This is a guest review by fenr1c
"The lights go green and we are racing!" to quote the BBC formula 1 team and as far as Gran Turismo 5 is concerned it's about time. I won't go on about the numerous delays that held this game back from hitting the shelves of stores all over the country. Indeed we just now take a collective sigh of relief that the game has finally made it.
But the question has to be, was it worth the wait? Well let's see what's under the virtual hood of this racer shall we?
The first thing that graces your screen when loading the game is a rather long, in fact bordering on tedious movie of a car being built in a factory in Japan, which then cuts into the footage of the actual game play videos showing you what to expect in the game itself. It doesn't come close to showing you all believe you me!
Sony may have kept us waiting for ages for this but they seem to have packed as much into this as they can to make up for it. Personally I think some people will think that they have tried too hard to placate impatient gamers but there's no doubt that they have given us a lot. The usual modes are all there but with a 'new' twist to the usual Gran Turismo package. I put the new in inverted commas because we have seen the twist in other games. Now we are presented with an experience point system as seen in Forza 3 and in Need for Speed Shift. Likewise we have a guide line on the track to show the race line and breaking points. However only the driver gets the experience points, you do not earn discounts for car parts from manufacturers as you do in Forza.
Perhaps the most unusual twist is when you start exploring the B-Spec race class. Where as normal the A-Spec has you in control, the B-Spec is in the hands of a team of virtual drivers you create. As the race progresses you assume the role of the pit lane boss, giving the driver instructions. You can order him to pick up the pace, over take, slow down; I think you get the picture. And as your career progresses, you open up more events and races and these are numerous and varied as can be.
There's also the addition of seasonal events that providing you have the vehicle needed, you can enter as they are added too every month. The one race I saw listed requires you to have a Volkswagen Schwimvagenn! I kid thee not! The only problem was I didn't have enough cash to buy some of the cars for this month's events so I am going to have to wait and see what February offers!
These events have a time limit attached, usually between a week and 10 days but at least it adds some variety too the game but with the asking cost of vehicles it may be some time before you can afford to jump in which is a tad annoying. Maybe this part of the game will be looked at as we progress; we can only hope as some of the tournaments looked very interesting indeed.
Away from the season mode and back to normal career and the progression in levels leads to unlocking more races and race types. These include Go Kart racing, which is great fun by the way, a race involving Volkswagen Camper Vans around the Top Gear test track (but be aware there are regulations in play and you can get disqualified from the race) which is like a drivers licence test with a bronze being awarded for coming 9th or better, a course of learning the ins and outs of NASCAR Racing, and rally driving to name but three. I hear whispers that it's possible to unlock truck racing too but as of yet, that mode, if it exists, has eluded me.
GT 5 also offers for the first time a track creator. I was concerned that this would be a fiddly thing to use but no; it's really very easy to do. Pick a setting be it snow and ice, or tarmac say and it generates a random track created by the parameters you have set. You can determine the width of track, the number of bends and the camber of each one and then once done, take a vehicle around it for a test drive. The only thing that I couldn't see was how to invite others online to race on your creation? Maybe I was just missing the option, or it's an oversight that needs to be corrected by the powers that be.
Finally the dreaded licence tests are back but they are an optional factor. You don't have to do them all, or indeed any of them to progress in the game. Success in each one gives you driver experience to aid in unlocking the tournaments and events but they are as said, left as a personal choice as to how far down the road you want to go that leads too total completion of the game.
The game graphics are to be fair, very very comparable to those of Forza 3. I'm hard pressed to say which impress me the most. Detailing is superb, the scaling and frame rate are top notch and there are no incidents of pop up or drop out in evidence at all. This is the first GT where the feeling of speed from the in cockpit view almost has you involuntarily pushing yourself back in your chair with the imagined g-force of the acceleration! Certainly on practice mode I felt that way as I took some super powered rally car out for a spin on the Silverstone circuit. Yes the presentation is impressive but it's always been the case with GT, even way back in the day of GT 1 on the original Playstation and it doesn't disappoint now. The picture quality of the replay of a race is very close to perfection, you could almost swear you were watching it on live TV.
With most games being geared to encourage online play, it comes as no surprise then that GT 5 has embraced the notion with both hands and pressed it firmly too it's bosom. There are plenty of rooms available for racing and so take a deep breath and plunge right in! You'll find standard races, drift challenges to name but two (I forgot to mention drift racing as part of the overall career modes as well) and like Forza there is a market for trading cars owned by other racers. The catalogue is huge and it tells you the cost of the vehicle, as well as the level needed to be able to use the car. Some are high level indeed and come at a hefty price so be prepared to have to work hard for every virtual penny my friend! However friends can exchange cars as gifts.
Online play is smooth, with no visible lag, something which affects Forza I've noticed from time to time. I also find that people are there to race and not just run a demolition derby which suits me fine.
FINAL NOTES AND SCORE
So there you have it, the game that petrol heads have been waiting for is here. Will it settle the ongoing debate issue as to whether the Forza series is better than GT? No, I don't think it will!
Personally I prefer Forza , but it should look carefully in its rear view mirrors as I honestly feel that GT 5 is riding in its slipstream very nicely and could overtake it on the next hairpin! Sony has listened for the most part, to players of the series and has finally introduced car damage to the game. I took a hard shunt too the nose of my pristine Lexus and not only did it start handling badly, but on the replay, there was the damage for all to see (not a pretty sight!).
I add here that GT 5 lacks the full on paint jobs that grace Forza, no Pokemon or James Bond inspired cars here by the looks of things, and that's a shame. But you can tweak the performance to your heart's content.
Well there you have it. GT 5 is a beast there's no doubt about that, but is it the racing game equivalent of St.George that can slay the dragon that is Forza 3? It comes close, it really does, but Forza still has the edge for me. But GT 5 IS an enjoyable game, and provides many a varied and interesting challenge. I myself have yet to uncover all that it offers and there are some surprises I have left for you to uncover for yourselves.
So buckle up and see you on the track sometime!