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Friday, November 26, 2010

Gran Turismo 5 - Darkmatters Review

Gran Turismo 5
Gran Turismo 5 – PS3

Developed by Polyphony Digital

Published by Sony

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

You see the corner closing rapidly as the scenery blurs past at blinding speed. You take your foot off the throttle and slam on the brakes. The G-Force from the deceleration immediately dominates your senses – the tyres scream out as if in pain as they battle for grip on the road surface. You’ve picked your racing line and aim for the sweet spot of the corner – the point where centrifugal and cornering forces reach their equilibrium – where all there is left is pure acceleration… This is the essence of Gran Turismo 5, this is the ‘Real Driving Simulator’…

OK so GT5 is finally here. Over five years of painstaking development time, delayed so often that it made grown men weep with anticipation as the hype reached proportions that made Halo look ‘meh’. Having sold over 56 million units worldwide, the award-winning Gran Turismo franchise is regarded as the best and most authentic driving simulator ever created due to its true-to-life graphics, authentic physics technology and design. Since the inception of the Gran Turismo franchise, famed creator Kazunori Yamauchi and Polyphony Digital have pretty much revolutionised the racing category as we know it today. GT games bring the most realistic driving simulation you can find on a console and give a unique medium for automotive manufacturers to showcase their products. So, with much pressure comes much responsibility for Polyphony Digital to deliver the ultimate racing sim and with so many preorders expectation is running at an all-time high…

Gran Turismo 5

And now we have it so is it any good?

I can still remember the first time I played Gran Turismo – on my brother in-law’s original PlayStation circa 1997. I had a Sega Saturn and was mid-way through telling him how much better Daytona USA was than anything on the Sony machine when he loaded it up. In the next few hours everything changed… I loved it, but then my first word was ‘car’ – not ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ but ‘car’!?

When Gran Turismo made the jump to PS2, I was there straight away and likewise I was at the midnight launch of Gran Turismo 5 where I won a Signature Edition of the game – the omens were good!

Gran Turismo 5
"yeah - that's my copy..."

First things first then, Gran Turismo 5 is an astonishing achievement – (un)charting new territories in visual wonder, the new ‘premium’ cars are shiny models that could make even the most car adverse person drool in awe. Taking these babies for a spin through some of the greatest cities in the world is an experience which will flood you with auto-endorphins as streetlights or sunlight (depending on the time of day) reflect off the polished sheen of your automobile. Alas not all the 1000+ cars are built to this level of jaw-dropping detail. There are many ‘ported’ cars from GT4 and you can add more from the PSP version – these cars are ok but stand out miles compared to the premium ones in terms of graphical fidelity.

But looks aren’t everything and even the most eye-popping visuals can’t make up for shoddy gameplay. Fortunately Gran Turismo 5 keeps the ‘tried and tested’ gameplay that has served the series so well up until now and upgrades the wealth of options to a point unmatched by any other console racing title.

Gran Turismo 5
Hungry to jump into a performance care straight away? Head for the ‘Arcade mode’ which is ready and waiting to entertain. If however you’re keen to work through the fabled GT Career - which is like a car based RPG - then you’ll get to earn your licences, build up cash and experience points through racing to unlock / buy better cars.

The GT5 physics engine is crazy realistic, there is a real feeling that each car is handling as you’d expect it to in real life which is much more noticeable than in the arcade flavoured games such as Need for Speed where each car is basically just either a faster or slower model with essentially very similar handling.

So it looks great and plays beautifully (and is a dream if you invest in a decent steering wheel controller) but there are some tasty new elements added this time too. First up is car damage – a feature never before allowed in the world of Gran Turismo due to real world manufacturers not really wanted people seeing their cars mangled in such explicit detail. GT5 brings the damage, which is great on the premium cars and not even really noticeable on the standard ones. It may affect your driving style though when you see the prices of repairs after a heavy bout of paint trading with opponents!?

The online portion has been upgraded – and although the servers are struggling at the moment with the Call of Duty levels of people trying to get onto them – the racing in multiplayer sessions is fun. Sixteen people can race against each other and there are multiple options for setting up your own challenges etc. Speaking of setting up your own things – GT5 has a track builder which allows you design your own course and then race them.

Gran Turismo 5

Another ‘oohhh that’s nice’ feature is using the PS Eye camera to play with ‘head tracking’ which lets you look around when using the cockpit view… And if that wasn’t enough there is also the option to play in stunning 3D – I got to play a rally stage in 3D at Sony Betarooms Event and it really does add something special to the driving experience (although not special enough for my wife to countenance us upgrading to a 3D TV at home!?).

The feeling of burning around the Top Gear Test Track one minute, then drafting behind your opponent in a tense NASCAR showdown the next before going on to rain drenched F1 race is amazing. As is the satisfaction of tuning and building up your own garage of cars, photographing them and re-watching your spectacular saved films of your greatest victories…

Is Gran Turismo 5 perfect? Not quite – there have been many reviewers out there getting hung up on ‘odd looking shadows’ or moaning about the standard cars… But to be critical of Gran Turismo 5’s small issues is to miss the overall point, kind of like refusing to go out with a supermodel because she has odd toenail…
GT5 is an awesome game, it stands head and shoulders above any other racing game on the market and should be top of every car / racing game fan’s Christmas list.

Overall: Darkmatters rating: öööööööööö (10 car porn experiences out of 10)

"If GT5 was a girl - it would probably be Amber Heard!"

Is it real or is it GT5??


Unknown said...

Great review! I agree that this game is jam-packed full of content and the quality is just unprecedented.

I've been addicted for well over a dozen hours now. It's like a racing RPG!

Unknown said...

Excellent review. It's amazing how GT5 is a game that I just want to own, despite not being much of a racing fan, let alone a racing sim fan even. It's just... one of those games.

Cole Trickle said...

Good review, you nailed it Matt!!!!
Nice to see someone not afraid to speak out the truth about GT5... So many kinnectamal box fans out there knocking it for no reason other than their sad that GT5 outsold all their best racing games on its first day on sale LOL.