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December 24, 2010
Gran Turismo 5 - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
21/10/2010SonySonyPolyphony Digital1-22-16
Media HDD Space Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Gran Turismo 5 is out now on PS3.
Gran Turismo 5 is, without a doubt, Sony's big Christmas title of 2010 and with the PS3 having been out for four years now it is certainly time for the console to get a proper iteration of Sony's much loved racing franchise. With so many promises, so much potential can this racing game stack up against the competition? Is there any competition at all?

One only needs to look at the stats for this game to get a sense of the scale; over 5-years in development, 1031 cars (200 of which are "Premium" models - more on that later), 26 locations and 71 tracks (including the Top Gear test track), World Rally Championship, NASCAR and Super GT licenses, kart racing, online racing for 16-players, damage modeling for Premium cars, a course creation tool, night time racing, Playstation Eye Head tracking, a Gran Turismo TV channel with downloadable videos and support for 3DTV's!

It's certainly an impressive list of features and racing fans should be in heaven with the entire package as it not only provides a complete racing experience, but also plenty of detail about the cars and manufacturers through in-game museum cards and car details. If you're into cars there is no more complete package then Gran Turismo 5.

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Premium car models look sensational.
After watching what we think is one of the coolest and most impressive intro/game credit videos ever put into a video game you will hit the Main Menu and the first option that many of you will enter is the Arcade Mode which is a great way to get a taste of what this game has to offer. The Arcade Mode offers either a Single Race, Time Trial, Drift Trial or 2-player Split Screen Mode. After selecting one you will then select the Track, the Car and transmission, and the enter the race. It's the quickest way to get into racing, and the quickest way to test out many vehicles not available, most likely due to a lack of funds, in the GT Life Mode (more on that soon).

Also in this Arcade Mode, but not in the GT Life mode, is the ability to use the Playstation Eye to track your head and change the angle of the viewpoint on-screen. It works well in theory but in practice it's probably either not as well implemented, or not quite as useful, as it sounds on paper. Still it's another area where Polyphony Digital are pushing boundaries.

As with Gran Turismo 5 Prologue this game includes an option called Gran Turismo TV. No, this doesn't allow you to watch replays but rather allows you to download hours of video segments and trailers based on the game and car events and shows from around the globe. Impressively there is considerable free content to download here, and if you want there are also videos which you can purchase on select topics from other production companies for a few dollars.

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GT5 includes damage, but it's implementation is average.
Another option on the Main Menu is the Course Maker which, as the title suggests, allows you to make your own course, save it to the PS3 HDD, race on it and even share it with friends. We haven't delved too deep into this mode to be honest, but after a couple of hours we had something fairly respectable made to race on and we could certainly see a few more hours being lost here.

The GT-Life Mode is where you will, or at least should, spend most of your time when playing Gran Turismo 5. Essentially this is the career mode where you can buy new or used cars from dealerships, take them to the shop to be upgraded with new parts for better performance, give them oil changes, car washes or new paint jobs.

But it's the racing that counts and there are three main modes to keep you occupied. First up is the Licenses where, just like previous titles in the franchise, you will undergo a series of skills based tests which may include a time trial on part of a circuit, or having to overtake a number of cars by the finish line. Depending on your performance you'll be rewarded with Gold, Silver or Bronze trophies, and more importantly earn experience points which can put you up to the next level thereby opening up further license tests, or racing events.

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Premium cars have in-cockpit viewpoints.
Next up are two very different racing experiences; A-Spec and B-Spec modes. The A-Spec mode is where you will do all of your racing and the races are ranked according to required experience levels or according to vehicle specifications such as country of origin, power levels, year manufactured and more. Upon completion of the races you'll earn experience points as well as cash which can be spent to purchase more vehicles. Perform particularly well and you'll be rewarded with new cars.

The B-Spec mode is something we're still not completely sold on. Rather than taking control behind the wheel you simply watch your racer behind the wheel and issue orders from the sideline such as "Overtake", "Speed Up". "Maintain Speed" or "Slow Down". Your drivers performance will be affected by his skill levels, the car selected and his temperament.

Finally, and for the first time in this series (the main games at least) Polyphony Digital have incorporated online gameplay into the franchise. With support for up to 16-players at once the development team have done a pretty decent job of providing an online racing experience, although we did notice some issues if people have poor connections. Initially the online racing was a pretty poor experience due to a lack of car restrictions however a recent patch has added in more options to make the races more even, and as a result more fun. Still, there's a lot more that could be done here to improve online racing - perhaps further patches will add more features and customisations to the races.

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Few games look as good as GT5 - at times.
So let's look at the issues in this game, and despite the massive size and scale of the game there are plenty of things here that just make you ask; Why? First of all the menu and interface for the game is pretty unwieldy and cumbersome, especially when you need to select a particular car type to enter a race with.

Certainly our biggest disappointment with this game has to do with the damage modeling. Despite it's inclusion it's pretty superficial and despite what the developers claim it is not accessible from the beginning in the GT Life mode - we've heard reports of it kicking in when you reach level 20. We've raced "Premium" version cars (the ones that are meant to show damage) slammed into walls at 300km/hr rolled the car and had it drive on without a scratch. As for mechanical damage, that has just been added in via a patch, but is only for online racing. Sigh...

