When the PlayStation 3 was first revealed during Sony’s E3 2005 Press Conference, it was no surprise to see them show off footage from their most successful franchise, Gran Turismo. Originally titled, Vision Gran Turismo, had a monumental presence during Sony’s conference and genuinely showcased the capabilities of Sony’s upcoming gaming console.
E3 2005 is now history and gamers around the world have been enjoying their PS3 console for roughly four years now. Despite the tedious inception of the console, PS3 owners have been enjoying the plethora of solid titles and rapidly evolving PlayStation Network. With franchises such as Uncharted, Killzone, Motorstorm, and the many others out there, Sony provides an experience any gamer could possibly wish for.
With the release of Gran Turismo 5, I feel it is safe to say Sony offers an exclusive title appealing to everyone in today’s diverse gaming community.
Gran Turismo 5 expands on the condensed Prologue version of the game with over 1,000 licensed cars and more than 20 tracks with over 70 variations. Gran Turismo 5 becomes the first title in the series to include weather effects, a course creator, the NASCAR/World Rally Championship/Super GT license, kart racing and the highly anticipated addition of online gameplay and damage modeling. With such a large congregation for a single racing title, it is understandable as to why it took Polyphony Digital 5+ years to sculpt the latest title in the Gran Turismo franchise.
After you conquer the optional 8gb install, you are presented with one of the most fascinating menu systems you will ever experience as a gamer. You will be introduced to an intuitive background video which runs behind your selections showing off your current vehicle as well as a variety of gorgeous environments. On top of that, you have a couple widgets updating you on the latest news related to Gran Turismo as well as a clock and mini calendar. This setup made me feel as if I was launching an operating system revolved all around Gran Turismo.
At first, you may become overwhelmed by the amount of events and options you are given, but this is certainly something to be excited about. The first stage of the menu system allows you to choose between GT Mode, Arcade Mode, Course Maker, Gran Turismo TV, and your traditional Options.
GT Mode is easily the highlight of the menu and contains most of what will consume your time in Gran Turismo 5. This is where your GT Career will take place along with online multiplayer racing.
If you have ever played the Gran Turismo franchise, the career should come to you as second nature with many new improvements and additions. When you first start off, you are given a limited amount of credits to apply to your first car, meaning you will more than likely be looking in the Used Dealership. Once you find a car within your price range, you are all set to begin racing and earning the licenses.
The licenses are where things begin to become more difficult. Once you earn the first two licenses, the tasks you must accomplish become extremely strict and cheap at times. Some of these tasks include nailing turns without any mistakes and racing your way from last place to a better position without making contact with anything, and I mean anything, besides the road. This becomes extremely difficult as you progress through the multiple tiers of licenses and it forces you drive to perfection. There is no doubt in my mind that this sculpted me to become a better virtual driver in the long run, but many times I failed a task due to a weak mechanic in the game.
A couple of the tasks you will encounter feature traffic cones to prevent you from taking too wide of turns or driving too far off of the designated path, but it seems as if these objects are inconsistently coded into the game. There have been many times that I ran into more than five of them for it to allow me to keep progressing, while other times I will come an inch or two from hitting one and it leads to a disqualification. I feel Polyphony Digital could have done a much better job assigning the failure points for the license tests, but in the long run, the licenses helped me significantly.
After you purchase your first car and try out some of the license tests, the Gran Turismo experience that we all know kicks in.
You will be given two routes in which you may choose from being the A-Spec division along with the B-Spec division.
Within the A-Spec portion, you will encounter a variety of events broken up into five tiers of increasing difficulty. Within each tier, you will find nine events containing a diverse amount of individual races and championship circuits. The goal in all of these events is to rank within the top three positions to earn a Gran Turismo Trophy assigned to that particular event along with credits which can be used to purchase, tune, and maintain your car/s.
As you begin to earn credits early on, you will be able to move on from only purchasing from the Used Car lot to also being able to afford a new car from the Dealerships. Gran Turismo 5 contains a whopping 51 dealerships ranging from Honda to Jaguar to everyone’s dream manufacturers, Ferrari and Lamborghini. Gran Turismo has also acquired multiple concept cars to represent their title similar to previous titles in the franchise.
