Gran Turismo 5 PS3 Review

Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment Europe – Developer – Polyphony Digital – Genre –  Racing – Players – 1-16 – Age Rating – 3+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A

Gran Turismo where have you been? It’s been almost five years since fans have been given the opportunity to race cars that range from those driven by the everyman to the ultimate racing drivers, and to add parts to improve the on-track performance of their vehicles. Well, now you can actually touch the box and put the game into your PS3 without it being a mere dream. Gran Turismo 5 is finally here.

But for those who really like to minimise the loading times of their games, Gran Turismo 5 comes with an optional install, and if you choose to do this right away, then you’ll have to wait just that little bit longer to play the game. It’s hardly another five year wait, but the 8GB install does take around an hour to complete. The install dramatically improves loading times, although they are still going to be longer than many would have liked.

When I finally reached the screen of the GT mode I thought it was a little cluttered initially, although things did start making sense and I began to remember that Gran Turismo is a series with a fair number of options and that the layout could be far worse and cluttered than it is here.

The tracks are diverse and high in number, some are real and others are old GT favourites.

The GT mode once again has you going through the familiar motions of buying new and used cars (there’s over 1000 included, so if you like cars you’ll feel as if you are in heaven), racing them and tuning them into powerful racing machines. There are special races that have you doing everything from NASCAR and rallying, to throwing Go Karts around tracks and even racing on the famous test track from the Top Gear TV show.  The mode has you levelling up and being given access to new events and cars when you reach certain levels, which is certainly rewarding.

The licence tests, previously a requisite before you could even race, are now entirely optional, which makes those who want to just get on with the racing in the GT mode, actually be able to race from the very beginning. This is a very wise alteration and certainly sits right for Gran Turismo 5’s apparent desire to appeal to a more universal audience.

Indeed, Gran Turismo 5 certainly has the much loved handling from the games of past, but this time around it’s fairer to the complete newcomer. There’s now a number of assists which can be toggled on or off or put somewhere in-between, which will serve as a great starting point for certain players. But those who are familiar with the series or just like tossing themselves in the deep end straight from the off can jump right in and experience the complex and challenging driving model. Typically, it’s just as satisfying as Gran Turismo has always proven to be when it comes to the on-track driving.

In fact, it’s even more so now that the AI has seen an increase in intelligence. The computer controlled opponents now seem to be more aware of where you’re actually at on the track and won’t always rudely crash into you if you happen to be on their racing line. It’s hardly up there with the likes of Codemasters best, but it’s certainly a significant improvement on what came before from Polyphony Digital’s racing simulation series.

But it could be argued that Gran Turismo has never really been a racing game as such: some claim it’s a driving game that has been passionately built with the joy of driving in mind. Adding parts to your cars to increase the performance can see you finish 30+ seconds in front of your opponents for example. What matters most is how the thing handles, and, like I mentioned earlier on, Gran Turismo 5 typically hits the sweet spot with the feeling of weight and the different behaviour of each car.

There’s even damage this time around, although it’s purely cosmetic and underwhelming. I really must mention Codemasters again, as their games are exactly how damage should be done in a racing game, and in Gran Turismo 5 it’s basic on the standard cars and at its best on the premium models of the 1000+ vehicles included in the game.

Yes, the premium models – there’s only about 200 of these in the game and they look better, sound better and crash better. Premium models even include detailed interior views, which is a first for a Gran Turismo game. Obviously time constraints resulted in Polyphony Digital splitting the cars into standard and premium, although the discrepancy between the two is still disappointing and it appears as though naming the more detailed models as premium comes across as if the developer is giving you something special, and, let’s be honest now, they’re most certainly not.

The B-Spec mode once again returns, in which you give AI racers orders in a bid to create some AI racing champions.

The visuals are a similar mixed bag: sometimes the game looks like a beautiful PS3 game and at others it looks like it could be quite comfortable on the PS2. Rainy weather looks absolutely stunning and the wet tracks with the light bouncing off in the dark are eye pleasingly gorgeous, as are the fireworks that light up some of the night skies. The bad? The standard vehicle models just look relatively basic, the shadows look jagged, and some of the track features such as the London buildings appear too flat and unrealistic. It’s uncharacteristic for a Gran Turismo game to be a mixture of good and bad when it comes to the visuals, so this is obviously another disappointment.

Right, back to the good stuff. Gran Turismo 5 is the first game in the series to actually allow you to play online. Up to sixteen players can race at once and for the most part I found it to be a smooth experience, although being connected has caused problems for some players even in the single player mode.

Gran Turismo 5 may have a number of problems and feels a bit half finished, although the on-track vehicle handling once again impresses and Polyphony Digital have even made the game more welcoming for those new to the series. I would feel as if I was lying to claim that it fully lives up to all that five year hype, but it’s once again a game of automotive passion and one that shows a true respect for the art of driving.