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Gran Turismo 5 Review: A Narrow Victory

Author:
Brendan Griffiths
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Driving games, Games reviews, Gran Turismo 5, Polyphony Digital, PS3 games, Real Driving Simulator, SCEE, Sony, Top Gear
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Gran Turismo 5 | Playstation 3

Gran Turismo 5 Review: A Narrow Victory

Format: PS3

Developer: Polyphony Digital

Publisher: SCEE

All good things come to those that wait. Not just an adage for the long wait that's preceded this much delayed game, but a piece of advice for getting through a rough start with Polyphony Digital's driving simulator.

There have been a few patches already to fix the online issues, such as packed servers infecting the single-player game. So now after the storms have settled following GT5's release, we can provide a proper verdict of the game as it stands today.

Days of Blunder

Gran Turismo 5 is a great game when you hit the track and for those players who will enjoy tinkering with a cars settings to optimise performance. In many other areas though, GT5 is seriously average. Let's have a look through the rough stuff and see if the good can overcome it though.

The menus are sluggish and poorly laid out, making navigating the career mode a real chore. Even the car showrooms are problematic as comparing a list of different cars stats is too slow as each tech sheet loads after the car, making it a slow process looking for the most powerful ones. There's still no option to test drive a car from the showroom, instead you have to try and hunt it down in the long, uncategorised list in the Arcade mode.

Gran Turismo 5 Review: A Narrow Victory

Most annoying though is the lack of shortcuts. Many of the career tournaments are very specific as to what car you can use, so it would be good if you could go directly from the 'allowed cars' list straight to that section of the showroom if they're available to buy. At least the loading times have sharpened up a bit since the v1.02 patch.

They're just menus though right? Well a few of the races have crumbled beneath the weight of expectation too. The Rally events are really poor, the cars feel under-powered and handle like milk-floats in treacle. For some bizarre reason, the map is moved to the middle of the screen for these races, which is really distracting. It's so badly placed, I thought it was a glitch at first.

If you've been looking forward to taking on The Stig's and other celebrity lap times on the famous Top Gear test track then brace yourself for disappointment. The track isn't unlocked from the start and you're forced into a Volkswagen Bus (think Little Miss Sunshine) race around the track. It couldn't be duller. Once you do unlock the track, you can't gauge a comparable lap time because you can only perform a rolling start, the TV show times a lap from standing. Polyphony Digital have completely missed the point of including the track. If they're going to patch anything else, let it be this. That's PATCH, not paid DLC.

We've finally got vehicle damage in Gran Turismo. But guess what? It's awful. Not every car can be damaged and the most I've managed to do so far is get a dishevelled radiator grill and a melted wax look on a bonnet. They really shouldn't have bothered.

Gran Turismo 5 Review: A Narrow Victory

A late comeback...

But as I said earlier, GT5 really tries to get back to the top of the podium once it gets going on the track. A word of warning though, you really should use either the in-car view or the low-riding road camera as the game seems to handle completely differently from these perspectives. For every racing game I use the trailing camera viewpoint, but in this game that view was almost impossible to use as the cars feel like the steering is broken as they seemingly refuse to turn. Change camera though and the cars fire into life and you can really attack those corners. Sounds crazy, but give it a go.

These closer views also add a sense of speed that is otherwise missing from the cars. You'll get a better view for over-taking during the crowded starts too. Using your mirrors is essential if you're using an under-powered car, but have managed to wrestle your way to the front of the pack. The other cars will often be quicker on long straights, meaning you'll have to block them off. I know, excitement and Gran Turismo, at last!

The on-screen racing line feature that Prologue introduced is back and is more helpful than ever for mastering the corners thanks to the braking hints it provides. Sometimes you might find a better line for yourself and you'll certainly have to deviate from it for overtaking, but it makes the more daunting tracks a bit more approachable. Well, except for that downwards slope on Laguna Seca which most of us just sort of, well... fall off.

