I'm sure everyone has heard about Gran Turismo. All the praises about its attention to realism and stunning graphics. What is all this hype about? Is it even close to being true? Let me tell you, it is.
When the first Gran Turismo came out for PS1 in 1997 I was awestruck. The had hundreds of cars and stunning graphics. If this wasn't enough, when I finally got to play the game all I had learned fom previous racing games went to the trash can. No nitrous boost, no 200km/h curves with the car door pointing the way to go, no rubberband AI. This was a game where the right car in the right race meant everything.
Then in the year 1999 the next big thing came, Gran Turismo 2. I thought to myself "I doubt they can make something that's already perfect any better..." Oh how wrong I was. GT2 took the concept of GT, mixed it with dirt racing, old American muscle cars and threw in a little more then 600 cars. On top of that, they refined the driving physics of the game and added even more possibilities to tune your car. And by tuning I don't mean your basic "buy a bigger engine to go faster" -tuning but the kind of tuning you really do for your car. Adjust gear ratios, LSD timings, spring rates, you name it, GT does it. Offcourse you have parts you can buy for your cars but GT does that with a realistic touch.
Not long after the release of PlayStation 2 came the first GT for it, Gran Turismo 3. And again Polyphony Digital and Kazunori Yamauchi, the series producer and a professional race driver, did it. GT3 was at its time the greatest looking game on the face of the planet. Although a little letdown considering how much better GT2 was then GT1, it still was an enjoyable ride and a must have for all racing fans.
Then became the 'dark ages' for GT fans. Everybody was expecting GT4. Polyphony Digital gave no official word of it but instead released 'special editions' of GT, like GT Concept 2001 and 2002, which were basically just to show off the new concept cars in GT's engine. The year 2003 marked the end of the dark ages when Polyphony Digital released GT4 Prologue. It was merely a 'demo' of GT4 but it was a sign that GT4 was well on it's way.
When GT4 finally hit the shelves I swear to the creators I screamed out of happiness. This game had it all; over 700 cars, graphics that pushed the PS2 to its limits and what's most important, some great additions to the original GT concept. GT4 added your own AI driver to the game (a gamemode named B-Spec) meaning you get to be the crew chief and achieve victory with simply telling your driver what to do. Other big additions include Driving Missions and Photo Mode which lets you take pictures of your cars in different locations. And as with GT usually, even GT4 updated the graphics and physics of the game, making it the most realistic driving game of that era.
After the release of PlayStation 3 fans started to get anxious again. When are they going to release GT5 for it? It didn't take long when the first pictures started surfacing on the internet. The game looked great but there was a downside: it wasn't GT5. Instead they made GT5 Prologue just like with GT4. And again it was just an overpriced demo of the final product. It took years after the release of GT5 Prologue when they finally made it: Gran Turismo 5 with it's FullHD glory hit the shelves in 2010. If you're still reading this, let's get on with the actual review.
The graphics have always been the main thing in the GT series and GT5 is no exeption; the game is presented in 1080p an if you've got the right equipment you can even turn 3D on. Most of the graphical beauty lies in the cars (did I mention this game has 1031 cars?) which are modeled with an extraordinary attention to detail. The cars are divided into two groups: Premium and Standard. Standard cars don't have so many polygons as the Premium ones but they still are a feast for your eyes. The only letdown in the graphics ae the tracks. Road textures are very low resolution and lack the 'shimmer and glimmer' that the cars have. But that doesn't matter when you're driving around the track in your new Pagani Zonda R at 300km/h. Weather effects are also a welcome addition to the game, making tire selection and throttle control crucial. Every race can be viewed later on and this is where the graphics of GT5 really come to life; watching a replay is like watching a live race from TV, every car looks exactly like its real-life counterpart.
The next thing GT has always been famous for is its driving physics. When it says 'Real Driving Simulator' on the box, you come to expect above-the-average driving experience. And GT5 delivers. Every single bolt and nut of every single car has been realistically modeled into the game. And they can all be adjusted to meet the track conditions that lie ahead. I've never driven a Lamborghini in real life but I can imagine what it feels like, thanks to GT5. When driving a car you can feel the grip on each wheel and how hard the suspension is working. Every new car is like a new adventure. How does it handle? What are the optimum settings for the next race? How should I paint it? There's so much tweaking and honing in this game that it takes ages to get used to driving with the different cars. And that is not a bad thing. The B-Spec from GT4 has been improved with the ability to have multiple drivers, damage model has finally been implemented into the game with realistic scratches and dents appearing on the cars as well as mechanical damage along with other impovements over the previous titles, like an easy to use Track Editor. Drifting is also introduced in GT5, although this only consists of making new records on the different tracks.
As some of you might have spotted in my text, GT5 has 1031 cars. Most of these are different Skylines and RX-7's but that doesn't really bother me. The quality of each and every one of these cars greatly surpasses any driving game to date. There are a total of 26 different locations with 71 tracks, some of them real (including some famous ones, like the Top Gear test track and the gruesome Nürburgring Nordschleife). There are also (as in every Gran Turismo) license tests, driving missions and, as I said earlier, a track editor. New tracks and cars are available as purchasable content (for example the new Lamborghini Aventador and the Belgian GP track Spa-Francorchamps). This content is quite pricey and the casual player might not get their moneys worth but for a true GT fan they are a must buy. GT5 is also the first GT in the series to have online races, both with other players and against the AI or clock in an online-only section of the game, Seasonal Events. The Seasonal Events update every week with races ranging from driving against the AI with strict regulations on the performance of the selected car, B-Spec races with similar restrictions, Time Trials against the clock (and other players) and drifting on snow, dirt and pavement. The game also receives steady updates, with some of them adding major things to the game, like Performance Points, which tells in plain numbers how powerful a car is. This helps in keeping the races interesting since players can't no longer have overpowerful cars in low horsepower races.
Score: 10 (without internet connection: 8)
Sorry for the trip down the memory lane, but I just had to tell you what GT is really about and without telling about the previous titles in the series this is impossible. All in all, if you like driving simulators, this is a must buy. This game is the reason I bought PlayStation 3 and I have to say I'm glad I did. I'm still playing this game regurarly and the weekly updates keep it freash. Even if you like the more 'arcadish' racing games (Burnout, Need For Speed, etc) this game is worth a try.