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Gran Turismo 5 handles itself masterly. Even with its shortcomings it still convinces as the only racing game in town for real enthusiasts.
The biggest tease in the history of racing games is finally here. After years of waiting, rumours, hype and missed release dates, Gran Turismo 5 has arrived and it doesn't disappoint. While nay-sayers have branded it as little more than Pokemon for cars, Gran Turismo is much more than that, it might just be the finest representation of racing I've ever played.
Right from the start Gran Turismo 5 feels special, with a seven-minute long intro video that takes you through the process of car production, right from the steel ore being dug from the Earth, through to bodyshell pressings, ending with a car hitting the open road.
With the videos out of the way the game gets going. I began by buying a 1997 Mini Cooper and got out on track. Now, I have something of a track record with the Mini (I've owned 18 and written about many many more) so really, there's little better for me to judge just how well the latest Gran Turismo replicates real-word driving.
Well, in short, the cars feel superb, and every car feels different. OK, the Mini feels slow, but then it should, considering it's got about half the power of its modern equivalent. Though lacking in power, the Mini's brilliant handling means, as in real life, it's great fun to drive and keeps up with the much quicker opposition on smaller, twisty tracks. With a few race wins under my belt, and a few credits invested in making the Mini a little quicker, it became a real force to be reckoned with.
There's over 1000 cars in Gran Turismo 5, split between 200 'premium' cars, which are so immaculately detailed you can almost reach out and touch the controls - the interior views are phenomenal - while the rest of the cars are 'standard' models, which lack interior views and can occasionally look a somewhat rough around the edges. On the whole though, they all look great.
There are loads of details that will make motoring fans smile.
There are loads of details that will make motoring fans smile, from the mechanics who wash your car or change your oil, down to the ability to honk your horn (and change it if you wish) and flash your headlights once your behind the wheel.
Another clever hook for the car fan is the inclusion of the Top Gear test track. The BBC show shares its audience with Gran Turismo so the tie-up really is a no-brainer. The tracks themselves all look great and there's more diversity than before, thanks to the inclusion of rallying, NASCAR and Karting.
The Karting itself is great fun, even if it does show up one or two graphical drawbacks. It's the best representation of Karting I've ever experienced. The karts are twitchy, super-quick to turn and easy to spin. All that's missing is the wind rushing at you and the fear of having your bum scraping a few inches above the tarmac at over fifty miles-per-hour.
Whatever mode you're playing, from Karting to rallying, Gran Turismo 5 succeeds in delivering the handling and feel of a huge variety of cars. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of all this is that it is achieved through the PS3 controller.
Adding further depth is the new track creator. It's simple and straightforward to use and while not overly flexible I was able to create a few tracks that were great to race on. It really adds longevity to the game.
There's also way too many similar spec Japanese cars, while European fair is left a little wanting.
The two player mode is exactly as it was in previous versions, it's still just as much fun as it ever was. It's also a nice touch that you're able to import cars you've bought and earned from the Gran Turismo (PSP) version into your Arcade game.
That's not to say Gran Turismo 5 is perfect. The customisation of your cars is very limited and it lacks the brilliant community of Forza Motorsport. If there's one thing petrolheads love as much as their cars, it's talking to other petrolheads about their cars. Forza's storefront and forums tackled this brilliantly, with huge scope for individuality and the ability to share exactly what you'd done to your car, having to collect paint colours before you can respray your car hems in creativity, and it's very frustrating. Forza still leads the way with its fantastic vinyl and paint mode (ed: a quick google reveals some astounding cars) and Gran Turismo feels somewhat out-of-date in comparison.
The game wants you to play it in a specific order too, and while you don't have to do every event, you might have to if you want to earn enough cash and experience points to earn and unlock all the cars.
The new damage modelling works very well on the 200 premium cars, but you've got to get to level 20 before the full damage modelling is available. There's also way too many similar spec Japanese cars, while European fair is left a little wanting. It's great to see classics like the original Mini and Triumph Spitfire, but I for one miss the likes of the 60's Ford Escort for example and some cars feel out of date, while new cars you might expect to be included are missing.
It's the closest you can get to driving on a console.
So has Gran Turismo 5 been worth the wait? Most definitely. With so many cars, so many tracks and so much to do you'll be filling your virtual garage and tweaking and tuning for months, if not years to come. It's the closest you can get to driving on a console.
It's not just a great racing game; it's the great racing game.
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