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Gran Turismo 5 Prologue

 

Gran Turismo 5 Prologue

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: PS3
Category: Driving Sims
 
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8.5
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8.5
 
Author:

Developer: Polyphony Digital
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Features

1-2 Players
2-16 Players Online
Required HDD space: 5.1 GB
PLAYSTATION Network Compatible
Supported HD Output: 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p

I have never considered myself a gearhead, but when it comes to racing games on any videogame console I like to try all of them to see what is new and exciting. Plus the fact that I can drive with reckless abandonment is a bonus. Racing games seem to take two different paths, arcade or simulation. Sure, there are those few that try to ride the line in between, but most fall into one category or the other. There have been games that have come and gone in an effort to make an impression on racing fans. Anyone who has been playing racing games for sometime knows that there is one series on the Playstation that has yet to be touched by anyone, and that series is Gran Turismo.

Since its inception 10 years ago, Gran Turismo has always been touted as a ‘driving simulator’ which places the emphasis on realistic driving and physics. The series has seen two chapters on each of Sony’s previous consoles, the PSone and PS2. The latest chapter, the fifth in the series, is still in development for the PS3, however Sony has made the kind decision to pay homage to their fans and release a taste of what is to come. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is that taste. Many pundits believe that this is just a demo of the game but I would have to disagree. I have had the chance to play the game and although it is only a fraction of what the full version of GT5 will be, the content on the disc really does make for a full game and provides quite a bit of gaming for those who decide to pick it up.

Graphics

I would have to say that this is one of the more realistic looking racing games that I have ever played. Everything from the cars, the tracks, to the trackside detail and backgrounds, all of it has been painstakingly rendered from the ground up. And although there are some areas that are lacking (e.g. skid marks one would leave on a track} the overall visual presentation is a winner.

Each car found in GT5 Prologue is uniquely rendered with quality and detail. They also manage to have that “just off the showroom floor shine”, but it is not overly done as some other racing games do (e.g. the PGR series). The lighting on each car is also well implemented. From the tiny shadows caused by such things as wings or air dams on some of the cars to the way that the actual angle of the light falls upon the body of the vehicle, everything looks quite real. I actually took my copy of GT5 Prologue to my home office where I played the game in my Media Room. I had my wife come and watch a bit of it and she was amazed how real some of the cars looked.

New to the GT franchise is an in-car view. This view is absolutely amazing. Each and every dashboard is painstakingly recreated. Lighting once again plays a part in this area of the game as depending on where you are on any given track, and how the sun may (or may not) shine into your car, your dash will look different as the light skims across its surface. What really took my by surprise with the in-car view was when I pressed L1 to look behind me, the whole inside rear of each car has also been painstakingly recreated as well. From back seat arm rests, detailed stitching of leather seats to rear window defrost lines, the interior rear view is just as impressive as the front.

To match the visual quality of each vehicle comes some pretty well rendered tracks to race on. The best way for me to compare this game is to talk about the Suzuka Track in Japan. Having recently picked up and finally finishing Forza 2 on the Xbox 360, I found myself racing a lot of events on Suzuka, so to compare the two versions of the track on competing consoles very relevant as well as very convenient. In many ways I found GT5 Prologue’s rendition of the famed Japanese track to be somewhat more realistic. It was the tiny details with actual trackside grass and the way that the textures were drawn and displayed that made it better to me. The lighting also seemed slightly different and added that bit more of realism to say the least. Forza 2 was a good looking game in my eyes, so for GT5 Prologue to equal and even eclipse it is quite a substantial feat. As for the rest of the tracks, they too are just as impressive. As you race through the streets of London the detail in the buildings is just insane and shadowing plays a big part here given that you are racing in between well rendered buildings. Daytona Speedway is just as awe inspiring, right down to the famed Daytona logo found on the infield. I could go on for quite sometime about the details in each track, but I think you get my point.

Technically speaking the game is pretty impressive. It runs at a rock solid framerate even when displayed in 1080p. I cannot think of any areas where I had any slowdown or graphical hiccups, and this includes when 11 or 15 AI cars are on the track with me. Hell there was no poor collision detection or clipping to be found either, and I was amazed by this given with how many times I attempted a pass an opposing AI vehicle along the wall or edge of so many tracks and all the trackside detail remained solid. In a nutshell there is very little if anything to complain about when considering the visuals in GT5 Prologue.

