As listeners of our podcast know, I am a big fan of the Grand Turismo series, and that I’ve also been very frustrated with the multiple delays of the release of GT5. Well, it is finally out! The game hit the shelves on November 24th, and yes, I ran out and got it that same day! So was it worth all the wait and extra development time? I’m not sure, but that’s not to say that GT5 isn’t a great game. Its just that I’m not sure the extra wait for the inclusion of 3D was worth the time absent from the marketplace. Anyway, its out now, and I’ve had a little more than a week to play and evaluate it.
First of all, the menu is a bit less cryptic than previous iterations of the game making the selection of races a bit easier, but the number of events are rather limited. There are a few special events including a series of tutorials on negotiating the Nürburgring Nordschleife in ever increasingly challenging cars, kart racing, and even stage rallies complete with a co-driver and pace notes (sort of). There are some who aren’t so keen on the menu system and interface, but I’m fine with it. Its simple, clean, and visually interesting. There’s some dead space in the GT menu screen which makes me wonder if they’re planning upgrades in the future.
The physics in the game is spot on! The cars behave and respond very realistically, sometimes too much to for a hack driver like me. Fortunately for those of us who can’t channel our inner Stig, there are a number of driver aids that make it possible for even the most novice driver keep the car between the kerbs. Of course, with all the driver aid on, you’re not going to be able to set the fastest times, but at least you won’t experience the frustration of being able to do nothing but donuts in the grassy infield. One aspect that is unrealistic is the damage modeling. Presumably, damage modeling has been integrated into the game for the first time in the series history, but you couldn’t prove that by me. I’ve seen some YouTube videos of some “damage”, but still nothing any where close to what is realistic, and the cosmetic damage doesn’t appear to have an effect on actual performance. The lack of damage modeling has been a huge complaint about the Grand Turismo franchise since its inception. It looks that that hasn’t changed with GT5.
The graphics and artwork in the game are also hit and miss. There are some areas where Polyphony Digital knocks it completely out of the park! Then there are times when they bunt foul. As usual, the rendering of the real circuits like Monaco, Indianapolis, and Suzuka, are spot on. Many of the ancillary assets, however, appear very flat and PS2-ish. Not all the cars are rendered with equal precision either. There are two tiers of graphical treatment, standard cars and premium cars. The premium cars are spectacular and have received amazing treatment in their detail and precise rendering, but the standard cars look more like imports from GT3/4. The shadows cast by the cars are also a bit off. The diffuse shadows under the cars and under the various characters in the game are too small, if present at all, which gives the objects the appearance of floating above the tarmac as opposed to being firmly planted on it. Of course, you don’t see too much of this from the cockpit, but its a detail that could have easily been attended.
The game play for GT5 is brilliant IF you realize that what you have is a driving simulator and not a racing game. If its a racing game you want, I suggest subscribing to iRacing.com. Where else would you ever get the chance to race against real drivers like Justin Wilson? However, if you’re a car enthusiast like me, this is the game for you. Yes, the driving physics is really darned good. The opponent A.I. is …well… not so good. However, that doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of all the various cars and the driving. A case in point is that in most of the entry and mid-level races, you can overcome lack of talent with abundant application of horsepower. I’m honest enough with myself to admit that I’m no Will Power. Heck, I’m no Marty Roth! I suck behind the wheel, but that doesn’t prohibit my enjoyment, and GT5 has seen to it that drivers like me can also find fun and success with the game. For the seriously hard-core and talented, you can take off all the driver’s aids, all the skid controls, and make the game as realistic and hard as you like.
One aspect of the game play that I really like is that driving isn’t the only part of the game. You can also pretend you’re Ross Brawn or Tim Cindric and give race strategy commands to your driver as you bring them up from club racing through to the Bigs. Its not something that I’m especially keen on, but those who love the Sims will appreciate this facet of the game. My favourite part, even above the driving, perhaps, is the Photo Travel. Here you get to position your favourite premium car in a variety of scenic settings and take photos of them with a simulated SLR. You get to control all aspects of the camera except the ISO. Focal length, aperture, and shutter speed are all yours to adjust. You can also enter photo mode from any replay of your lap at your favourite track! I must admit that I’ve spent more time playing with the photo stuff than I have with the actual driving.
I haven’t played at all with the online aspect of the game, so that will have to wait for a later post, but in the end, if you love cars, get this game! Don’t expect a racing simulator. If that’s all you want, get F1 2010 or iRacing. This is a game for those of us who love cars of all shapes and sizes and love to drive them!