As you progress throughout the events, you will learn that many of the events require you to drive a specific car whether it’s as specific as a Japanese Classic built before 1979 or just any car manufactured in 1969 or earlier. This forces you to drive multiple cars deriving from many different time eras and manufacturers. This is where Polyphony Digital took the racing genre to the next level and added a MMO element to their latest release.
When looking for these cars, they will not always be readily available to you via the Dealerships or even the Used Car Market. Gran Turismo 5 challenges you to keep an eye out on the Used Car Market as it is constantly updating with new choices which may contain the vehicle you need for a specific event. You may also need to unlock a certain vehicle, such as a racing truck, by completing multiple of the tiered licenses. While this may cause frustration for many of the impatient racers out there, Polyphony Digital wanted to make this title feel as much as a simulation as possible.
Tuning and maintaining your car/s is one area the Gran Turismo franchise has excelled in and this certainly does not change with the release of Gran Turismo 5. You are given the option to upgrade many of the key mechanics in a car including the chassis, engine, intake system, exhaust, transmission, drivetrain, suspension, and tires. You can also install turbo kits on many of the cars giving your car a boost over the competition. Along with being able to spend your hard-earned credits on tuning your car, you are able to head to the Car Service and Maintenance Shop to get a car wash, oil change, paint job, new wheels, exchange aerodynamic parts, rebuild engine, repair body damage to the car, and perform racing modifications. All of these options will have a direct impact on how your car performs on the track and should play a large role in your strategy.
After trying out the A-Spec mode and pushing my way through the events, I decided to check out the B-Spec division to see what it was bringing to the Gran Turismo franchise. The B-Spec portion is nearly the exact same as the A-Spec portion, but instead of you being the driver, you manage the race team. You take complete control over how your driver advances through the race by telling the driver to speed up, slow down, attempt to pass the car in front, or maintain the current pace. Each action will have an impact on the driver’s physical and mental fitness in which you must monitor in order to be successful. Overall, this is a cool addition to the Gran Turismo franchise, but I much prefer taking control of the car rather than giving the driver commands.
Along with the A-Spec and B-Spec modes, Gran Turismo 5 brings the amazingly gratifying Special Events mode. This is where you will be able to step out of the ordinary and move onto kart racing, NASCAR training, rally racing, a dazzling tour of Italy, and the ability to experience the Top Gear test track with everything from a Volkswagen Van to the Tesla Roadster.
Comparable to the A-Spec mode, the special events are divided into tiers of increasing difficulty.
Gran Turismo 5 excels when it comes to the implementation of karts. It is obvious that Polyphony Digital spent quality time developing the control mechanics for the karts rather than just using the karts as skins. The karts control considerably different than the cars and offer a karting experience like no other. While many may assume the karting was implemented in order to appeal to the more casual market, this is not the case. Taking a turn the slightest bit sharp leads to a complete spin out and is likely to lead to a poor finishing position.
Polyphony Digital has also brought NASCAR fans the racing experience they finally deserve. As someone who does not care for the sport of NASCAR, I found myself enjoying the NASCAR training and races more than ever before. It is amazing to see Gran Turismo 5 pull off something Electronic Arts has struggled at for years now.
When Polyphony Digital first announced that they had acquired the World Rally Championship (WRC) license, I became very interested in how they would execute the sport. With strong competitors out there such as the DiRT franchise, Gran Turismo 5 was already stamped with high expectations months before its release. Gran Turismo 5 takes rally racing to the next level and provides gamers with the ultimate rally racing experience. Within the Special Events mode, you will have multiple time trial events that take place on the whimsical landscape of Tuscany. While this is undoubtedly the most challenging portion of Gran Turismo 5, once you learn the tricks of the trade, you will find yourself enjoying rally cross more than ever before.
