The world of lounge music and classy cars has made an explosive return on Playstation, and it’s setting the bar for all racing simulators to come. Roaring engines, high definition graphics and scenic circuits make up the fifth addition to Gran Turismo’s series. Not only that, but the obvious improvements even make it competition for the ever popular Forza Motorsport 2.
If you the third and fourth editions, most memorably the third, then you’d recall the days of sleeping in the back of your Honda Civic and scrounging up just enough money to afford an mini-van, BUT NOT ANYMORE! Gran Turismo 5 moves at a much faster pace that minimizes your days of being homeless. Instead of spending hours on end practicing your left turn on the Super Speedway (a deformed oval), you systematically come up with a much more complimenting paycheck. Gran Turismo does an excellent job in not only making sure you can afford new cars, but that you need them. So you’re constantly getting a different experience depending on the race you have to complete.
One of the driving forces behind Gran Turismo’s buzz is its clearly refined graphics. As they did on the first Playstation console, Gran Turismo’s graphics set a momentous standard for other games to follow. As you choose your car of choice, whether it be a Ferrari Enzo or a Dodge Challenger, the sleek graphics will show light reflecting off of your car’s paint job and clearly outline to beautiful bodywork with impossible detail. During the day, if you happen to spin out or lose traction somehow, a thick cloud of smoke will follow your sliding car. In the rain, you’re presented with the feathery view of the soaked streets and maybe even the reflection of your headlights against the night pavement if you’re that adventurous. With Gran Turismo’s amazing attention to detail, you’ll always see a rising puddle of water as you drift in the rain and a screen of dust as you swerve around a dirt corner on a rally track.
Despite the fact that the new layout of Gran Turismo’s career menu sometimes feels cluttered, it works to its advantage when you go to race. Whether you’re racing A-Spec (driving) or B-Spec (coaching), you get a simple vertical menu of each series listed based on difficulty, and when you choose one of those options you get a neat assortment of races to choose from. The organized menu helps you to take it one series at a time and gives the game a little direction. As you get into racing you’ll notice that the driving feels completely realistic. If you’re on a road, you can practically feel your car’s center of gravity as you take the next corner. On a rally track, your car will easily slide across the next corner. Even if you’re driving a Nascar race car, you’ll feel the realistic tendency to understeer around every corner. You have complete control over your car’s handling most of the time, and the usage of the sensitive R2 and L2 triggers for gas and braking come in handy.
There is no story to Gran Turismo. The main goal is to win the championships, acquire a lot of money and buy faster cars. As being a simulator implies, Gran Turismo isn’t a game where you’ll always be able to cut across the grass in the racing strip and pit maneuver the guy in first place. It’s a game where you’ll probably have to cut across the grass in the racing strip and pit maneuver the guy in first place. Precision driving is a lengthy process that requires kung fu master patience and a lot of self restraint. You’ll often find yourself half throttling around a curve with a sudden urge to get in on some sexy bumper to bumper action with the car you haven’t been able to pass for the last three laps, but if you’re skilled enough to overtake some of the excellent drivers, you’ll find yourself well awarded.
The painstakingly realistic racing is a definite plus for those looking for gameplay, but Gran Turismo does have its downside. Though the game boasts around 20,000 licensed cars: Good luck finding them! Maybe forty of those are sitting around in the dealership where they’re actually accessible. The others are tossed into the incomplete, constantly changing list of the used car dealership. Sure, it’s understandable that they couldn’t give every car the extensively detailed cockpit view which, by the way, is based off the actual model of the car you’re driving in the game…But that doesn’t mean so many of the other cars should become hidden.
Fortunately, there are websites with Gran Turismo’s database of cars uploaded onto them, but if you see something you want then you’re going to be going to be exploiting passing race days to get the car you want. This basically means series, random race choice, track choice, wait, race menu before the actual race, engage in race, pause as race is beginning, restart, restart, restart, look at the thrice updated list of used cars, see if the car you want is there and if not rinse and repeat. This can take hours, and you have no way of searching for the specific car you want. Even worse, sometimes you’ll actually need the car in question as per race requirement.
More annoyingly enough, if you scamper to the user dealership for cheaper cars or even the online dealership, they’ll most likely be priced 999,999,999,999,999,999 (oh hey, this is Gran Turismo 3 all over again!)…a requirement that’ll most likely require you to replay racing the same tournament over and over again until you break the million dollar mark…each time. Seven times for a racing car from the 60’s or 70’s.
You can also use your car in B-Spec series, which is about as much fun as watching a golf tournament. Basically, you create your own driver and let him use your car while you coach him through the race. He has a bar that varies between ‘cool’ and ‘aggressive,’ which alters his driving style based on the pressure he feels mid-race. On the latter end of that spectrum, he begins driving like he just exited Gran Turismo and entered Burnout. Though he may look calm for a moment, come the first turn he’ll almost always be scrubbing up against the guard rail and doing his best Nick Hogan impersonation on the race track. What’s sad is that Gran Turismo doesn’t give you many options to cool your driver down. You can either tell him to slow down, maintain his pace, go faster or overtake the driver in front of him. We’ll que the Jeopardy theme to let you decide which one of those is practically the only one that actually works in calming him down.
Even without B-Spec being the most amazing thing in the world, Gran Turismo has plenty of bells and whistles that’ll make it great to own. In the photography mode, depending on the places you’ve unlocked, you can take pictures of your car in scenic locations. But that isn’t the cool part. The cool part is that you can save your snapshots, export them to your ‘Photos’ in your XMB, then send them off to your friends so they can eyeball you car in front of a random lake or something. What’s even cooler is that you can do this during replays, and you can save your replays themselves. If you do something amazing then you’ll be perfectly capable of showing it off, and even better, the camera features are very much so realistic and capable of almost anything.
Players can even give other players cars for charity. But one flaw in logic with the game is that since some cars are super expensive, and it becomes a way for players to hustle other players. On the subject of players, Gran Turismo’s online is a bit of a disappointment. If you aren’t lagging terribly then you’re racing against someone’s twenty million dollar beast. Some of the races are one make but the experience is weird, complicated (because of the online menus) and not as fun as you’d think it’d be. Gran Turismo’s multiplayer has a lack of restrictions that ultimately make the game hard for newer players to jump into. But if you have friends over, that multiplayer could always be fun itself.
All in all, Gran Turismo is an excellent simulator and does well to hold its own in being the best racing simulator on the Playstation console. It’s definitely worked its way up from the last two titles and is the game to have for racing heads out there. Its shortcomings may make it a game you play to beat, but the ability to race on the Top Gear track among other things is something that you’ll keep coming back to race for time and time again. Gran Turismo 5 is a game to own, for its presentation and the standard it sets as well as the immense amount of fun that comes with it. It’s worth a solid four out of five stars on a basic rating system, maybe an eight out of ten if we get into specifics. Top that, Forza.