Gran Turismo 5 review Gran Turismo 5 review

ratingratingratingratingrating
We love
The incredible physics, lengthy career mode and moments of graphical beauty
We hate
Terrible AI, inconsistent visual quality, naff car damage
Verdict
It’s not the second coming, but Gran Turismo 5 still delivers
Launch Price
£39.99

Gran Turismo 5 review

Gran Turismo 5. Just say it folks. Savour those words. It’s actually here. With a development period of more than half a decade, Gran Turismo 5 was perilously close to becoming video gaming’s equivalent of Guns and Roses’ Chinese Democracy in the “painful delay” stakes. After much anticipation and hype, the latest installment in Polyphony Digital’s “Real Racing Simulator” series has finally hit the PS3, but does it have what it takes to shake off the competition? Read our Gran Turismo 5 review to find out.

Gran Turismo has been a jewel in Sony’s crown since the day the first title made jaws drop on the original PlayStation way back in 1997. Throughout the numerous sequels, the series has maintained its unremitting focus on intense realism, a large roster of vehicles and a seriously addictive career mode. Gran Turismo 5 remains faithful to these principles – almost to a fault.

Graphics

Racing titles are often held up as shining examples of just how astonishingly realistic video gaming can be as a medium, and Sony’s regular drip-feed of gorgeous Gran Turismo 5 footage has understandably built up lofty expectations. The good news is that when Gran Turismo 5 is at its best, it’s untouchable. No other console-based racing title can match the level of visual opulence on display here.

When you take the premium cars – those which Polyphony has lavished an inordinate amount of development and rendering time on – and set them loose on the night time streets of London, the effect is mesmerising. Streetlights glint off impossibly polished bodywork and every inch of the car is portrayed so authentically you have to pinch your arm to remind yourself that what you’re witnessing is actually fake, rather than solid reality.

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However, these moments are merely one side of Gran Turismo 5’s graphical personality. With over 1,000 different car models for Polyphony to conceptualise, construct, render and apply physics to, it’s almost inevitable that some of the vehicles included in the game look as rough as a badger’s back end. Disappointingly, some of included cars look as if they’ve been lifted wholesale from Gran Turismo 4 on the PlayStation 2.

Other issues – such as bizarrely fluctuating shadows and jaggy textures caused by a lack of anti-aliasing – erode the aesthetics further. The fact that Gran Turismo 5 has supermodel good looks is beyond debate, but it’s hiding a few unfortunate blemishes under that otherwise faultless visage.

Gameplay

If you’ve played a Gran Turismo game in the past – and let’s face, there are uncontacted tribes in the Amazon rainforest that have 100% completed the PlayStation original – then the setup in Gran Turismo 5 will be familiar. Arcade mode allows you to dive into the action immediately, but it’s the career portion of the game that will swallow up the vast majority of your time.

Here you can earn licences, race in events and purchase new cars with your winnings. Gran Turismo 5 also boasts a new experience points feature, where repeated success in each event boosts your driver level. Competitions and licences require you to have a certain level of aptitude, which is determined by your current driver level. It’s a neat feature, and is one that lends additional impetus to your efforts – aside from merely earning more moolah for that pimped-up Nissan Skyline you want so badly.

Driving in Gran Turismo 5 is just as unforgiving as it’s been in previous entries, but it’s equally as rewarding, too. It’s obvious that much of the lengthy development period has been ploughed into making the physics engine as realistic as possible. Although few of us will ever get to drive a 2.4 litre V8 Ferrari F1 car around an internationally-renowned speedway, it’s clear that doing it in Gran Turismo 5 is as close as you’re likely to get within your living room.

Each and every vehicle – from the humblest Japanese compact to the most brutish American muscle car – acts and responds just as you’d expect its real-life equivalent to when placed under tyre-screeching pressure. Taking a corner at high speed in a game like Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit may be a case of slamming on the breaks and speeding out of the apex, but in Gran Turismo 5 the same action is only going to have one conclusion – you shooting off the road for an impromptu appointment with a trackside barrier.

Sadly, Gran Turismo 5’s almost obsessive pursuit of realism doesn’t extend to other aspects of the game. Car damage – which was infamously omitted from previous instalments at the behest of numerous licensed car manufacturers – is too slight to make any real impact on your play style. You can still quite happily trade paint with other racers and perform suicidal shunts when entering corners without having to worry about your race ending prematurely thanks to a busted axel or deflated tyre.

This is probably for the best, because in Gran Turismo 5 you can expect to encounter plenty of collisions with rival competitors. This is largely because the game’s artificial intelligence is about a quick-witted as a drunken snail. This has always been an issue with Polyphony’s titles, and in 2010, it’s really disheartening to see computer-controlled cars stick so slavishly to a pre-determined route around each circuit, even going as far as to drive straight into you if you happen to encroach on their racing line. It’s painfully obvious that Gran Turismo 5’s AI opponents are practically on-rails when they singularly fail to react to unexpected on-track events.

