Gran Turismo 5
For months, no, years, we’ve been staring at the eastern horizon with a hopeful look and puppy eyes towards Polyphony Digital. The incredibly long-awaited fifth part in the Gran Turismo franchise missed several deadlines and almost polished off all the paint from my dream car. But finally the wait was over as on November 24th 2010 Gran Turismo 5 finally made it into each PS3, ready to race off some asphalt.
The last couple of months plenty has been said and written about the rugged track that Polyphony’s masterpiece did, but the big question that’s on every racing fan’s tongue is whether GT5 and Yamauchi have delivered the quality we know and love. The answer to that isn’t black or white, which allows is to sum up all the grey.
After five years of development time we certainly had expected more from the graphics. Don’t get me wrong, the 200 Premium Cars look stunning, but are in pale contrast to the from Gran Turismo 4 recycled Standard Cars. In fact, GT5 can be divided into black & white graphically. Both the Premium Cars, the astonishing Photo Travel Mode and the almost photorealistic tracks look truly gorgious. Especially the light reflections on the paint of the cars is done incredibly beautiful. On the other side you’ve got 800 lesser cars, the cardboard audience and the ugly dust clouds after drifting.
Gran Turismo 5 has about 60 different track locations, each with four variations. Newcomers to the series are the beautiful Circuito de Madrid, the awesome rally track Toscana, the Renaissance-rich circuit of Rome, and the special Stage 7 circuit where the fireworks literally and figuratively splash from your screen. Next to that old familiars like the fuji Speedway and Mountain trial are present again and for the proud Belgians amongst us both Circuit de Spa-Francorchamp and Zolder haven’t been left out either. As known very well also the Top Gear Test track is there and thanks to the wide curves and long straight lines this legendary track is already one of my favorites.
On top of that you can get going in the Track Creator with seven presets that you can adjust up to a certain level. A preformed circuit can be divided into maximum seven different sections which you can give a specific width, curve or sharpness. At first sight this looks quite limiting but the results are satisfyingly enough as long as you don’t expect Modnation Racers-like capabilities. The created tracks can also be shared and played online.
EA recently stated they found Gran Turismo to be a sterile racer and I need to agree with them. Throughout the years developers like Criterion and Evolution Studios have redrawn the racing genre. These days we’re overwhelmed with very destructive cars, all kinds of elements that make racing more exciting and bring more spectacle. And then you get Gran Turismo, a simulation racer that’s correct to the smallest detail. Personally I can find myself in the “professional” racing, the quiet waiting and then striking like a sneaky carnivore, but the “current generation” of gamers will find themselves less and less interested in such mental challenges.
And that’s where Gran Turismo actually shines. The racing feels so damn good and that’s what it’s all about in the end. Race after race you see your results improve, you get more out of your car and achieve the drastic turning point between drifting and making the perfect curve. This is one of the few games in which car freaks with knowledge have a notable advantage from endless tweaking. Not only air filters, exhausts, flywheels and turbos can be installed but also equipment that allows you to manually adjust the four wheel traction, modify the gearbox and alter plenty of other things. With a fully adjustable gearbox, for instance, you can precisely time when your can go into next gear and get even better performance from your car.
Next to the gigantic catalogue of cars and the different tracks there’s plenty of other content in GT5. Fed up with the A-Spec for a while? Then compete in fifteen special events where one time you’re in a NASCAR car while Jeff Gordon is giving you instructions while the next time you’re tailing Sebastien Loeb in his selection of rally tracks. Next to that there’s also karting, the Mercedes AMG Driving Academy and the Top Gear Track that get put on your plate.
The well-known licenses are also again present. Here you try to achieve your goals with unequalled precision. These start simple but quickly gear up until they become absurdly difficult. Achieving these small assignments give you experience points, money and now and then even a new car.
Just like in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue there’s a multiplayer part in which you can race with up to 12 pilots. As host there’s a ton to tweak, as next to track selection, amount of laps and car limitations you can also choose the weather conditions and time of day you want to race. Personally I do find the multiplayer still needs quite a lot of work and the devs can take an example of the more extensive multiplayer from Forza. Offline GT5 supports split-screen, which is also a nice extra.
The long development time and many delays of release have probably created sky-high expectations with each racing fan that could never be met. Luckily GT5 managed to limit the damage and largely fulfilled the expectations. GT5 is so extensive and complete, so deep for the lovers that for the moment it has no equal. Gran Turismo 5 is all but perfect as the 800 lesser cars, the animations around the track and the oldfashioned menus certainly need polishing. But Gran Turismo is a simulation racer and that’s where it really shines. If you love cars, then this is for sure your game!