there’s no possibility to order your cars and that there’s no easier way to switch between vehicles.
The online modes remain the weak point of Gran Turismo. There’s a lot of lag which makes the cars ‘jump’, eventhough it remains fun to drive against human opponents. The matchmaking system and the possibilities look pale compared to Forza 2 or PGR4 but the good thing is that you can also use your earned credits offline.
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is without a doubt a beautiful piece of gameplay and offers a lot of realistic driving fun. Visually and auditively this is top, but the game does disappoint in a lot of other departments, not in the least when comparing with other racing games that have been on the market already for quite some time. The weak online multiplayer, the absence of a damage model, the average AI and the somewhat clumsy menus make the game a lot less appealing. A definite suggestion for those that only have a PS3 and don’t need to save money to be able to buy this though.