Online

Much of Gran Turismo 5’s front-end is geared up for quick online interactivity, and jumping into a multiplayer session is relatively painless. There’s support for sixteen different participants, ensuring that each race is lively and challenging. Unfortunately, at the time of writing the online service is hopelessly overburdened, no doubt in part to the millions of fans around the world all attempting to connect during the week of release.

Sony has said it’s looking to issue some kind of solution as soon as possible, but for the time being at least it’s difficult to really enjoy Gran Turismo 5’s online modes to the full potential. However, the building blocks are in place for something truly special, and we’re quite taken with the ability to create your own “rooms” for personalised challenges.

Verdict

The suffocating burden of expectation will ensure that racing fans will be especially critical of Gran Turismo 5’s minor failings. The inconsistency of the graphics engine is rather galling, and the neanderthal opposition AI hasn’t evolved since the first game was released.

Despite these irksome problems, even the most hardened critic must admit that Gran Turismo 5 is a truly extraordinary racer. It’s as close to driving a high-performance sports car as many of us are ever likely to get, and the feature-packed career mode and garage of over 1,000 vehicles is certain to keep petrol-heads entertained for months to come. It may not represent the quantum leap we’ve been led to expect – and it’s certainly not for everyone – but Gran Turismo 5 is nonetheless one of the best driving games available on the PlayStation 3.

  • themoshman

    I thought it was great for the 5 minutes I got to play it. My PS3 then ate itself and Sony want £150 to fix it because it's out of warranty.

    To be honest I kind of wanted a Slim anyway so I don't mind buying one, but I do feel a bit resentful at giving them £250 when I treated my 60GB so nicely for the last three years and it still died on me.

  • SomeRandomGuy

    “Gran Turismo 5 was perilously close to becoming video gaming’s equivalent of Guns and Roses’ Chinese Democracy in the “painful delay” stakes.”

    I think Duke Nukem Forever won that title a long time ago :P

  • Dsfds

    Very disopointing game. the graphics glitches,the bland background scenery and the worst looking shadows this gen are appalling as are the cardboard cut out trees.
    The so called damage is just a joke as is the menu system.
    The AI has NOT been improved at all in fact I think it's the worst it's ever been.

    Rent this game before you buy it would be my advice.

    • RealRacer

      Ahh, the standard copy and paste template post. How many times I have seen these exact phrases posted. Seems Turn10/Microsoft are desperate to try and stop the GT5 sales by any means possible….

  • StephenEbert

    Sometimes GT5 feels more like a driving test than a game. It is billed as a driving simulator, but there's something about the way races, licenses and events are laid out that makes it resemble a timetable of chores than something that gives you an exhilarating sense of progression. It always feels anti-climatic when you finish a race – as if you've just come away from meeting an old friend and forgot to say goodbye. Presentation is typically slick though, yet sterile. I also hate that races often descend into a game of follow the leader.

  • Rjones

    After all the hype surrounding GT5, after 5 years of continuous penis waving from sony… we get this :(
    I think they should of spent another 2-3 years dev time on it, so they can knock off those rough edges (graphical glitches/last gen textures and poly-counts on low-end cars/poor pfx/poor anti-aliasing). It's a real shame, I wanted this to be the best, I thought it would surpass Forza3, I thought they would innovate on the GT formula… but none of this has come true.
    The Forza series has evolved, the designers at Turn10 did not rest on their laurels(unlike Polyphony). Forza3 can be played by anyone, if you want a hardcore driving experience… you've got it… if you want to put your 5 year old daughter behind a wheel, you can set it up so she can play it… the design EVOLVED!
    The GT series has been left in the dark ages… things move on.
    It's really disappointing for gt fans (especially after this extraordinary wait)… but the crown rests comfortably on the head of Forza3 and Turn10.

    • RealRacer

      Sorry, you are living in a dream world. Forza is an arcade racer, nothing about the game is realistic, the physics are horrible, the graphics average, the AI poor.

      GT5 is 10x the game, even if the review scores don't suggest that.

      Seems Turn10 are trolling forums now…

  • Mark

    Instant FAIL. Yet another person that gave the game 5 minutes play before writing a review.

    Just so you know, both AI and Damage ramp up during the game, it's not until around level 20 in ASpec will you start to see then to any degree.

    This is done intentionally, so newbies are not spending all their cash on reparing their car after every race.

    IS THERE SOMEWHERE WHERE I CAN GET PROPER GAME REVIEWS, NOT THIS TRASH?

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