Sound

The sound in GT5 Prologue wraps up what is already a great looking and great playing game. Each car has a distinctly unique sound to it, and this is something that is needed given that there are a relatively large number of different cars in the game. To add to the different sounding cars is that each of the different views you can choose from (bumper, hood, in-car and behind the car) all sound very different too. I was amazed the first time that I was using the in-car view only to switch to the hood view and the sound of the motor was noticeably louder and not nearly as muffled, reflecting the fact that I was now outside the car and not inside anymore.

GT5 Prologue also makes good use of all the surround sound speakers should you be playing on such a system. All the cars around you can be heard in corresponding speakers allowing you to discern where they are trying to pass you from. Having such sound effects disbursed amongst the surround sound speakers really does immerse one even more into the game and adds more realism to the experience.

Finally, as for the in-game music I found it quite enjoyable and something that did not bother me. A lot of driving games in the past have had music that annoyed me so much that it caused me to either turn it off or play a custom soundtrack. However in GT5 Prologue this was not an issue for me as I found the music quite suitable to the racing action at hand.

Gameplay

As I mentioned earlier, GT5 Prologue is a taste of what is to come in the highly anticipated full version of Gran Turismo 5. The complete version does not even have a release date at this time. When I first heard Sony was releasing the Prologue edition I was a little skeptical about what would be offered. There has been a GT5 demo online since the early days of the PS3’s life, so I was interested to see how much content Sony would put into the highly anticipated GT5 Prologue and what would be different. Well I have to say that they managed to put in quite a lot of content and for people to call this a simple demo is very unfair.

Once you fire up the game and scroll through the menu you can go buy your first car. Being that a lot of people are stuck on this “it is only a demo”, the thing that really struck me was that for a demo there sure is a lot of content, cars included. There are over 70 vehicles to choose from including cars from Ferrari, Lotus, Mercedes Benz, Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Honda and Nissan to name a few. And to race these cars you will find approximately six tracks, each with a variant or two. There are five real-life circuits and one fantasy track. Available tracks include:

- The streets of London
- Eiger Norwand (the demo track on the PLAYSTATION Network in 2006)
- The Fuji International Speedway in Japan (F1 and GT variations)
- The famed Daytona International Speedway (Oval or Road Course version)
- Suzuka Circuit in Japan
- GT Franchise fantasy track “High Speed Ring”

The different variants of the included tracks ups the overall number available to race on to about 12. An added bonus in GT5 Prologue is that each real-life track has a “course guide” that documents the track with a high definition video providing some background on each one.

For diehards of the series one of the things noticeable in GT5 Prologue is that there are no license tests to go through. For those new to the GT experience, previous games have required you to go through a series of tests that earns you a license which in turn earns you the right to race. The main difference is that in GT5 Prologue you can immediately jump into racing. You start out in C class events and once you complete these, by placing in the top three spots in each, you then unlock the B class which then leads to the A class which finally leads to the S class of races. Each class contains 10 events to choose from ranging from such tings as time trials, standard races to having to start at the back of the pack and make your way to first. I should also note that you don’t need to do the events in any specific order either.

I found that each race offered up its own challenges, and that once you got into the A and S class races you really had to race well to hold your own. A lot of the races are quite dependent on the vehicle you choose too. With this being the case you should pick which vehicle to buy wisely as money (credits) is not easily come by. A somewhat frustrating factor is that to earn the money to buy the cars that you will use to get through the game’s events you will have to repeat a lot of races. The rewards that are offered for placing in the top three of each event are not that substantial, even in the higher classes, so to earn the credits to buy all the cars you will need to do quite a bit of repeat racing.

In terms of the cars that are available, each one seems to have it own distinct feeling to it. I found that I would have to alter my driving style depending on what each car’s attributes were. A front wheel drive car felt distinctly different from an all-wheel drive one and a front engine car handled quite differently then a mid-engine car. This was very much appreciated as it placed an emphasis on the realism of the game. Should you go to heavy into a corner you will feel it and you will have to break accordingly. I like the fact that each car seemed to drive as you would expect it too, however in reality I have never driven a Ferrari F430 or Nissan GT-R, so a lot of this is assumption based on what I have driven in real life. Regardless, GT5 Prologue does a great job of presenting what seems to be a real life representation of driving real life cars.

