Giant Bomb Review

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Gran Turismo 5 Review

3
  • PS3

A grind-heavy career mode and inconsistent visuals keep this otherwise fantastic driving simulation from finishing first.

Gran Turismo 5 is unconcerned with the progress made in the racing genre and video games at large in the six years since Gran Turismo 4 arrived on the PlayStation 2. Polyphony Digital’s newest racer has a scattered, grind-heavy career mode and inconsistent visuals, but the core driving experience is the closest you’ll get to driving nirvana on a console. The driving is so good that many of the annoyances with the way GT5 is built start to evaporate once you get your hands behind the wheel and start driving. Unfortunately, your patience might very well evaporate too whenever you have to deal with the game's cluttered interface.

I feel it's important to mention that I played GT5 primarily with a racing wheel. While the game is certainly playable with a controller, you'll begin to hit a wall on more technical courses once the cars get faster. The force feedback and information you're given through the wheel is excellent, and feels unique with each car. When you drive through a tight turn you’ll immediately know whether you’re in a front or rear engine car by the amount of over-steer that sets in as your wheel goes slack. Pavement, gravel, and grass all feel different and help indicate just what you can expect out of your next turn. This natural wheel grip sensation, combined with some zoom and shake effects in the modeled cockpit view as you brake and accelerate, really put Gran Turismo's driving on a pedestal when compared with just about any other racing game on the market.

 The premium cockpits are gorgeous, but the weather effects are generally poor.
That visceral realism isn't always consistent in the cars themselves. Although the back of GT5’s box mentions there are over 1000 vehicles available in the game, only 200 of those carry the "premium" tag, which means they include a modeled cockpit and extra detail to their exteriors. If you're not someone that likes to race inside the car, that may not be such a big deal--but even among the 800 standard cars, the exterior quality is uneven. The worst-looking of these feel like touched-up ports of cars from the PlayStation 2 era. For me, though, the premium cars were more than enough, and the only real grievance I have with the standard cars is that they make up the majority of your racing rivals in each race.

Damage modeling is poor, bordering on unnoticeable, and even at higher levels with premium cars, the largest of crashes will only cause minor dings and deformities. At the most, bumpers or hoods will dislodge and hang a bit loose, but for the most part the crashes in Gran Turismo 5 are mundane affairs that feel and sound more like cardboard boxes bouncing into each other. What is noticeable, though, is the cost you’ll have to pay for structural damage that isn't visually persistent on your car between races. Chasis repair on many of the high-powered cars will run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Considering that you can buy a new car for that amount, it often leaves you wondering just what the hell Polyphony Digital was thinking when they decided to add damage into the game at all. While racing purists might not mind, the lack of consistent damage effects in GT5 takes you out of the realism that the cockpit and wheel combo so breathlessly creates.

This graphical inconsistency doesn't only exist with the cars but also with the tracks and the environment as well. The shadow and weather effects specifically seem extremely garish on top of otherwise clean and well laid-out courses. Shadows both in the car and outside have jaggy, aliased edges, and when combined with pixelated rain or snow effects, it'll make you want to jump out of that in-car view to something less in-your-face. Generally, though, the game looks sharp, and GT5 has some gorgeous night-time country driving that makes you consider your chosen car not for its speed, but for its headlight coverage. It looks especially nice when the game speeds up time so that dusk turns to night over the course of a race, and timed fireworks also add some fun to the nighttime sky. For the most part, the tracks in Gran Turismo 5 are fairly static, though incredibly detailed affairs. Almost all of the courses include unbreakable walls or extremely sturdy pencil fencing that feel like compromises in otherwise realistic locations. 

 The kart racing is more fun then you'd think.
What Gran Turismo lacks in flourish it tries to compensate for with variety. You’ve got go-karts, American muscle, Japanese tuners, World Rally cars, NASCAR and everything in between. Only a Formula One license seems noticeably missing from the roster, but open-wheel cars are still there and become available once you get past level 20. A lot of the licensed racing is grouped into "special events," a section of your dashboard devoted towards training or goal-based racing. Some of these carry intro movies that explain a famous track or location you’re about to race in. For the most part they work well, but there are a couple stinkers. A dead-eyed and poorly animated Jeff Gordon, who introduces you to NASCAR, is a prime example. All that variety sometimes makes the game feel like it's been stretched too thin.

You’ll spend most of your time in A-Spec races, which are split up into various leagues from beginner to expert. You can also earn licenses by completing simple tasks such as bringing your car to a complete stop on time, or more difficult tasks, like completing a race without bumping into rival cars. Luckily most of them are not as necessary as in previous games. You’ll earn trophies in the license events, races, and special events, with gifted rewards available as you complete each full set of challenges. Experience points are also awarded and contribute to your level, which is used as a barrier for new events and cars. Around level 15, though, the leveling component becomes a serious grind. Each level takes a couple hours, and you’ll soon wish you could at least see what events come up later so you could plan your garage accordingly. Dropping half-a-million dollars on your favorite car sounds great, until you realize too late that it won’t be useful for your next dozen events.

