Perfected Driving, Broken Game
Upon booting up Gran Turismo you'll be required to spend about forty minutes to install the game. You could ignore it, but if you want even a decent good impression you'll force yourself to do it. After the installation, you'll be given a very lengthy introduction of a GT-R being built at the Nissan factory, you'll see the metals being collected, the chassis being constructed, and you'll see the car being championed. Afterwards you'll hear a familiar My Chemical Romance song being played, and a decent length montage of cars driving by. You might be wondering why this is important, well...first impressions normally are the most important.
Gran Turismo 5 can have either a brilliant first impression, or one of the most baffling ones. You will either understand straight off the bat that Gran Turismo 5 is for car lovers, or you will attempt to try to understand it.
When the servers are up and running, you'll go head first into GT-Mode. If you're familiar with JRPGs, you will know what to expect. The game gives you a weak 20,000CR, and gives you no direction in which to go. Welcome home GT Veterans, and welcome to hell newcomers. Like a boy learning to drive on his own without help, GT5 pushes you into the absolute assumption that you understand the situation and what you've gotten yourself into.
Buying a car with 20,000CR would be suicide as most cars wouldn't be able to do well on the easier events, so you'll be given the "choice" to start the game with License Exams. Yes, they're back from older GT games, and yes...they're much easier this time around. Returning are the classic "stop-go", cornering, and overtaking tests of years past...and it seems that the time requirements are less strict this time around. Good news for newcomers is that the Licenses are no longer tied to events, and rather you're given a driving level. The higher the level, the more events you can take part in and the more cars you'll be able to buy.
Getting XP isn't too hard at the start, and the first 15 levels will be easier than eating cake. You see, this time Kazu decided to add "Special Events". These Special Events are Karting, Top Gear Track Runs, NASCAR, AMG Driving School, cross-country across Europe, two different Rally Events, and a very special Sebastian Vettel F1 challenge (which unlocks much later in the game). The credit payout and XP payout are quite high for these events so it's wise to do them as soon as you can. Aside from the second Top Gear Event and Vettel's F1, all of them are fairly easy. Sadly, the payout of these events are only once so you won't be able to grind them...which brings us to buying cars and racing them.
After you've done the basic Licenses and Karting events, you'll have saved up enough money to buy a real car and not something that your grandmother would drive. Oh no, you'll be racing in economical cars, much better than grandma's Mini-Cooper. Where can you buy these amazing cars, all 1,031 of them? Well my fellow chap, you got one of two choices. The Dealership or the Used Car section, both of which have their pros and cons.
The Dealership is a beautifully decorated screen showcasing all the manufactures, you can feel Kazu's heart and soul here. His passion for cars is shown and heard every second inside the Dealership menu. The Dealership is the Premium Dealership, in which the cars are built for future generations and have the highest poly count of any car in any game. These aren't just cars, but art...and a very special kind of art. The prices range from all over while also including a few F1 cars (which was a complete surprise), so you'll be spending time here to treat yourself to a nice prize.
Then we have the Used Car section, everything the Dealership was...this is not. It's a simple list of cars you can buy used, and all of them are high-res ports of the PS2 variants from Gran Turismo 4 and Gran Turismo PSP. The prices range all over, as well as their milage, colour, and condition. For the 1,031 cars in GT5, over 75% of them are here. Let's get one thing out of the way, if you love cars and love to drive them this will make no difference to your love. You will love every car on the list, and it won't bother you. However, as a newcomer and gamer, this will be an absurd concept and downright insane.
Right, so you bought a car from the Dealership or Used Car market, great! You bought your first car (or second if you already started the Karting Events), and are ready to test it to it's paces. You can either race the car yourself, or hire A.I. Controlled Drivers to do the work for you. Yup, like GT4, A-Spec tags up with B-Spec. However, unlike GT4, the events this time around aren't shared and are separate at all times. So you'll be picking from the start which one you'd rather focus on at the start as doing both at the same time takes far too long and is far too tedious.
