I’d like to start by clearing two things up. The first is a reiteration, whilst I am a gamer and have always played games on a pc, console gaming is new to me (you could call me a console noob, but I like to say I have a ‘fresh’ approach.) The second is that I have never played a ‘Gran Turismo’ game ever. I once played an epic multiplayer session of ‘Burnout 3: Takedown’ but all we did was see how much stuff we could blow up and before that I played much ‘Carmageddon’ and racing was never on the agenda, what with all those zombies to mow down. Also you should know I’m not a big car person, cars are transportation and any more than that is excess as far as I’m concerned.
So now you know my GT status, shock horror, a virgin. I feel it’s important to let you know right off the bat, because as I discovered, driving game enthusiasts are ferociously enthusiastic. When the latest installment of their choice enters the market they react like small girls given a puppy and an espresso. And then the puppy shits on their shoes and the espresso goes to their head and they start to scream, complaining about the smallest little things. With no preconceived notions of what a Gran Turismo game ‘should’ be like or indeed what a ‘Driving Simulator’ ‘should’ be like, this might just be the review for you, at least if you’re anything like me. But if you believe Polyphony should have rendered the Ferrari F500 000’s front bumper better… perhaps you should go elsewhere.
Tyrannical Duck the fiendish water bird recently reviewed James Bond 007: Blood Stone in the form of an epic poem, Beowulf style. Unfortunately my attempts at poetry usually end at ‘roses are red’, and then I get fed up because I’m quite certain roses come in a variety of colours and ‘roses are multicoloured’ is more difficult to rhyme. So instead let me take you on a short drive with GT5 after the jump.
First Gear – A standing start.
The first gear for someone who is learning to drive is of course the most important since it really starts everything off. So let’s begin with the basics, the game takes about one beer’s time to install, I know this because I tested it. It will install in a shorter time, perhaps the time it would take to down a single whiskey, but that’s only if you choose not to install all the game data to your hard drive. Load times are substantially slower without everything installed, so get clutch control early on and put that sucka straight on the hard drive.
Then follows the opening video, which I loved, it takes a car from its beginnings as mere iron ore all the way through till the moment it hits the road all set to classical music and then follows another half beers worth of in-game footage. This was all pretty mind blowing for someone not all that into cars, the variety and scope presented in these opening scenes just kinda slammed me, when I accepted this game I honestly had no idea. There are cars galore, karting, rally and more and more. I think I stalled here. I had to stop at the menu screen and retreat to the kitchen, sticking my head through the door every now and again to see if it had grown any less daunting, it didn’t.
Second Gear – Getting up to speed.
Some Dutch courage later I got behind the wheel. There are two basic ways to play GT5, through a-spec races or b-spec races. In b-spec you manage several drivers and advance through the rounds, let’s just say I haven’t yet played much of this, my time has been reserved for a-spec racing where you get behind the wheel! There’s a lot of grinding through races in GT5, you start by purchasing a small cheap car and then after you win some races you buy a better one and after even more races you get enough money to advance your car and just when you have it aced out you have to buy a bigger better one. Not my cup of tea clearly, but I forged ahead in the interest of gamers everywhere. Word to the wise, after a few beers you should always check the controls, I spent some time cornering with the handbrake, fun but ultimately not the ideal way to drive unless you’re from Benoni.
A lot gets said about the driving model and handling and other uninteresting stuff. I’ll sum it up for you. GT5 has a great handling model, the cars corner great and you can feel their weight sliding out and the accelerator/brake just felt right for me. I’m sure if you plug in a fancy steering wheel it will be even better, but the standard sixaxis worked just fine for me. And if anyone told you it was ‘hard’ to drive they were wrong, you see GT5 does a good job of helping you build enough confidence to drive well and to ramp up the difficulty as you go along. There’s automatic gears for learners like me and a driving line which shows you the perfect route (Not included is a big yellow ‘L’ in the rear window). But eventually you will, like me, want to turn these things off because the driving experience really is great. A friend who was visiting summed it up when he said; “this is really exhilarating.” It really is.
Third Gear – Cruising speed.
The choice of cars in GT5 is phenomenal, apparently there will eventually be over 10 000 car models to choose from although at install there are only about 1000. Unfortunately only 200 premium cars are modeled exceptionally well with picture perfect interiors, the majority are ported over from previous iterations of the game. Disappointingly the car I drive, a Corsa 1.4 sport wasn’t anywhere to be seen so for most of the earlier races I used a Mini Cooper S and as I write this have one of the most pimped out Minis in digital existence thanks to the games many customization and tuning options.
As you progress through the game you may win new cars and also open special events. My favourite of these was the karting track and a fan favourite, the Top Gear track. Then of course there’s the online multiplayer. I’m only just starting to get into this, but suffice to say it’s a whole lot of fun going up against other players rather than just the AI; it always is in virtually every game. The menu system for GT5 as a whole is a bit shabby and the multiplayer setup also needs some polish, but that doesn’t stand in the way of enjoyment.
Fourth Gear – Racing home.
I know most cars have more than four gears, but I can’t push this analogy any further! This game is great, I personally loved it. The graphics are superb and highly detailed and only the occasional glitch appears to mar the otherwise perfect visual experience. The racing itself is exciting, technical, and has a great difficulty curve which means you are always getting better at it.
Whilst the menu systems are a little strange once you get used to them they are alright and I really enjoyed being able to change all the music settings and use your own tracks from your music collection. That last one is particularly important because the soundtrack sounds like it was lifted straight from cheap porn movies… ‘Ahem’ at least that’s what a friend told me.
I do have one problem with this game, just the one so far. I felt cheated by the coop feature. You can race most of the tracks but only in a selection of the thousands of cars and you cannot have any AI opponents in the race. Seriously if your competitor crashes out, you might as well end the game and start again, it’s boring out there in the front on your own. I just felt it needed some more thought and a little more options for something I would regard as a major feature of a driving game. I want to be able to race my friends in the lounge, properly.
Alright I’m off to drive round the streets of London in my uber Mini again.