As you move your way into more challenging races, you’ll soon learn that it’s not so much your driving skill that’s being tested as your ability to tune your car properly. You simply won’t be able to win certain cups without fiddling under the hood first. There’s not a whole lot of explanation to the tuning mechanics, and there’s no Forza-style auto-upgrade option to make things easy on yourself. Like most things in GT5, though, you’ll eventually figure it out and learn that under a clunky mess of menus is a flexible system for setting your car up however you want. Most of the upgrades are easy to comprehend--you pay your money and suddenly have a boost in your horsepower--but a lot of them can only be fully utilized if you manually move some dials. Eventually you learn these tuning systems too well, and since the majority of races don't include any sort of horsepower limit, it's very easy to enter races with overpowered cars and make the game a one-man race within the first 30 seconds. I spent most of the game playing this way, as the lackluster, wooden AI always seems to follow a set line without taking much thought for where your car is on the track. Though GT5 can get more challenging later on, most races are a test of personal endurance, not competition.

 Soft racing wheels really help you grip the road.
If manual tuning as a necessity to progression scares you, take heart in this: I personally know very little about what goes on under the hood of cars. If anything can be said about the lack of arcade functionality in GT’s career mode, it’s that you’ll eventually become a more informed and better driver because of it. Other sticking points for people coming from an arcade background are the lack of a rewind function and fairly poor driving lines. The absence of a rewind function, which has become a common mechanic in driving games over the last few years, is going to hurt novices most. While the early races are fairly short affairs, you won’t see many single events under eight minutes after level 16 or so. Eight minutes is a long time to keep your concentration up at over 100 MPH. Given that it takes hours to move a single level in the late game, and that you usually only earn XP for placing at the end of the race, things can get frustrating quickly.

It’s especially unfortunate then that you can’t gain XP in the online races to spice things up a bit. Although I never had any problems finding races through the game’s lobby system, it was almost impossible to figure out what the requirements were for each race I joined. If the host didn’t take the time to create a proper title, it meant I had to join the lobby first, then view a separate menu to get the requirements. From there I usually had a short time to tune one of my cars to qualify or select from one of the suggested arcade cars. Although you can use a limited amount of favorite cars from your garage, you can’t favorite separate load-outs. To be honest, the menu system all throughout GT5 is bad. Exiting out of anything almost always requires a confirmation or extra key-press, and unusually long load times for simple menus can sometimes dampen the fun. 

 The GT dashboard is cluttered and requires a lot of unnecessary prompts.
Included as part of the dashboard is some social networking functionality that allows you to share rides, photos, and Twitter-style short messages with your friends. I don’t know why you’d want a walled message board for yourself just for GT5, but it’s there if you want to shout at people you know who are also playing the game. A gifting feature comes in handy when you need to send cars to another person, since some races require specific cars to complete and often people need to trade between accounts. The photo mode in the game lets you take still shots of any of your cars lined up in various locations that you unlock as you progress. It’s extremely well done and gives you a virtual DSLR to take pictures with where you can adjust ISO and focus manually.

There’s also an AI-driven B-Spec mode where you give commands to a driver that levels separately from yourself. Essentially you watch a race in movie mode and have the ability to tell the driver when to pace up and down, and when to try to pass another driver. If it sounds boring, that’s because it is. The only positive to the feature is that it’s a great way to earn early credits. Once you have a decent garage you can put your driver in an overpowered car and go have some lunch or something. Even without commands he’ll likely win the race, and you might receive a special car or two for placing in first.

Gran Turismo 5’s core problem is that the broad scope of all these game modes diminishes the polish of the general product. There's no denying the feel of the actual driving, but everything else that makes up the game feels tedious and half-baked. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, but for people who value an authentic driving experience, enjoy a bit of difficulty in their games, and are willing to look past a multitude of minor flaws, GT5 could very well satisfy your driving needs for years. Dave Snider on Google+
330 Comments
Edited by tobygw

I called this score. And I called this post number. I'm a wizard.

Posted by solidlife

I was right lol.

Posted by Fattony12000

Brum brum? I'm playing through Forza 3 again after that Quick Look!

Online
Posted by innacces14

Not surprised after the QL.

Posted by CaLe

The driving part of the game is great. The rest of it is a big let down.

Posted by Creamypies

Wow! Can't say I'm surprised really. Great review Dave!

Posted by Yummylee

COMMENCE THE HATE!

Posted by august

Awww, dip.

Edited by Akeldama

Based on my time with the game, I respectfully disagree.  
 
Based on my knowledge of Dave, GO BACK TO YOUR JANKY RUSSIAN "GAMES"!

Posted by Dipstick

inb4 hate

Posted by Molenator85

Classy classy animation picture.
Posted by Animasta
@Akeldama said:
" Based on my time with the game, I respectfully disagree.  "
STOP FLAMING HIM PLAYSTATION NOOB
 
(hay ho)
 
my brother got it yesterday and it looks pretty good, but then I realize that driving games are mostly not for me (I can't say no to burnout paradise though)
Posted by Video_Game_King

 KaosAngel's gonna be fucking pissed.
Posted by zombie2011

No surprise, this game is stuck in the past.

