Welcome to LazyTechGuys’ first video game review. We’ve tried very hard to resist doing game reviews but we’re all gamers here and can’t help ourselves. Every week, LTG will be reviewing a game that sparks our interest. We may also revisit some oldies from time to time for nostalgic reasons.
NOTE: This review includes the 1.03 update
There are two ways to look at this review. If you are a long time car and driving enthusiast, chances are you will be playing this game for months to come, no matter what anyone says. The number of cars, brands and tracks that are in this game are staggering. On the other end, if you are a long time gamer who has also played many other racing games outside of Gran Turismo and has no brand loyalty but wants to get back on the saddle of the racing genre, make sure you have the salt shaker ready in one hand.
But, if you are an Andy Reyes who has blown tons of money messing around with several cars, real-life road racing, autocrossing, Forza series, GTR series and actually has a driving wheel to boot, you’re definitely going to want to read this.
The Wait Is Over – Or Is It
Do yourself a favor and install every part of this game. There will be lots of waiting done in this game even after installing. In fact, go out and change the oil in your real car. Why? Because by the time you’re done you will have to upload the patches to the current version. At that point, make a sandwich and watch the Speed channel to get hyped up.
GT1 and 2 had a very crude driving physics system – complete with cartoony suspension, braking and forgiving racing lines. In those classic entries of the series, the GT series’ had more of an emphasis on car modifications, brand names and actual production cars while GT3 and 4 were major leaps forward for racing simulations. From launching to approaching corners, the previous two GT games (3 & 4) were miles ahead of its PS1 counterpart. So how does GT5 stack in comparison to its previous brethren including GT5 Prologue?
When compared to its own series, GT5 provides the latest and greatest version of car physics and overall feel of actual driving. In real-life driving, percentage of tire contact is essential to car control. The fundamentals of driving have a few more nuances pronounced in GT5 than in previous games of the series. You still have to determine the maximum speed of a turn and the maximum radius of a turn. Being able to drive the optimum path around the track within the confines of turns is more intense in GT5. Corner exit speed, proper braking, S-turns, Passing, etc. are still GT’s stable in driving fundamentals. Some of the new nuances include more realistic drafting, weight transfer of cars when drifting. Of course, this is more true when the driving aids are turned off.
The Wheel Factor
While the leap in car physics may not be as much of a change from GT4 to GT5, the Dualshock analog controls in GT5 are a huge improvement over GT4. In previous GT games (specifically 3 & 4, I would switch between the d-pad and the analog depending on the type of track I was racing in because the analog controls would be too sensitive and oversteer while the d-pad would understeer even with it being pressure sensitive and adjusting the TCS (Traction Control System). This time they got the analog controls in GT5 just right without much fumbling.
However, nothing will ever match the feeling of driving after using a 900 degree racing wheel with force feedback. Armed with the older G25 from Logitech that was used for other games such as GTR2, the G25 worked fine without issues. Full feedback was supported and this is where you’ll see a major difference in driving feel bewteen GT4 and GT5. GT4 gave more simple feedback and probably had a few different types of tactile feedback that was distinguishable when trying to hug turns or ride bumpers on s-curves but on GT5 the wheel would provide feedback on even the most slightest undulations on the road. Try driving Trail Mountain between GT4 and GT5 with the same car with the driving aids turned off and you will notice a major difference in the feedback. GT4’s feedback is slightly jerkier while GT5 provides feedback at a granular level. And all of this was on an older wheel. I’ve held GTR2 as THE racing simulation to wipe the floor of racing sims simply because of the driving feel and accurate feedback. In regards to car handling and physics, GT5 is better than GTR2.
Car Handling Comparisons to Forza
I own all the Forzas up to the latest Forza 3 and wish I could make a comparison in driving feel when using a wheel but I didn’t have a wheel specific for Forza and was left with a few wheelie sessions at a friends house. It’s really too bad that Microsoft has taken the proprietary route. At the controller level, Forza is close in car handling realism, lap times and weight transfer but GT5 wins; at least in this review. Which brings up the next thing.