The AI in GT5 Prologue seems quite different then in previous versions. Anyone who has raced in any of the previous four versions knows that the AI has been somewhat predictable in that they always took the best driving line which resulted in a procession of AI cars taking corners in the same manner. In GT5 Prologue this is not the case. This was particularly noticeable in the races where I had to come from behind. As I made my way through the field the AI cars were taking different lines on the track which was nice to see. There was no one single line that every car was following. There were even occasions when I would see an AI car go off the track due to an error they made in their driving. This was quite refreshing given that past installments had the AI driving too well at times. Also noticeable was the fact that I was not always bumping with the AI cars when I was taking my own specific line. It seemed that the AI cars were a little more aware of where I was and they gave me the room I needed to make my pass. Don’t get me wrong, there was still some bumping and grinding now and then, but it was not nearly as noticeable as earlier GT titles.

As with previous versions of the GT franchise, GT5 Prologue does not allow for any damage to cars due to collisions with other vehicles or objects around the track. This has long been a criticism of the series and continues to be noted, especially given that Microsoft’s own racing game, Forza 2, allows for damage to occur which in turn effects the drivability of the vehicle. This being said though, Polyphony Digital has recently stated that they are working on implementing damage to the vehicles in GT5 Prologue and that this would be done via an update to the game.

In terms of the time it will take you to finish the game, well there really isn’t a time span on this one as there is a lot to do. Once you get through the game the first time you will open up a new class (S class. I am also sure that a lot of people will also want to improve on their race times, or get a specific car that appeals to them. As well, after you complete the A class events you open up the ability to tune your car for better performance. Here you can tweak things such as your gear ratios, ride height, weight and even horsepower to make your ride that much better. For tuners out there this is a great addition, but be forewarned that you cannot add aftermarket upgrades, just tweak what is already available on your car. This adds even more playability to the game. So bottomline, the time that it will take you to complete the game will heavily depend on what you really want to do with the game be it collecting all the cars found in the dealerships, racing online, to just tweaking your favorite car and improving on previous races.

GT5 Prologue offers up a few new things to the GT franchise, and the most obvious of this is the ability for multiplayer races online. Yes, you can finally take Gran Turismo over the internet and race other gamers from all over the globe. GT5 Prologue supports up to 16 players in a single online race. This is a high number of players given that most of the next-generation racers that I have played only support a maximum of eight players (e.g. PGR3, PGR4 or Forza 2). I raced a couple of games where there were people from the U.S., U.K., Japan and Canada. It was a nice mix of nationalities.

Although the addition of online racing is great news, it is not nearly as good as it could be at this point in time. Currently, available races are all public matches as there is no way host your own private match. You basically join any one of a number of specific races that are designated by car type, race type or what ever. You have to meet the restrictions to enter each race. Once you pick your race it is as simple as clicking on it, then clicking on start, waiting for the network to find suitable opponents, and then the event will begin. Once in a race I found that a couple of issues continued to hamper the online experience for me. First off a lot of my opponents seemed to be jittery. What I mean is that some of the opposing vehicles did not move smoothly. I attribute this to it being the first time Sony’s racer has gone online. And before any of you question my own connection, I usually get an upload speed of 975 kb/s and a download speed of 19000 kb/s, so my connection is solid. I am hoping that these early ‘jitters’ will be ironed out with time. Another thing that also annoyed me was the fact that a lot of the public racers loved to bang other cars on the track in their effort to win. I just hate racing along and all of a sudden some jackass rams his vehicle into mine trying to cause me to crash and take over my position in the race. This is attributable to two things, the first being it is a public room, the second being that there is no consequence for hitting other cars (e.g. damage). I believe that for my complaints to be rectified that Polyphony will have to allow for private rooms to be created and/or to have damage implemented for online racing which would hopefully weed out those people who can only win by banging other racers on the track. Overall the online functionality does have some promise, however until the early hiccups are sorted out be prepared for a mixed experience when racing online.

Also new to the GT franchise is the addition of GT-TV. The best way to explain this is that it is a Video-on-demand like service offering HD content. Available videos are real-life car related which would be expected given the nature of the GT series. Currently there are three videos available on the blu-ray edition of GT5 Prologue and one downloadable movie about the Mitsubishi Evolution X. I attempted to download the latter, however it was painstakingly slow so I gave up and plan to try again in the near future.

Finally there are a few other features of GT5 Prologue that are worth quickly mentioning. First off GT5 Prologue supports the recently released DUALSHOCK 3 controller. And let me tell you it was great to feel the rumble back in Sony’s racing game. In terms of other modes in the game there is an arcade mode where you can just race a single race of your choice of track against 15 other AI cars. There is also a 2P battle which allows you to race against a friend in splitscreen mode. Finally there is a replay mode where you can save or download replays that are available for watching (e.g. your own or highly ranked players). These last few features round out an already impressive list of things to do in GT5 Prologue.


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