Starting with A-Spec, the races are decent with the A.I. opponents being useless the first ten levels. You'll be told to try out different cars for certain races, and yes...you'll need to have your own car to race in the event. Around the late teens the races become more demanding and using brute power won't overcome all the races. Move even further up in level and you start to race with other high performance cars. It sounds cool and awesome to be able to drive Super GT cars, F1 cars, and the very special RedBull X1...but be prepared to devote a lot of time to grind. Because GT5 is level based and not License based like the older games, the grind to get further is much more demanding. When in previous GT games you only needed the IA License to start Endurance Races, in GT5 you will need to be at least level 24. The level gap between Endurance and F1 is much further this time as well. GT5 is a bigger grind than even the worst Dragon Quest.
Well, this driving grind is sounding very long and boring, is there something else I can do? B-Spec returns from GT4 and everything Kazu learned from it, seems to have gone for lost. B-Spec is a broken mess that shouldn't be touched unless by the absolute hardcore who have the time to commit to it. B-Spec doubles the lap counts from the A-Spec mirrors, and unlike GT4 it has no "Fast-Forward" button to speed up the races. The driver needs to gain experience in order to learn to drive properly, and by the time you hit the Endurance Races in B-Spec...you'll need to start leveling up three other drives to make sure you can survive the events. There's supposed to be an added B-Spec Web Browser mode that allows you to do B-Spec from the comfort of your computer, but at the moment it isn't up and won't be up until early 2011.
The game also has a very good online mode, depending on how you look at it. You can't gain Credits and XP from online races, you can't invite friends to public lobbies, and you can't filter out cars by certain requirements. The game does let you change the BHP requirements within the lobby screen however. Once in a lobby, you can watch the drivers in their Free Roam session, join up with them, prepare for a race, and then race. The game supports 16 drivers at once while also allowing 24 spectators, which to be honest...is kinda sweet.
You can also make private lobbies in your home screen in which only friends can enter. It works the same way as online mode, and you can also have a built-in Host Migration incase someone leaves or disconnects. Private Lobbies are a blast, and should be tried with all your friends. The game also does a great job of giving you free cars to try out and race with, incase you don't have a car good enough as everyone else.
There's also a very well done customization shop. While other driving simulators do a fantastic job of exterior customization, GT5 does a brilliant job of the internals. Everything from gear ratio, weight, suspensions, turbo kits, and wheel ratios are taken account of and are fully customizable for the driver. If you're new to this sort of stuff, the game does an "alright" job explaining it in the descriptions...but a basic understanding of cars is a strong recommendation. GT5 is second to none when it comes to this factor, and has always been top class since 1997.
Let's talk about the most important aspect of the game...the driving. Gran Turismo has always called itself "The Real Driving Simulator", and GT5 does not disappoint. I've played GT5 with both a G27 racing wheel and Dual Shock 3 controller, both are spot on and brilliant to use. Driving is absolute perfection and it's an experience that all gamers should try out. After spending hours saving up for a car you love, and then spending hours more on customizing it....the feeling of driving your finely tuned car is a magic far better than anything another driving game can give you. It's beautiful.
Some people hate the menu and music, but that's not GT's pull nor has it ever been. Everyone has their own opinions on how they feel about that sort of stuff.
What GT5 does get right is the driving, customization, tuning, and mechanical damage.
It may sound like I hate this game, but the truth is that I love it. I love it so much that I'm willing to admit the massive faults in this game, and review it as a gamer and not as a car lover. As a game, GT5 is broken and at times absurd. Kazu promised the game will get constant treatment to updates, and just two weeks into launch...we've already gotten three major updates. So I have faith, and I'm willing to wait for Kazu to update this game to even bolder hights.
As stated earlier, GT5 is the Mercedes SLS-AMG on the track. It's beautiful, it's rough, and it's not for everyone. When others are driving in the next-generation Nissan GT-R, GT5 sticks with tradition while mixing parts of the future.
“There is still a lot of stuff to do for me. I’ve been making games for over 15 years now, and really, things are just getting started.”