The Damage Debate
Damage has been a hotly debated topic among the different sim camps. To date, GT5 handles damage (both cosmetic and mechanical) at level 40 which doesn’t really make any sense to me. Now this maybe a ploy to just get people to work up to level 40 just to see damage but there truly is no reason why anyone should have to work for it – and that’s a ton of work. No thanks. Why do we need to go through 39 levels of bumper cars and cheesy driving tactics to finally reach the holy grail of level 40 – a point where 39 levels of bad habits won’t save your smooshed 1000HP car. Forza loyalists will definitely argue that crashes are more realistic in Forza than in GT5 which is another debate in itself. While it’s true that Forza gets damage right from the get go, both games still cannot replicate head-on collisions correctly. What many advocates for car damage seem to overlook is that having realistic and simulated damage is beside the point. Are the developers concentrating on creating a racing simulator or a destruction derby?
Driver Experience Points – What GT should’ve learned from Forza
GT5 learned from Forza by not forcing people to beat licenses and went the Driver XP (experience points) route but they should have stolen the whole Forza playbook in this regard. In GT5, the amount of cash winnings do not get affected whether you turn on the driving aids or not. This includes the racing line, brake control, and TCS. In GT5, not only will a less skilled driver with driving aids receive the same purse amount but they also receive the same amount of experience points as a racing vet. In Forza 3, they skew this by removing a percentage of the cash and driver experience points based on which driving aids are turned ON. This includes damage. So if you are a racing vet that wants 100% of Forza’s winnings and driver experience in any race, turn off all aids, switch the AI to the highest setting and set everything to full mechanical damage. GT5 should have also included the rewind function – a common mechanic in other racers that will encourage novice drivers to get passed Ridge Racer status.
GT5 has a ton of cars but I think Yamauchi-san and co. were way in over their heads. GT5’s 1000+ cars are separated into two categories: Premium (nice) cars and Standard (ugly) cars. The premium cars get the full graphic treatment complete with cockpit and full detailed modeling. As for Standard, some cars won’t be noticeable, especially if you are viewing the cars from the garage. But during race time, they look downright ugly with its low resolution textures and models just freshly imported from GT4. You can actually see the Plymouth Super Bird’s flat texturing used in place of the pop-up headlights. Just imagine two black band-aids with Asteroid-like jaggies and you get the idea. You will also find a ton of variations of the same car. So expect to see 10 versions of the GT-Rs, 20 versions of S2000s and other prominent sports cars. Thankfully, the cars handle more realistically than they look.
The Other Stuff
Inside of GT Mode, GT5 now has special events. This was similar to GT4’s special challenges but these events seem more tongue in cheek. Overall, GT4’s challenges are more fun than these special events and it encouraged you to hone your driving skills.
In GT5 special events you have…
- Go Karting – Karting is a first in GT5 which is a nice distraction. No damage. No upgrading. No shifting. Just pure pedal to the metal and very steady steering. Spin-out and you’re done.
- NASCAR – This is great if you like driving straight and going in circles. Drafting becomes a major emphasis so make sure you remember Ricky Bobby’s tips in Talladega Nights. Shake n Bake!
- Top Gear – A couple of goofy events that are mostly novel at best. An early example has you driving VW Carbus’ doing figure eights at around 60-70mph max on an airport runaway. Go figure.
- AMG Driving Academy – This event is actually a very challenging. It is similar to licenses but very challenging because of the length of the track but much more forgiving since you can ram into walls or go out of bounds without being disqualified.
- Gran Turismo Rally – This is a typical rally mode simply setup into a special event. It’s one of the few special events (if not the only one) that actually requires a car from your garage with dirt tires.
- Grand Tour – This is probably my favorite of the special events. You start at the Netherlands travel through Germany and end up at Switzerland in different cities. You get a couple of nice cutscenes of tourists taking photos of your car arriving at the city before performing your next challenge. One memorable track has you driving during the night on dirt with changing elevations, sudden jumps and blind corners during a fireworks display.
- Sebastien Loeb Rally Challenge – This is basically Rally mode with you trying to beat Sebastien Loeb’s “ghost car”. Pretty cool.
