Gran Turismo 5

Just 982 days after the first speculated release date, Gran Turismo appears on Playstation 3, the way its meant to be, with none of that cut-down Prologue pap. The game with more release date slips than any other on PS3 carries the weight of expectation built over four years of anticipation. Playstation's most famous racing series has a huge amount to live up to, and undoubtedly will fall short for many who have allowed their expectation to grow beyond reasonable limits. Arriving after Need for Speed has managed more than three iterations, Motorstorm has seen two major releases and the likes of F1 and Burnout have all put in appearances, Gran Turismo has no early-start advantage; it has to earn every ounce of praise by not just performing well, but by outdoing the competition. Though it depends on the style of racing you enjoy, for those that have always felt at home on Gran Turismo's classic circuits, this latest racer from Polyphony Digital is impossible to beat.

Gran Turismo 5

That the core experience of GT5 would be incredible wasn't really in doubt. The question has always been: will there be flaws and niggles, and will they be significant? Fortunately, though there are certainly imperfections in the game, none are crippling. For example, there are several hundred premium cars, featuring advanced damage models and super shiny visuals, but the addition of standard cars takes the total number over a thousand. These extra vehicles can suffer only superficial damage, and are arguably HD remakes of cars from previous Gran Turismo games. Given the level of detail present in even the standard cars, there's no real issue, but would it not have been better to stop at four hundred cars instead of a thousand, and give every single one the same loving treatment? Meanwhile, the menus are somewhat clunky, summed up neatly by the fact that the game asks if you wish to sign in a full three times before you've reached the main GT menu. Further to that, the game's racing line seems poorly pitched, accommodating only beginner drivers with its sometimes conservative braking estimates. Though there's undoubtedly an option to switch it off, many won't bother, and the game will taunt your over-reliance on the indicator when it decides to switch the line off automatically for certain special events.

Fortunately, the answer to the final part of the critical question (will the issues be significant?) is no. Even the dullest tracks (including, sadly, the Top Gear track) are still superbly crafted, and every single vehicle looks comfortably at home in this high-definition era. Expert racers will swiftly learn how to interpret the racing line for their own strategies, using its simple cues to guide their own braking points. Meanwhile, the hundreds of hours the game asks of you will swiftly force you to learn the quickest ways to navigate each menu, which are reasonably neat as familiarity grows. Beyond these issues, the game flourishes, providing track racing of the highest calibre, a neatly polished rally experience, an innovative set of karting events, true-to-life NASCAR races (for better or worse), a plethora of challenging tests and events, and more prize cars than you'll know what to do with.

Gran Turismo 5

The core of the game is split into two halves. Primarily, GT players will want to focus on the A Spec events, which feature the player tackling specific events set by the game, usually with entry requirements for Italian cars only, or FR only. There are also license tests and Special Events for players to take on themselves, including a particularly tricky set of races in the AMG event, an all-Mercedes driving challenge at the Nurburgring. There are two minor points to criticize here: firstly the difficultly isn't pitched well, allowing gamers to win most A Spec events with ridiculous ease, only to then sprint head first into a concrete wall as they discover an event that will take tens of hours to master, usually in the form of one of the Special Events. The second issue is the length of certain races. In the latter stages of the Extreme series, each race may be between 15 and 20 laps, meaning that a tournament can take more than an hour, with no opportunity to save between races. Things get even worse when the endurance race series is reached, featuring events lasting between 3 and 24 hours, again with no opportunity to save. This seems somewhat at odds with the recommendation that games should only be played for an hour before taking a break. Still, all this really means is that most gamers won't bother with the platinum trophy for the game. There are certainly events that are hard, but the more common objection people will have is simply that they don't want to race for 24 hours solid. Aside from this, the A Spec mode is still the pinnacle of videogame racing, with unrivalled handling, beautiful cars, and exciting gameplay.

The second major area of the game is B Spec. The level of criticism in this review may seem a poor match to the high score below, but consider the fact that A Spec is a full game on its own, with all the trimmings that make a perfect racer. Sadly, on top of that, the developers have included an entirely separate B Spec mode. As opposed to Gran Turismo 4, where gamers could choose to employ a B Spec driver just for the longer events, while tackling the shorter, tricky stuff themslves, GT5 requires you to complete all events in the A Spec and B Spec modes separately. As a result, the boring endurance races will have to be done by hand, and meanwhile you'll sit there frustrated as your B Spec driver fails to win a five-lap race against inferior cars. You see, the problem is that the B Spec driver is, erm, an idiot. It doesn't matter how much you train the driver, he or she will never manage to overtake the way you can as a human player. The driver will bash straight into the back of the car in front, and languish behind slow cars, unable to figure out a way past until the straightest of straights. In a car that allowed you to win a race by thirty seconds, your B Spec driver might never break out from the pack. B Spec, quite frankly, can be shoved back up the arses of the bored developers that created it. No offence. Gran Turismo 5

Of course, one small advantage of the B Spec mode is that it gives you a chance to admire the car and surroundings for a while, usually with some cool camera angles. The pursuit cameras are particularly smart, and reveal the true beauty of the game. Cars like the Veyron, the Ferraris, the Dodge Viper and hundreds of others look incredible, and the tracks zipping by suffer from no loss of detail. Aside from some very minor screen tear (for some reason particularly prevelant at Suzuka), everything looks amazing - even the crowds, which have undergone a slight overhaul from previous games. The sound is at the same high standard, and the engine noises are a joy to hear. It's actually a fun game in itself to crank your speakers up to max and change to any car you choose, simply to hear the incredible engine start of your favourite vehicles. More importantly though, the game features custom soundtracks. Ironically, this feature has arrived with the iteration which actually features some enjoyable music, but for those with different tastes, it's a simple process to grab your favourite music in a playlist on your PS3, and then inject it into the game.

Undoubtedly a big attraction for many will be the online modes. The game features online dealerships, online ranking events and a full online arena, allowing gamers to meet up and race in custom lobbies, with a decent number of options to configure. Thankfully, there are no daft trophies requiring you to complete thousands of online races, meaning you can enjoy it as much as you wish. There's also the option to upload your best photos and also custom tracks, created using the track editor (strictly an editor, sadly, so you'll see nothing particularly inventive in this wasted opportunity). You can also view basic progress details of your friends, trade cars, send gifts and more. It's unlikely to provide the same level of addition that a good FPS might, but it'll keep many racers happy for hours.

Gran Turismo 5

Ultimately, there is no greater racing game than Gran Turismo 5, but several minor flaws and the uncomfortably long delay prevent the game from being the perfect racer. It is a title that will keep gamers busy for hundreds of hours, and offers one of the most complete, satisfying and enjoyable racing experiences of all time. The trophies are tough in places, requiring serious dedication, while the online modes add even more lastability. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely, unquestionably yes, but does it justify the wait? Perhaps not. With a few hundred cars chopped out, nobody would really have noticed, but perhaps development time would have reduced to a sensible level. If Gran Turismo 6 builds on this formula, ironing out any niggles, and arrives within a couple of years, it could take the racing crown, but another six years would be hard to justify.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Sony

Developer:

Polyphony Digital

Players:

1-2

Online:

1-12

Release:

2010-11-24

Trophies:

56

Review summary

Gameplay:

Racing perfection with superb handling

Graphics:

Beautiful tracks and cars, almost perfect

Sound:

Custom soundtracks and great engine effects

Lastability:

Loads of events and some tougher challenges

9.4

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Tali'Zorah

Just so you know I'm running a fever, I've got a nasty cough, and my sinuses are filled with something I can't even describe. But it was totally worth it!