Posted by Yummylee
@Video_Game_King said:
"
 KaosAngel's gonna be fucking pissed.
"
But in doing so will make me very happy <3
Posted by FritzDude

Ouch?

Posted by CptBedlam

This comment section is going to be interesting ...
 
Popcorn, anyone? Beer?

Posted by moji22

Good call, Dave. Great review.

Posted by NoXious
@Akeldama:
Sad part is - those janky games usually have better interfaces :-/
Sorry bud, at least the gameplay is awesome. You play games for it's gameplay no? You can put that one in your pocket at the very least!
Posted by OverLord00

Fun game

Posted by DemiGodRaven

OH SNAP

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

I think that's a fair review, though to be honest, I feel like I need to get much further into the game to give a really solid opinion on it.  As it stands, the early parts are kind of dull, but I do love the vast car selection.

Moderator
Posted by august
@Akeldama said:
" Based on my time with the game, I respectfully disagree.   Based on my knowledge of Dave, GO BACK TO YOUR JANKY RUSSIAN "GAMES"! "
YEAH LEAVE MY JANKY JAPANESE "GAMES" ALONE!
Posted by Arne

I got only one thing to say, I havent played a driving game as much as I am playing GT5 since wipeout 2097, if that even qualifies as a driving game... 

Posted by rjayb89

Damnit, I bet it would get 4 stars.

Posted by Krakn3Dfx

So you're saying it's as good as Splatterhouse?

Posted by Binman88

Can't fault your criticisms. The driving makes the game a "5 star" game for me though. 
 
Also what's up with that tire selection screen? Unless I'm missing something, buying and fitting tires is in the Tuning menu, not GT Auto. Differences between EU and NA versions, or an old screenshot? 
 
Also the caption for the kart screenshot has a "then" which should be a "than".

Edited by Leptok

Oh shit, batten down the hatches. I bet the fanboys are going to go fucking nuts.

Posted by BombaLuigi

shitstorm incoming

Posted by KinjiroSSD
@Krakn3Dfx said:
" So you're saying it's as good as Splatterhouse? "
Or   Kinect Adventures!  
 
lol
Posted by StrikerTheLizard

This would've been a shock to me, had I not seen the Quick Look before reading this. 
 
Anyways, good job on the review, Snider. 

Posted by Marz

ouch 3 stars heh

Posted by busted1der

WOW. I just got screwed on imcalling.it

Posted by dagas

Calling Gran Turismo realistic is like calling Call of Duty realistic just because it's more realistic than Quake. It's sad how any game that is more realistic than NFS is considered a simulator.

Posted by ReyGitano

I was expecting a 4 to be honest, but I understand why someone would give this game three stars.

Posted by ThatFrood

Read the review people, don't just look at the star score.

Posted by AlexW00d

I agree with all of these things. But who buys a game for the menu systems? If you can't get past them then there is probably something wrong with you. The actual racing makes up for everything else.

Posted by angelfan91
@Krakn3Dfx said:
" So you're saying it's as good as Splatterhouse? "
Exactly, because Dave reviewed Splatterhouse right?  Your logic is flawed.
Posted by Kefkaesque

The interface is terrible, the campaign is repetitive, and it looks real janky. 
 
But the gameplay is really good. Almost as good as Forza, in fact!

Posted by Sogeman

 

The kart racing is more fun THAN you'd think.


 

Posted by Sharpless

Based on what I saw in the Quick Look (even taking into account their launch-day issues with their servers, which are presumably fixed now) three stars (or 60%, or 6/10, if you prefer) sounds about right. It's kind of pretty and it's functional, but it's nowhere near as polished and solid as it ought to be. LET THE FANBOY RAGE COMMENCE.

Posted by loungemonkey

Sounds about right.

Posted by NekuSakuraba

Awww, WHAT?! I wasted my Christmas present on this. T__T

Posted by TheKing

I only does 3/5.

Posted by raiz265

as far as i know the damage models are unlocked at lvl 20 or 40 or something 
 
 
i mean it's still retarded, but there actually are damage models in the game

Posted by IamTerics

I bet 5 stars. This does not dampen my opinion on the game.

Posted by DukeTogo

Bland Turismo

Posted by ZeroCast
@KinjiroSSD said:

" @Krakn3Dfx said:

" So you're saying it's as good as Splatterhouse? "
Or   Kinect Adventures!   lol "
And are you two saying that it makes a difference?
 
Comparing Splatterhouse's experince to GT5's is naive and ingenuous. (Unless you two were making fun of people whom are like that)
Posted by NobleJon

Thanks for the great review. I'll wait until it's $20, possibly with a load of patches to fix the gripes.

Posted by Meltbrain

I'm not shocked, really. I do love me some Gran Turismo, though. So I will probably get it. Awesome review, Dave. :)