Review – Gran Turismo 5

The much anticipated Gran Turismo 5 has been released. We have spent countless hours running it through its paces. Is it worthy of the Gran Turismo name or should it be put on the scrap heap? Find out after the jump.

The last full installment of Polyphony Digital’s Gran Turismo series was released over 5 years ago.  GT4 was a well polished masterpiece that impressed on many levels. GT5 has finally been released and it is just as impressive, if not more so. With 1000+ cars in its garage, it is beyond imagination.

The size and scope of the game is hard to understand without actually getting your hands on it and checking it all out. To go with that huge number of cars, there are over 70 tracks to be driven on in several different modes. You can jump right in with the Arcade mode, or you can take on the GT mode and drive your way to the GT Championship.While the arcade mode is pretty straightforward, the GT mode is very complex. You can choose either A-Spec, where you’re the driver, or B-Spec, where you’re the crew chief/team owner.

GT Home Menu

In A-Spec You’ll start out with a car that feels more like something you may already own, with hardly any power or speed. It doesn’t take long to earn the cash needed to upgrade that wimpy machine into something more befitting a future GT champ, and taking the horsepower from some pedestrian number and into double digits where it belongs. The first couple of races might seem a little mind numbing due to the slow pace, but it’s the perfect introduction to the GT system. Race, earn cash and experience points, upgrade your care, rinse and repeat. The more you race, the more you’re rewarded. The more you win, the more cars you’ll earn, and the higher your A-Spec rank will go.

Cars can be had in different ways. You can earn them by winning races and ranking up or you can purchase them used or direct from a dealer. Cars are given a ranking where you can only purchase them if your A-Spec rank is high enough. The GT world doesn’t want some inexperienced driver running around in a 600+ HP supercar, so work your way up the A-Spec rankings before trying to get ahead of yourself. Starting out with 250 HP Suzuki Swift isn’t a bad thing, as long as your skills are there. The Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s are waiting, but no need to rush it.

Once you have your car, whether new or used, you’re going to want to get the machine in top racing condition. The upgrade system is very robust and can turn that snail into a rocket in no time, as long as you have the cash handy. The system is separated into several different categories. You can upgrade your engine, and add a sports CPU for a quick HP boost. Turbos or superchargers can be added, depending on your make and model. Changing the intake system and air filters can give a surprising jump in HP. The exhaust system has some hidden HP to find as well. Maxing out your car in every available category isn’t always necessary, but if you want to leave your competition in your exhaust trail, it doesn’t hurt.

B-Spec mode is similar to A-Spec, but you’re not the driver. The same race system is available, and your driver will earn cash for you and experience points for themselves. If you want your driver to win often, you’ll need to upgrade your cars quite a bit due to the fact that their skills are highly lacking. Races that you can win with several seconds of gap, they’ll either squeak by or place 2nd or 3rd. As they move up the B-Spec ranks, their skills do improve some, but so does their competition’s so the results are the same. It can get frustrating watching your driver struggle to pass someone that you know they should be leaving in their fumes. During their races, you can prod them along by telling them to pick up the pace, overtake someone, or even slow down if they are driving recklessly. A meter shows whether they are getting frustrated, or if they are as cool as a cucumber, so paying attention in close races is important. Why they didn’t allow PSP Remote Play for B-Spec mode is mind boggling, since all you are doing is watching. Being able to run through B-Spec mode while watching TV with the family would have given the PSP a welcome boost in sales I’m sure.

One thing that has to be mentioned here is that, for those of you that own the PSP version of Gran Turismo, your PSP garage of cars can be brought into the PS3 version of the game by connecting your PSP to your PS3 and going to the proper area of GT5. That’s definitely a plus for PSP owners, but B-Spec Remote Play really should have been added. Maybe there’s a patch in the future. We can only hope.

Another feature of GT Mode is the Special races. These are almost like separate game in themselves. Kart racing is introduced here, with some very competitive races in equally powered karts. Kart racing techniques are different than your standard racing techniques. Braking is almost never needed as speed control and knowing your racing line is the key. Spinning out will pretty much kill your chance at finishing first, as your competition is unforgiving and flawless.

A virtual Jeff Gordon introduces you to the world of NASCAR in another special race area. You’ll learn cornering techniques at Daytona and at Indy as well as drafting/slipstreaming techniques. It’s a nice introduction to a world that most GT fans might not have ventured into.

Other Special races will have you navigating the BBC Channel’s Top Gear’s Test Track in an old school VW Van and a Lotus Elise. You’ll have to pilot a Mercedes around the difficult Nurburgring track at the AMG Academy. There’s also a rally school where you can try your hand at dirt, snow, and a mix of pavement and dirt. A touring mode is included as well. As you move up the A-Spec rankings, each event has more races made available to you, and you can spend quite a bit of time just going through them all.

GT5 introduces online racing for the first time in the Gran Turismo series. Joining a game is quick and simple. The races can have up to 16 players. You can start out with time trials to get a feel for a track, and when someone wants to start the race, you’ll be placed directly at the starting line, raring and ready to go. The community features are robust and include a mail system, message system, and online voice chat feature than can be used in the race lobby as well as in the race itself.

GT Mode isn’t all there is to the game either. In arcade mode, you can jump in any car and race any track without any restrictions. No need to purchase cars and upgrade them here. Your stable is full and ready to take off. Every car (and kart)  in the game can be found here. So make sure to check them all out. You can also battle a friend in split-screen mode here, so grab an extra controller and share the fun with someone sitting next to you.

Gran Turismo TV is a great place to check out the latest videos from around the GT world. They can even be exported to your PSP for watching them on the go. The conversion process is a little slow, but worth the wait if you are looking for some video content to watch on your PSP. The game only exports the video to the XMB, so quitting the game is required to actually export the video to your PSP. The files are fairly small so they only take up a small amount of space on your PSP. The quality is excellent, though.

A course make is included that isn’t as robust as we would like, but a nice added feature nonetheless. It’s pretty basic. You select the location for the track by looking through various images, then select how many sections your track will have. You can then set the difficulty level for each section and how technical it will be. Once created, you can test it, save it, share it, and/or try it out online.

The graphics for the game are unbelievable. The car’s details makes them look real and not virtual. In-game photos can almost be passed off as real world photos. Photo-mode allows you to place your car around the world in different locales, and the detail for these locations make them look real world as well.You can export these photos to the XMB to show off to your friends.

The install options for the game can really speed up your load times but require 8+ GB’s of your hard drive space. It takes 25-30 minutes, but is well worth the time if you have the free space.

Gamers have been waiting a long time for the release of GT5, and their patience has been rewarded. GT5 goes above and beyond any other racing game out there, and is well worth the price tag. You get more than just a driving game. You get a driving world with many different areas to explore and several types of racing to try out. From karts to NASCAR and from dirt to the 24hrs of La Mans. The game has something for everyone, and looks unbelievably great doing it.

10