Photo mode lets you play photographer in the game. Car enthusiasts will enjoy taking any of their favorite cars to any location (as long as you’ve unlocked it). You can even do bokeh Depth-of-field shots, change angles, adjust ISO and everything else you could do with professional SLR camera. If you want to show off a sample of your garage collection, you can take a few shots and share them with pride.
Make me money
B-Spec mode is a continuation from B-spec from GT4 where you basically do nothing but tell your idiot AI driver what he needs to do. This is essentially known to seasoned GT drivers as money mode. Think of it as you being the playcaller for your driving team. But if you have an overpowered cheesy car that somehow meets the race’s requirements, you can start the race, wash some dishes and eat a sandwich. When you’re done, you’ll find yourself with extra cash and a new car and gained experience for your B-spec driver. In addition, B-spec’s new wrinkles come in the form of extra drivers to babysit.
GT5 does have a few weird quirks that seem off kilter. Part of GT mode is some social networking wall that allows you to share rides, photos, tweet-like messages with your friends within the game. The message board is there if you want to talk to yourself but if you want to shout at people you know who are also playing the game, it’s there.
Other GT5 annoyances
- Tradition of excessive prompts still on GT series – Kazunori sure loves those annoying prompts and crazy navigation. Upgrade Engine. Are you sure? Yes. Do you want to install? Yes. It has been installed. Ok. Yes. I know. Ok. Time to race. Requirements: Racing Tires. Dammit! Back. Loading. Welcome To GT Mode. Tuning Shop. Loading. Tires. You get the idea.
- Realistic Cockpit View are not available on all cars – It would be quite a feat if the developers actually went as far as replicating every single cockpit, its gauges, lights and other details for all the cars but the developers have really died by their own sword. By announcing 1000+ cars, you are assuring everyone’s hope to replicate driving their favorite car (or even their own car) with all the trimmings (literally). Unfortunately, you’re not going to see 1000+ cars with all their cockpits – at least not at the time of this writing.
- No Brake Upgrades – Sadly, this has now been dumbed down and re-categorized into driving aids. I’ve always liked meticulously going through my cars and upgrading every part of the car I could think of doing in real life. Without big brake upgrades gearheads may feel that little upgrade void in their car. It’s assumed that even even a 50HP Fiat would have big brakes and a brake balance – not very realistic.
- The Loading Times – The loading times for this game are mind boggling. This is even after installing everything. Play Gran Turismo 5 with only a 256 MB basic installation and you’ll be spending just as much time waiting as you would be racing. Loading even happens when you’re just transitioning between simple menus.
- Multiplayer is an afterthought - If you have a friend that also happens to own GT, you’ll see him under the GT profiles but the ability to play a private multiplayer game with your buddy is several steps away. Want to play a friend who’s also online? You will have start up a room, setup the rules and give him the room number. It’s also especially unfortunate that you can’t gain XP in the online races to spice things up a bit. Leaderboard? Non existent. Tuning and label community? None. Multiplayer provides no incentive to play. It could learn from its direct competitor by providing modes such as Elimination, Cat-and-Mouse, Tag or even a simple Drag Race. Team Racing can also add another dimension where drivers can partner with each other and their favorite cars against other teams to settle the score. Even older racing sims aside from Forza have more enticing multiplayer modes to play in.
The GT series has always had the comfort of being THE standard of racing simulations for consoles for so many years but now other franchises are now making its way into the racing sim space and challenging them head-on. GT5’s main problem is that the large scope of all these game modes diminishes the polish. GT5 suffers from inconsistent car graphics, loading times, late-game damage and a very weak multiplayer mode. GT5 still feels like it needs a few more months. However, at its core, Gran Turismo 5 has stuck to its roots as one of the most solid racing sims out there. The GT single-player mode of progressively unlocking of cars, tracks, locations and features continue to be its main staple. And with its car handling and physics currently being widely accepted by many gearheads and racers, GT will continue to keep its following. From my personal standpoint of being a gearhead, racer, gamer and bonified racing sim junkie, it has stayed safe and not strayed far from its own lineage but despite its lack of features and stumbles, GT5 still holds the standard to date.