Gran Turismo 5 Review (PS3)

Gran Turismo 5 does not make a good first impression. Lengthy development process aside, sitting down to play the game feels like Polyphony Digital are playing some kind of practical joke. After a humorously over-the-top introduction, which features real-world footage of cars being forged, we're treated to extensive loading times and a clunky menu system. After such anticipation, it takes ruthless digging to unearth the magic Gran Turismo used to wield in abundance, but if you're willing to overlook the initial impression, there's still a decent game here.

It does test the patience though. Remember the very first Gran Turismo 5 videos, where the cars looked amazing? Well, times have moved on since then, and they're nothing to shout home about now. When starting the GT career mode, you're pretty much forced to check out the used car dealerships, as funds are minimal. Although this isn't a new feature of racing games, to start with a rusty old banger and to work yourself up, we're given the choice of cars that appeared on the PlayStation 2 many moons ago. This time, the original batch of cars look dreadful. For your first few races, the whole experience is a little underwhelming, as you drive round predictable tracks picking up enough cash to improve your piece of scrap metal. It's a relief that you no longer need to pass endless amounts of driving tests to ensure progress, but that doesn't make up for a particularly dull first few hours with the game.

Around 1000 cars are lovingly recreated and fully licensed

After investing a fair amount of time, GT5 begins to show flashes of what we used to love. The most enjoyment comes from the special events, many of which are hidden throughout the overly-complicated menu system. You'll have the chance to learn how to drive NASCAR-style from a racing legend, go back to basics with karting, and quite brilliantly, get a chance to drive round the Top Gear test track. This is a neat touch for fans of the show, as we underestimated how much fun can be had pretending to be The Stig, while shouting 'AND ON THAT BOMBSHELL' every time we rode through Gambon. The other two special events already mentioned highlight how versatile GT5 can be, as the tactics needed to win change massively. While learning the ropes on the American NASCAR scene, you'll no doubt get frustrated at the amount of retries faced when trying to perform certain overtaking manoeuvres. Bare with it, and eventually it'll click, providing useful pointers for when the race is really on. Compare this to karting, and there's a completely different outlook. No training required, this exciting form of racing requires quick reflexes and constant aggression to bypass your opponents. There's no sweeping bends and insane speeds to contend with, just your ability to get the machine from A to B without spinning out of control. It's these moments where Gran Turismo 5 feels like a missed opportunity, as large parts of the game lack any real thrill, and offer as much excitement as bleeding a radiator or watching a Lenny Henry stand-up show.

This kind of 50/50 success rate continues throughout GT5. Sometimes, we're treated to beautiful scenery, engulfed in landmarks and memorable stretches of road. At other times, it's like looking into a paper bag full of vomit. Vehicles are square and appear completely lifeless. Textures around each track are oddly plain, giving the feel that everything has been cleaned up for your arrival. There's a lack of soul here, as for a simulation, proceedings are remarkably pristine. Damage is also overlooked for the most part, with only a handful of crashes offering any visual effect on your vehicle. Coming into contact with other racers is one of the most embarrassing aspects of GT5, as you just seem to bounce off like the school nerd accidently running into the big bad bully. It's bitterly disappointing that, after all the time spent in the cooker, GT5's interpretation of damage falls well short of Forza 3, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit, and just about every racing game this side of 2005.

It must be said, the Dualshock doesn't feel like it's helping GT5's handling. The joysticks are under pressured and unresponsive, while holding the throttle down is never as comfortable as on the Xbox 360's pad. The vehicles themselves react realistically, and you've still got a host of tuning options to play with, but we'd never expect anything less. If you're going to get the most out of the game, investing into a steering wheel is the only way.

Hopefully the abysmal multiplayer will be sorted out soon, as right now, it's a waste of time

While the GT5 multiplayer mode has a decent set of options for groups of friends, actually finding a game on your own feels extremely out of date. We thought the days of trawling individual rooms were over, but sadly, there's no matchmaking feature. There's no incentive to play online either, as you won't get rewarded in any way for taking part in races against the general public. Compare this to Forza 3, and GT5 begins to free fall. Although you can gift cars to friends, you won't find an evolving marketplace full of customised vehicles, and you'll even fail to hunt down time trial leaderboards. We know online mutliplayer was added pretty late on, but the developers have made such a catastrophic error that we're not sure if the game should have included it at all. Not something you want to be saying in a medium that is now dominated by the realms of online competition. Polyphony have had the brains to include split-screen mutliplayer, but this'll be little consolation to those who take their racing seriously.

Years of waiting, and we're presented with a title that still feels unfinished. Gran Turismo 5's main frustrations come from the fact that, at times, the game is entertaining and a joy to play. At other times, it had us questioning if Polyphony understand what the current generation of consoles are capable of. Not even an interesting photo mode and the Gran Turismo TV videos can save this from becoming one of 2010's biggest disappointments. For those who love the franchise, this is still going to get the gears shifting, but for everyone else, well, there's Forza Motorsport 3.

Most Memorable Moment: Racing a camper van round the Top Gear test track.

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By noobst3R (SI Core) on Jan 08, 2011
IMO, GT3 is still the most fun of them all. I am not a real racing fan, but from all the GT's and NFS that I have played, the third is the best. Well, aside from Underground 1, but that isn't quite in the same genre.
By K3Spice (SI Core) on Jan 30, 2011
How does this compare graphics wise to dirt 2?
By VHugoSama (SI Core) on Feb 12, 2011
I agree Forza 3 is a better game.