Gran Turismo 5 Review: A Narrow Victory

Grind Turismo

Slowly earning money to buy cars for each tournament can be a real grind, and to make matters worse you're often given useless cars as prizes. What sort of mean game gives you a god-damn Prius as a prize? Many events must be repeated more than once as they reward you with cash and experience. Events are locked off until a certain level is gained and early on you'll need a new car for each tournament.

Choosing the best available car is crucial when looking to enter an event. Not only that, but most races require you to spend money on boosting the power. Sometimes you'll still be a little slow, just enough to never overtake that last guy, despite a few upgrades. One turbo purchase later and you're winning the same race six seconds ahead of him. It's often less about racing skill and more about upgrading to have a better car. For large parts of the game you have to buy the cars you need, rather than the cars you want.

If you want to keep sane during the first few hours I'd advise dipping into the Arcade mode every now and then and having a blast on one of the expensive cars you're miles away from obtaining in the Career mode. It's a great reminder that good things are most certainly on the way even if you do feel like a janitor at a car show room who borrows the keys for a joyride every now and then before mopping floors for three hours in between.

Gran Turismo 5 Review: A Narrow Victory

Your Stig application begins here

The overall car handling is on top of it's game, I'm relieved to say. There are a range of optional driving aids you can tweak to see much work you need to put in to tame these super-charged beasts, but don't expect to be power-sliding around every corner. We've all got used to arcade-style racers in recent years and Gran Turismo 5 offers a real alternative and improvement to the likes of Race Driver: Grid, Forza 3 and NFS: Shift, who all did a good job during The King's absence. Despite the aforementioned glaring faults in GT5, it's a successful return to the top of the podium as far as the racing goes.

The graphics on the high-end cars are often stunning, even if the gap between GT and other racing games isn't as big as it used to be. The reliance on the in-car camera means that you'll have to use the replay and photo modes to get a proper look at your shiny new ride. They look better than ever and you'll watch in pride thinking 'was that really me' When you see some of your moves. It's a shame there's no fast forward option though, especially if you want to see that crafty pass you made on the final bend of a five lap race.

The real-world tracks will be familiar to most racing game enthusiasts and there are a few new city based ones to try too with the Rome track being a highlight. The Nürburgring Nordschleife is still an absolute monster of a track that can be tackled in smaller chunks or all at once. Weather-wise, races are generally dry and brightly lit. Night, snow and rainy races are all greatly out weighed by pristine day-time events. I think we were all expecting at least rain as an option on most tracks.

Gran Turismo 5 Review: A Narrow Victory

Go-karts make their GT debut and they prove to be great fun with ultra-responsive handling. There's a bit of an arcade vibe to them (comparatively), but you can spin them out if you accelerate out of corners too harshly. These might become multiplayer classics.

There's a new mode called B-Spec which is where you manage racers by giving them instructions throughout a race, keeping a close eye on his stamina. Stamina? What's he driving a Flintstones dasher? Also new to the series is the track creator which is more of a random generator to be honest. The new TV channel is packed full of car-show clips to download and will expand over time. There's just too much to go through here, but look out for our follow-up feature that will have a deeper look at these additions.

GT Online

Online races are thankfully much smoother than Prologue, but are prone to the odd twitch depending on your connection. If you're setting up a race event you can choose the track, limit the driving aids, penalties and what sort of power range of vehicles can be selected. You can use your own cars or one from a generous list.

Gran Turismo 5 Review: A Narrow Victory

If you're hopping into a race, you can't see what power range it will feature from the lobby list and you can't search specifically for a range either which can be annoying if you want to have a race with say, just muscle cars. While you do wait in a lobby though you can perform practice laps on the chosen circuit, which is a neat way to try out a few cars you don't own.

An ongoing effort -that we'll be keeping a close eye on- is being made to make a community for like-minded players where you can message each other and send each other cars as gifts. See, there's something you can do with the Prius after all.