While the single player experience in Gran Turismo 5 is sure to last you a quality amount of time, the online multiplayer in Gran Turismo 5 is where we all plan on spending most of our duration racing, or so you may think. When you first hop online, you will be greeted by an extravagant system that operates exceptionally stable, handling up to 16 cars or 32 karts. You are considerably unrestricted when it comes to setting up your own room allowing you to create enduring races that could last anywhere from a couple minutes to a few hours. If you happen to join a lobby in the middle of a race, you will be able to observe the race in spectator mode which provides you with real-time stats throughout the race along with view your future opponent’s racing techniques. Overall, the performance of Gran Turismo 5’s online multiplayer is solid, but when it comes to the overall gaming experience, the multiplayer is incredibly lacking.
Beyond the non-user friendly menu system, Gran Turismo 5 dismisses the most essential fragment of any online multiplayer title, a rewards system. As you race online and finish in top tier positions, you are left with nothing but bragging rights. I am left frustrated that arguably the best racing title to ever grace the face of this earth fails in the department “replayability” was born in. Nothing else disturbs me more than to see such an epic racing title with a monumental development cycle disappoint the racing fans who have been waiting for this game ever since the PS3 was first announced back in 2005. Now while this is something I am praying is patched in later down the line, there are no excuses as to why this should not have been present day one.
Once you have spent countless hours within GT Mode, you will have the ability to try out the Arcade Mode. This allows you to set up quick custom races along with host drift challenges. This is a great mode to have when you want to take part in split-screen multiplayer or just practice your racing skills.
Visually, Gran Turismo 5 is nothing short of a masterpiece. When gaming first began, no human being ever felt gaming would be able to come close to reality, but now we are surpassing it. The amount of detail implemented into the environments and especially the vehicles leaves you with a sight that looks better than it would in the real world.
For the first time ever, Gran Turismo 5 introduces damage modeling to the franchise. Racing fans have understood that in order for a racing title to be considered a “true simulation” it must contain somewhat precise damage modeling not only on the visual side of things, but alongside the mechanics. The racing experience that Gran Turismo 5 provides is unquestionably top-notch, but the lackluster implementation of damage modeling is beyond upsetting for hardcore racing fanatics.
Polyphony Digital has implemented a mechanic within Gran Turismo 5 where when playing through your Gran Turismo career, you will experience little to no damage until you reach level 20. Then once you reach level 40 you will unlock full-feature damage including mechanical along with major structural damage. Now yes, once you reach level 40, the damage modeling is nothing short of impressive if you are in control of a premium car, but why does Polyphony Digital require such high achievement for something that should be standard in every racing title?
I understand that Polyphony Digital didn’t want you to run into the issue early on where you totally wreck your car with little to no credits, but I wish they could have implemented this into the GT career a little smarter. I am currently level 17 with well over a million credits and a fully tuned Bugatti Veyron. If I were to totally demolish this beast, I would have no issues building my way back up with a fully tuned Ferrari or Lamborghini.
Along with this downfall in the Gran Turismo career, it operates the exact same way in Arcade Mode. If you are racing in Arcade Mode and the status of your car after the race does not matter, why restrict damage modeling there as well? Now while I do understand that Kazunori Yamauchi, CEO of Polyphony Digital, came out this past week and announced a patch would drop December 1st to enable damage modeling in the Arcade Mode, I still feel it is an upset to the racing fans that rushed out and bought Gran Turismo 5 day one.
Course Maker, making its debut on Gran Turismo 5, provides you with a variety of templates in which you will use to help design your own racing course. For those hoping Gran Turismo 5 would be on the level of ModNation Racers as far as being able to design the track of your dreams, I am sorry to say this is not the case. Once you have a template selected, you are limited to adjusting the complexity of the track, sharpness of the turns, and width of the road by using a number slider. I was left extremely disappointed by the lack of customization Polyphony Digital placed into a feature which had endless potential.
Overall, Gran Turismo 5 is a racing masterpiece. With exquisite visuals, solid implementation of karts/NASCAR/rally racing, and a solid career mode; there is no debating that Gran Turismo 5 is one of, if not, the best racing title to ever grace the face of the earth. I just wish Polyphony Digital wouldn’t have left me, along with the hardcore racing fans, so disappointed with the online multiplayer and utilization of damage modeling.