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Gran Turismo 5 PS3 Review

01/12/2010 Family Family Gamer Review
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Gran Turismo 5 PS3

Gran Turismo 5




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Gran Turismo 5 maybe late, unfinished and difficult but such is the power of its singular driving experience I really don't care. Day-night cycles, weather, online racing and car damage maybe the headlines, but it is the same old GT experience that kept me coming back.

Gran Turismo and I go back a long way. The first game on the PlayStation 1 transfixed me. Even back on that old system it still had a photographic quality that made it look more like you were watching TV than playing a game.

But more than the visuals it was the way each car handled that meant Gran Turismo made such an impact. The first few hours with the game were frustrating as I struggled to keep the overpowered cars on the track. There then came a magical moment of realisation, when all the pieces came together. The detailed modelling of tire on tarmac, the different behaviour of each car dependant on drive wheels and engine position, and the steady progression through an endless stream of real life cars all created something entirely new. This was a driving simulator not a driving game.

It was almost too much to take in, and in many ways the developers (Digital Polyphony) have been trying to make sense of the monster they created ever since. Each new iteration of the GT series has come with much anticipation and promise of new features, but each has also struggled to reach the high water mark of that first experience.

Gran Turismo 5 continues this tradition both in terms of promised features and the length of time we have had to wait for them. The fact we have all waited patiently for almost five years perhaps tells us that nothing else quite manages to create that spark of life found in each GT game.

The story here is not about new features, modes or even cars, but about the spine-tingling moments it manages to create.

But just as with each previous iterations, the story here is not about new features, modes or even cars, but about the spine-tingling moments it manages to create. Whether it's charging through the dim light of a Le Mans early morning as your headlights breaking through the mist, or dealing with torrential rain at Monza as your precious racing line submerges, or simply getting your Golf Estate round the Autumn Ring circuit ahead of the competition, it's clear that their elongated efforts on simulation were worth it.

Of course as with each iteration of a franchise like this there is the pressure to be bigger, better and more impressive. Accordingly there are now over 1,000 cars (200 modelled in exquisite damageable beauty both inside and out), and there are more locations that accommodate the new weather and day-night cycles. The physics feel as punchy and believable as ever generating a real sense of both the frailty of a 2CV and brutish muscle of Ferraris and Porsches.

As well as all that there is the Campaign which deftly focuses your attention on different types of cars and different eras as you progress through the levels, driving licenses and special events - kart racing is still a hot favourite of mine.

But all this impressive work is overshadowed by the simplicity of sitting in one of these machines and really getting to know it. Because Gran Turismo 5 creates such life-like experiences it draws you in. The cars in your garage become your cars, and each location becomes an old friend - n fact I still miss the hills and hairpins of Grindwald from GT1 and GT2.

It's because of this that the little annoyances fade into the background. The menu system is archaic and frustrating (making to trawl through different races only to find you don't have the right car), the computer drivers are still robotic, contact with other cars is far from believable ("It sounds like a bucket falling over." was my five year olds assessment), and the 16-player online races lack driver rankings.

Even Forza feels clinical next to the pulsating races here.

Ironically it's as if Digital Polyphony were so taken with the heart of their game that they let another five years slip being distracted by their endless tweaking. But then perhaps that's why the engine is such a compelling experience. Many of the missing elements, improvements to computer drivers, mechanical damage amongst them, will be fixed in download patches.

Regardless of all this though, twelve years on and Gran Turismo is still a wonder. Nothing comes close to recreating real world driving - even Forza feels clinical next to the pulsating races here. It has preserved the life-full elixir that made the first game so exciting and thankfully it has matured with age.

Gran Turismo was the first videogame that proper grown-ups (ed: those strange beings with jobs, responsibilities and ambitions I suppose?) would happily plough hours into. Gran Turismo 5 continues this work one race at a time.

Written by Andy Robertson

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Andy Robertson writes the Family Gamer column.

"Videogame reviews for the whole family, not just the kids. I dig out videogame experiences to intrigue and interest grownups and children. This is post-hardcore gaming where accessibility, emotion and storytelling are as important as realism, explosions and bravado."

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