Pros

  • Superb handling using in-car or road cameras

  • Hundreds of beautifully rendered cars

  • Races are more exciting than in previous GT games

Cons

  • Utterly horrible menus

  • Career mode feels too restrictive in car choice

  • Top Gear and Rally events are hugely disappointing

The Short Version: Admittedly, it does sound like there's more wrong with GT5, than there is right. Many of the negative points are based around the menus and the lack of progression in the game's format when we've seen the competition flourish in recent years. Once you get on the track though and brave the in-car viewpoint, the game fires into life and demands respect. The car models are fantastically realised visually and in their handling, and the variety of vehicles on offer is unmatchable. You're going to need a lot of patience to get GT5's stubborn motor going, but it's worth the effort once you do.

Gran Turismo 5 Review: A Narrow Victory

Add a comment21 comments
gsrfd  Nov. 28, 2010 at 21:41

Have you unlocked the better damage that comes later on in the game?

dan  Nov. 28, 2010 at 22:54

youve obviously missed the articles re: car damage before you posted this up, the damage and the agression of opposition racers is supposedly tiered as you level up and full damage (bonnets and bumpers coming off etc ) isnt about til level 40, sure not all will agree with having to finish the game to get it but it is there and apparently was put it half to show up people who rush out reviews and complain about the lack of it, not sure i agree with that either, not giving people the option just to get one over on rushed reviews,, after youve delayed the game countless times and taken 5 years.

for all its faults im enjoying it, it just somehow feels incomplete, after 5 years it could have been so much more, 200 cars out of 100 actually being fully realised is a farce, for the amount of time taken surely all or minimum half of the cars should have been done?

orakle44  Nov. 29, 2010 at 00:03

yet another reviewer who didnt take the time to play through the game.

mexyfry  Nov. 29, 2010 at 03:07

"There’s a new mode called B-Spec" This mode is not new.... sounds like you need to do a little more homework before posting reviews.

Dan  Nov. 29, 2010 at 03:57

Do you know how long it takes to get to level 40? You can do absolutely everything in the game by level 20. I completely agree with everything in the review.

zag  Nov. 29, 2010 at 06:05

Has the reviewer played any of the other GT versions?

The carrier mode has always been an unlock type thing where you need to do multi races to build up cash to buy any sort of car you wanted.

The freebie cars are given away because at 100% you'll have every car in the game', it seems silly to me that your complaining about this or even other wites seeing as this has been the standard on all GT versions.

Axe99  Nov. 29, 2010 at 08:04

This review is another nail in the coffin of gaming 'journalism'. Just because GT5 doesn't handle like Dirt2 doesn't mean the rallying is bad. In fact, it's the best rallying physics yet released on console - it just seems that the reviewer doesn't know any better.

Overall, GT5 is the best sim-style racer released on the PS3, and arguably the best ever (Forza 3 is also excellent, but I'd give the edge to GT5 on the strength of the driving, but if you're more into customisation than driving, then Forza is your game). The only folk who don't know this are arcade racers - who shouldn't be reviewing GT5 in the first place.....

dan  Nov. 29, 2010 at 09:28

Hence why I said I don't really agree with it and don't think everyone else will, I was simply responding to the reviewer saying the damage is crappy and they shouldn't have bothered, to let them know it is there, peoples opinions on what you have to do to get it aside

whistleblower  Nov. 29, 2010 at 10:23

God...this is why i HATE sony fanboys. It's such a tiny point the reviewer makes and you're all acting like he took a dump on your face. Before you start crying i have both consoles and i bought this on launch. Man what a f**king mistake. It's an unfinished, unrewarding tech demo. It's barely a game. And forcing you to slog to get something that should be there from the start is bullshit. End of.

Nessie  Nov. 29, 2010 at 10:55

If been a Playstation owner since 95 and i still can't get my head around Gran Turismo. Never found it terribly appealing. Usually put off by people assuring me that if i don't like it i can't possibly know anything about driving games, which tends to make me angry so i buy a FPS to vent instead!

Gunn  Nov. 29, 2010 at 11:17

I'm sure loads of other people share your view but for me it's the kind of game/experience that requires more patience, attention, time, skill than just about any other game I've played. I just wish I had the same amount of time available as I did when playing the previous games.

