What's there to say about Gran Turismo 5? You've all seen the trailers. You've all complained about the wait. You've all made your minds up about whether or not you'll be buying it. Still, you'd all moan if I came from Gamescom without getting some quality time with Yamauchi's epic racer... and suffice to say, it's shaping up to be the best pure racer ever. For better or for worse.
Yamauchi brought the latest code along to the show (since the team will be polishing it right up to the wire)- and clambering into a comfortable pod with a force feedback steering wheel, I finally began to see what all the fuss was about.
The selection of cars was impressive even in the demo. Everything from the Enzo Ferrarri and Pagani Zonda to nippy little go karts were featured, and the finished article will contain practically every car you've ever heard of (a selection of between 800 to 1000 vehicles). Each car handled realistically and uniquely, with my initial choice of the Pagani Zonda proving to be as jittery as I'd expect (frequently resulting in the brakes locking up and corners being taken very poorly). Some sports hatchbacks and a go kart proved to be much more my speed, with a tradeoff between. A few driver assists including a dynamic racing line made things a little easier- but make no mistake, this is a still a racer's racing title that tends to cater for the hardcore over the casual fan.
This time around, we're spoiled for choice in terms of gametypes. A-Spec mode provides full-on no strings attached racing with an emphasis on realism, while B-Spec is a more career-oriented experience. Managing drivers and tinkering with the mechanics is the order of the day. An arcadey (by GT5 standards) Kart Racing mode rounds out the package... though I can't see this feature overtaking ModNation Racers or Mario Kart in terms of multiplayer shenanigans any time soon.
A robust track editing tool provides a halfway house between a full 3D editing suite and a. It focuses on easy sliders controls that dictate the overview, size and corner angles. Even the time of day and weather can be bespoke tailored to suit. Sony has cornered the market on the Play Create Share phenomenon- and it's great to see another game taking up the mantle.
Oh, and the graphics are excellent. It doesn't provide the jawdropping 'wow' factor that you might expect, but it's ambienly very pretty indeed. Replays are especially impressive and frequently resemble live HD footage.
There were only two things that I didn't enjoy about GT5. Firstly, regardless of the view, there was never a sense of breakneck speed even when gunning down a straight at over 180 mph. Since Yamauchi's at the helm, I can only assume that my own sense of speed is unrealistic and flawed- but I was surprised at how slow some of the cars felt. I also sucked out of control using the racing wheel- and whilst this seems ungrateful, I wish that a Dualshock had been lying around.
Will I be buying Gran Turismo 5? No. I've driven the same cars around the same tracks countless times over the years... and quite frankly I'm done with straight racing sims. These days, many gamers have graduated to arcade racers and gimmicky spectacles that offer plenty of explosions and pyrotechnics to spice things up a bit- or Rally games that bring more adrenaline to the experience. I'd rather play a karting title with a group of mates. Feel free to call me a sellout, but I simply can't go back.
But that's just me. Put simply: if you want to drive a car around a track to the exclusion of all else, you should purchase Gran Turismo 5. It's the best at what it does... and when personal preference is taken out of the equation, it appears to be nigh-on perfect at delivering a realistic and graphically impressive racing experience. GT5 accomplishes everything that it sets out to do... and does exactly what it says on the box.
It's a "real driving simulator", after all. No more, no less.