Sunday, January 9 2011, 08:00 am
GT5: A Love/Hate Relationship
Six years in the making, then delayed by worries about piracy (which is already broken), Gran Turismo 5 hopes to push up the bar in car simulation games. How does it fair? Follow me as I review a few aspects of the game that left an impression on me.
The game has been polished with the most expensive car wax Sony could buy. The Premium cars, tracks, and photo mode are definitely great pieces of eye candy. However, the Standard cars are a big eye sore when you have one next to a Premium. It's unfortunate that Standard cars were not at least given a larger resolution skin for their bodies.
All of the traditional Gran Turismo tracks are present along with a few new ones. The license tests unlock the full Nürburgring track. The snow and dirt tracks bring a new, challenging races. Then there's the Top Gear track, from one of my favorite shows. It's more difficult than it looks on television.
Now to get down and dirty. The computer racers do not have a clue that you exist in the race. I will be repeatedly rammed from behind or side swiped by turning cars. More than once I have had to restart a race due to an AI driver knocking me off track. This problem is often called "sitting on rails" and it is easily seen in this simul^W... game.
Mechanically the cars are all treated in a generic, arcade-like manner instead of like a simulator. Transmissions shift as fast as F1 cars. Even the 1960 models - unmodified. I have yet to see the merit in the transmission tuning upgrades. I actually own a 2005 BMW M3 and can tell you it is already modified, at stock, as good as it can get. Putting on new exhaust or intake systems hardly give more than 20 HP (and I'm talking about $5,000 in mods). In Gran Turismo 5, the tuning shop tells me the 2004 BMW M3 will get 30 HP just from a new air filter and new exhaust. The one positive thing I have seen is that the cars that have paddle shifters finally have paddle shifters in the interior view. They were missing from the Prologue version.
Created by a company based in Japan, there is an astonishing amount of NASCAR material. From special events to a large amount of cars, it seems the creators love NASCAR. The only real motorsport, Formula 1, has a lesser following with only four cars and no special events.
The menu system is a bit akward at times. For example: pausing the game, going into settings, then backing out, immediately resumes the game instead of backing out one level. Loading times seem to be at fixed times - I have a Intel G2 80gb SSD and loading times take about 15 seconds with very little activity on the HDD light. This can be annoying when there are 5 menus to go through to get to a race, too. If you don't play connected to Sony's Playstation Network, expect to be greated with a half dozen "Would you like to go online?" prompts, too.
There are patches being released to tweak parts of the game so there is hope the game will become a truer simulator over time.