Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Gran Turismo 5 (Playstation 3)

Polyphony Digital's long-awaited Gran Turismo 5 is finally here and the biggest question many gamers have is whether it was worth the wait. Featuring over 1,000 vehicles and dozens of tracks, there's a massive array of racing styles. Technically, GT5 does an excellent job showcasing the PS3 with realistic car models and impressive track renders. The HD visuals are impressive and the realistic physics and driving mechanics make for an impressive simulation. GT5's diverse selection of racing styles includes everything from NASCAR to off-road challenge that gives it plenty of depth. Other elements such as the long loading times, tedious licenses and inconsistent visuals are disappointing. After such a long wait, It's a contradictory situation, but do these flaws keep GT 5 from the checkered flag? Look inside and find out.

Gran Turismo 5 is one of the most ambitious and deepest racing titles ever created. After many years in development, a full 'prologue' release that acted as a teaser and, a detour onto the PSP, Polyphony's long-awaited title has finally arrived. It brings with it a plethora of content including more than 1,000 vehicles, dozens of tracks and a seemingly infinite number of modes and options. This sense of being overwhelmed begins the moment you boot up the game and wade through its initially intimidating set of menus. As the game begins, you have a menu of seemingly endless choices, making it difficult to know where to start. A good indicator of how deep the game is comes when you check into its arcade mode, where you can choose from dozens of vehicles and race on any of the game's many courses. These include standard racing courses such as the expected Suzuka and Fuji Speedways, to the game's standard selection of fantasy courses like the famous Autumn Ring. There are also a few new surprises in Gran Turismo 5 with the additions of famous NASCAR tracks like the Indianapolis Speedway and Daytona courses. You can also choose to race on city courses with tracks that take you through Tokyo, London and Rome. Most of the courses in GT5 take place on standard surfaces, but there are a variety of off-road courses, including a couple set in snow-covered mountains. The courses themselves are technically impressive and have been rendered and designed to be as close as possible to their actual counterparts. Each track has several variations with long and short routes. This adds some depth, but mastering each course takes some time. Finding the best route an each course can shave precious seconds off your lap time and the key to mastering the game is finding the best places to brake and accelerate on each course. You can begin this process by going through a few practice laps then competing against real world drivers in actual races. As in many of the earlier GT titles, there are several different approaches you can use if you want to progress through the game and earn more unlockable content.

The most obvious path is go into the GT mode, which is an extended career section. You begin at the bottom of the rung with a slow car and compete on some relatively simple and straightforward courses. The first few rounds are basically cakewalks, but as you move up and win, you can unlock more interesting challenges. Your basic vehicles in these modes are underwhelming in terms of power and aren't that interesting to drive, but you can upgrade them to increase performance and chances of winning. Each level in the GT mode is divided into cups, which consist of 2 or 3 races that you can compete in. There are different requirements for each cup with specific vehicle types and models required to compete in certain races. These can be purchased at either the Dealerships, where manufacturers display their newest models or at the Used car lot, where you can find cheaper sometimes more obscure races. Buying newer vehicles gives you generally better performance, but you can purchase repairs and restorations for older ones to bring them to new-level performance. Further upgrades allow you to install better engines, more powerful drivetrains, better tires and so forth. Adding paint and detailing options means you can customize each vehicle in the game extensively. One interesting strategy you can use is to purchase and upgrade less powerful vehicles then sell them back to earn additional credits for more powerful or exciting cars. In addition to earning credits to use in the stores, each race won also increases your experience level points. These can increase your overall level, and as this goes higher, you'll also be given the chance to unlock additional content in the form of extra vehicles that can only be purchased at these levels and the ability to compete in Special Event races. These Special Events are usually interesting challenges focused on a specific aspect of the game, such as NASCAR driving or completing a task on the Top Gear test track, where you can go in a little deeper and add some experience and credits to your overall score.

Gran Turismo 5's GT mode is divided into two distinct levels, one of which is the standard A-spec mode where you control the vehicles yourself and offers a satisfyingly deep gameplay experience. The second mode is called B-Spec and is slightly more problematic. Instead of manually controlling your own car, you instead direct a computer controlled AI driver through the course through a command structure. Here, the objective is to see how well you can direct the action and while it's interesting in theory, common use makes it fall a little flat. Your commands can only occur every few seconds and you have to wait to adjust them, and making the driver do what you want is an exercise in frustration. For example, if you use the command to increase the pace too often, your driver will over-steer and make more mistakes, while playing this mode in a safer mode leaves you behind the pack with little chance of catching up. Since this mode offers the same tracks and structure as A-Spec, there's little incentive to keep going. However, the other sections of the game fare a bit better. As expected, the game offers an array of branching license tests the tweak your skills and increase your driving potential, though some of them can be tedious. However, you earn experience points and credits as you win licenses and completing levels allows you to unlock additional vehicles and courses in other areas. As in previous games, you begin the license mode by performing simple tasks such as braking and acceleration then move on to more advanced techniques such as turning at high speed and learning the basics of drift mechanics. Its quite an extended tutorial, but the driving school techniques you learn come in handy later on when you're driving more advanced vehicles. This is where the game's realism comes into play, since you're driving real-world vehicles with accompanying physics and reactions, you'll definitely need to know how to handle different aspects of racing. Things like learning the best route, finding the apex of each curve and mastering the art of drafting behind other cars makes the game more challenging to play, but also adds a satisfying authenticity to the experience of GT5.