Another oddity is that car customisation it seems to be the same for almost every car, with no customised parts available. Also bewildering is that while you can reduce the car weight, strengthen the body, tune the engine, install new gearboxes, tyres or exhausts there is no option to put in different brakes to improve braking during races. Surely the brakes you buy at the car dealer isn't the same one you would race around a track with!

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Races in cities look gorgeous.
Ever since the PlayStation 3, Gran Turismo was a poster child for what the system was capable of on a graphical level with claims of 1080p visuals and near photo realism. Indeed the free Gran Turismo HD Concept downloadable demo gave us a taste of what to expect from the final game, and it was exciting. It has been four years today since that demo was released (yes, December 24 2006!) and with the finished game here we can say that there are differences, but strangely not all for the best. Perhaps it's the addition of the multiple cars on track, or the need for CPU AI drivers, but the Eiger Nordwand track in the final game doesn't look as sharp as the Gran Turismo HD Concept release. Having said that one would be very hard pressed to notice the difference without direct comparison and this final game, which runs at 1280 x 1080 before being upscaled to 1920 x 1080 is still a technical accomplishment on so many levels.

As you would have seen from the surrounding screenshots this, for the most part, is a great looking game. The tracks all look sensational from the building laden streets of London, to the mountainous Eiger Nordwand or the concrete oval of Daytona every track has been superbly recreated. Likewise "Premium" cars in the game are sensationally recreated down to every detail including the exterior, and interior of the cars. But there are only 200 premium cars with around 800 cars being "Standard" Editions - essentially upscaled versions of the PS2 and PSP cars in other Gran Turismo titles. Kazunori has confirmed that many of the "Standard" cars will be upgraded to "Premium" models in due course. So how does this affect the game? It doesn't in terms of car physics or gameplay, but these lower quality "Standard" models can look pretty rough around the edges in places, smooth lines show angular polygons and the shadows can be pretty horrible. Speaking of shadows, they are actually pretty horrible in much of the game with plenty of flickering and rough angles which look out of place, and cheap, in a polished title such as this.

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Another impressive Gran Turismo 5 screen.
Now we come to our biggest issue - the screen tearing. For a product that doesn't quite hold a solid 60fps frame rate - although it's close enough few will notice the frame drops - we were bitterly disappointed to see so much screen tearing in the game which is not only very persistent, but very noticeable. If you're sitting behind a couple of other cars, or turning around a corner sharply, expect tearing. Now we understand this helps keep the frame rate up, but damn its annoying and looks like shit. Another minor niggle is that when racing in snow cars will kick up plumes of snow, but when you look at the rear view mirror it's crystal clear. Perhaps that was taxing the system too much!

Having said all that Gran Turismo 5 really is a technical showcase for the PlayStation 3 and a game which will help sell units. We haven't even touched on one of the biggest selling points either - the inclusion of 3DTV support - mainly as we don't have a 3DTV ourselves, but reports from fellow gamers are positive in terms of increased depth perception albeit with a lower frame rate.

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Ferrari cars are included in GT5.
Certainly one aspect of this title where we have no issues at all is the audio which is presented in Linear PCM 7.1 audio as well as DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1 if required. Not only do the cars sound authentic - or as best as we can tell without really driving them - but the effects such as cars skidding or engines from cars around you give a good guide as to what's happening around your car. Gran Turismo 5 includes close to a hundred music tracks which you can individually turn off or on according to your preferences. Licensed music includes tracks from bands or artists such as My Chemical Romance, Chemical Brothers, Queens of the Stone Age, Chopin, and Beethoven to name a few. If they don't suit it's also possible to select your own music copied onto the PS3 Hard Drive.

If there is a very minor negative it has to do with speech during the game. While there is no commentary at all during the races it's not required, and as a driver it's not like you'd be listening to commentary anyway. Having said that perhaps some comments from your pit crew or technical advisor would have been welcome.

There is no doubt that Gran Turismo 5 is a key title for Sony, in fact it's their big Christmas 2010 title on the PS3. Amazingly after five years of waiting the game still feels somewhat incomplete, however patches are making rapid improvements and what is here beats every other developers title. We just expect so much from Polyphony Digital. If you want a comprehensive car driving simulator then this is about as good as it gets.

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSAt times GT5 is jaw-droppingly astounding, but Standard car models and screen tearing disappoint.
SOUNDCar engines are fantastic, the music selection varied enough to suit anyone, but in-race pit crew comments would have added authenticity.
GAMEPLAYThe cars all handle uniquely, races are fun and patches are improving things all the time. Still it's more "simulation" then "fun".
VALUEDo you really need 1031 cars? Do you need 71 race tracks? It certainly adds up to superb value.
OVERALLGran Turismo 5 is a key title for Sony and the Playtation 3 and for the most part this title delivers the goods. Some graphical annoyances can stop this being a must-have game, but it's not quite the masterpiece many hoped for.

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