Mick  Nov. 29, 2010 at 11:31

Whistleblower - I hope that comment is intentionally ironic...

Personally I was disappointed by the graphics and the lack of internal views in many of the cars . That said, the VW Camper van mentioned actually has a very nicely detailed internal view of both the front and back and I assume other cars will do too once I've played a bit more.

The other thing I wish they'd included is side views of the cars - I'm pretty sure in GT4 you could do fron/back/left/right views and I know you can in other PS3 racing games so I don't see why GT5 didn't include this.

So essentially I'd say GT5 is great for actual car physics, but decidedly average in the graphics, particularly as the competition (Shift/GRID etc) now have "real" cars and tracks too.

The

i

tarbis  Nov. 29, 2010 at 11:42

Another half-assed review that did not even bother to finish the WHOLE game.
What if I just read half of your article just say it is crap. How would you feel?

whistleblower  Nov. 29, 2010 at 13:56

Which comment? It's all true. Science has proved that sony fanboys cry more than any other sub section of society. As for GT5 i stand by what i said. Sure, it handles well...what tech demo wouldn't? But the rest of it is a mess. As you say...it shows off the physics, but that's about it.

Ps. I really liked GT 2 and 3 but Nessie, you're spot on.

santa  Nov. 29, 2010 at 20:01

they should have just kept GT4 and revamped the graphics and added online mutiplayer. still prefer that game tbh

Brendan Griffiths  Nov. 29, 2010 at 21:31

I know it's a standard progress system. I just feel that it's dated. And yes, I've played GT1,2,3 and Prologue. Yep fail on 4 there admittedly.

Even NFS: Shift had a better system with a huge variety of events, with 'Stars' earned throughout being used to unlock events.

GT5's events do open up a bit after the first few tiers, but it's such a turgid start.

Brendan Griffiths  Nov. 29, 2010 at 21:37

I'm well-versed in rally titles, good and bad, sim or arcade, and am completely able to say in my OPINION that I think they've done a poor job. If you enjoy the Rally events, that's fine, but after watching WRC on TV, the in-car cams for the game and reality couldn't be more different. You might have read in the rest of the review I praise the handling of the other vehicles (except the VW Bus maybe).

Anyway, I prefer to burn 'gaming journalism' at the stake. There's no coffin.

Brendan Griffiths  Nov. 29, 2010 at 21:52

RE The last few comments:

I'll put my hands up. I hadn't got to that level, if I had I wouldn't have had time to review the rest of the game. Saying that, it still looks crappy once it's there. The 'melted' look still makes me laugh.

Besides, why the hell should we have to 'unlock' vehicle damage? By the time we've got to that stage we know the tracks and barely crash any more. Plus Polyphony run the risk of gamers trading in the game for a title that let's you learn that crashing into walls is bad, the first time they do it.

Also, with racing titles like GT, there's not as much incentive (usually) to finish every event before a review, unlike say completing an adventure or FPS. Would you insist on a full season of Master League being finished in Pro Evo?. And if you think any reviewers that published a review in the first few days of GT5's release, had completely finished the game then well, you might want to brace yourself for some bad news about the fat man in red this Christmas.

Brendan Griffiths  Nov. 29, 2010 at 21:54

Bloody GT4, the only one I didn't buy. By the time I could afford it, I thought I may as well hold on for GT5. Turns out I had plenty of time and should have picked it up.

LanceVance  Nov. 30, 2010 at 10:51

Every game has to be finished to be reviewed!! We would'nt have reviews of this game for months. What about rpgs/sandbox games? Its pretty stupid to say you need to finish a game to review it. Sorry but from what i've played of GT5 its good but not great. To me it all feels a bit "old". Dont listen to me though cause ive not completed it 100%!!

siriusbee  Dec. 25, 2010 at 08:13

Decent review. Was disappointed that there was no mention about the 'Photo Mode', or whatever that is called. And no clues whether you could buy new cameras in that mode.

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