Learning to master the subtleties of driving race cars has always been one of the strongest elements of GT5's appeal and the newest installment doesn't diverge from this path. You can definitely see the realism in the ways that the cars handle and react to different situations. Its incredibly realistic physics engine means that performance is accurately reflected in each car. With such a massive lineup of cars available, this is an impressive accomplishment. The size of the engine, drive train, weight, tired and transmission all play key roles in your performance on the track. Even small adjustments in the gear ratio and other seemingly minor aspects of your tuning can make a huge difference, so this sense of realism is complete, though it does make the game a bit more complex than most other racers on the market. For those uninitiated to the series, this depth and complexity might be a little off-putting, but for gamers who want to go a bit deeper and put in the effort, GT5 definitely delivers on its promise. One of the key additions to the game this time around comes in the area of damage, which is implemented in the series for the first time. It doesn't seem to really be as dramatic as it is in other games, but crashes and minor fender benders definitely affect your performance and can significantly affect the outcome of each race. You'll need to repair your vehicle if you want to restore its performance, so while avoiding crashes is always a good strategy, Gran Turismo 5 ups the ante with the bumper-cars method now coming with significant consequences. Learning the controls delivers a slightly long learning curve, but the game's interface on the track is fairly simple and steering is superb. You can choose to use either the standard analog stick or digital pad to steer and can use either a standard brake or a more severe clutch brake in order to stop quickly. However, this causes the vehicle to fishtail out of control and can make you lose significant time on the track. Most players will probably play GT5 using the standard controller, but for added realism and challenge, using one of the high-end wheels such as the ones made by Logitech definitely adds a new layer of precision control to the proceedings. Using a wheel instead of a controller makes things feel even more realistic, but the game seems much less forgiving when these are used.

As far as the single-player mode goes, Gran Turismo 5 offers what players have come to expect form the series with a few new elements. It's a slightly disappointing approach which is especially true of the vaunted NASCAR addition, which only consists of a few races and a limited field of competitors. What's there is nicely done, but for a series noted for its comprehensiveness, it's a disappointing implementation in this department. Another element of the game that doesn't feel as good as it could have been is the multiplayer mode. While players can compete against others online and post low-lap times, there isn't as much content included in this mode as one would expect. The new online Gran Turismo TV is a good idea, but again the limited number of videos included is a bit of a disappointment. The upside is that there is an abundance of content included in the game and what's there is generally impressive. One of the more interesting additions is the photo mode where players can take beauty shots of the courses and cars in their garage and share them with others. Using this mode allows you to really appreciate the level of depth that has gone into the game. This attention to detail is what has always made GT titles stand out from the pack and this hold true for the most part. Unfortunately, it seems that the developers have made a few sacrifices in the level of modeling vehicles. There are two classes of vehicles, which are standard and premium. While the standard models look good, they pale in comparison to the detail that's gone into the premium models. You can easily see the disparity in quality during the interior viewpoints, where the differences can be quite pronounced. This is highly disappointing and feels like a corner has been cut. In terms of the track designs themselves, the HD visuals are quite impressive and the game runs smoothly once you get onto the track with a consistent frame rate and nicely rendered special weather effects such as day and night, rain and snow that adds a level of realism to the game. Unfortunately, there is a price to be paid for these visuals and that comes in the form of long load times. It takes up to a minute to load each track and while the game allows you to install to the hard drive, its still a bit slow to load when this feature is enabled and makes playing through multiple races in one sitting more of a chore than it should have been. There are definitely some elements that push the PS3 hardware, but there are also some that seem to fall short of the mark, so it's a mixed bag in this department.

You can tell that a lot of time has gone into making Gran Turismo 5 a highly-polished and deep racer, and sheer amount of content included on the disc is a strong testament to this. Unfortunately, the long development time also seems to have caught up with the game in some ways. It seems a little behind the curve in some areas, such as its online component, and others don't seem to fit and should have been discarded for being outgrown. Not to be overly negative, since the opportunity to play so many race types and use so many vehicles is quite impressive, but there are some key areas where the game is a bit lacking. The most obvious of these comes with the long-loading times, the dreaded monotonous license tests and some superfluous modes, such as the B-Spec races are slightly disappointing. However, the breadth and detail that the game offers is quite impressive and those willing to put the time and effort into will find that Gran Turismo 5 largely lives up to its promise and delivers one of the more impressive racing simulators on the market. Whether it was worth the wait depends on how much effort you want to put into it. If you're only looking for a few quick races and want superficial flash, Gran Turismo 5 will probably not be to your liking. Delve deeper and you'll find an almost unprecedented amount of content to play around with and enough vehicles, modes and options to keep you busy for months on end. Its not without its faults but Gran Turismo 5 is an impressive technical achievement that deserves praise for its unrivalled ambition and incredible depth.

- Michael Palisano 

Grade: B+

Related Reviews 

Gran Turismo
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue
(Playstation 3)
Gran Turismo 4 (Playstation 2)
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
(Playstation 3)
Split Second (PS3)
Blur (PS3)