After all this time waiting I finally got to play Gran Turismo 5 at home. From what I?d read during its protracted five-year development period, Gran Turismo 5 would be just like its predecessors; a magnum opus of cars, licences, cups and car tuning.
I would be treated to a veritable orgy of vehicles modelled and researched to an almost anal level of detail to deliver ?the real driving simulator.? Bearing in mind this is something that I?d been promised since getting to grips with the first game back in 1997. Fifth time lucky, maybe?
And so it begins
My trusty old PlayStation 3 is a real old timer, plucked from the first batch of consoles to arrive in the UK back in March 2007. Inside is the original 40Gb hard disk it shipped with. I was pretty confident that it would be the slowest install time in the world. I was already aware (via the Internet) that I should completely ignore the on-screen estimates telling me how much longer the installing was going to take.
Instead I went about cleaning our living room. The concept of doing something else whilst Gran Turismo 5
was busy installing/accessing/contemplating life was to become a frequent occurrence. Anyway, the scores on the doors were ? total time to install: 73 minutes, excluding the time to download and install the latest patch (v1.02 in this case). That?s just a little bit more than the 50 minutes the game had originally estimated! With the living room surgically clean, it was time to play the game.
Navigation from the dark ages
The first 30-45 minutes of Gran Turismo 5
are a horrible experience. So horrible, that I was actually afraid at one point to click on a menu item in case the game wanted to spend an eternity installing some more files. I?d had enough of waiting for the game. Let me drive a single damn car!
That?s all I want to do, so why have Polyphony Digital obfuscated the entire purpose of the game behind a prehistoric interface? I shudder to think how bad things would have been had I not waited 73 minutes for the game to ?install? beforehand.
I appreciate that Polyphony Digital have crammed a huge amount of stuff into the game but this has been at the expense of the user experience. I don?t mind waiting for something to load once, but Gran Turismo 5
?s menus are so detailed that loading occurs all the time. You spend an inordinate amount of time staring at progress bars. Every menu comes with one. There is no such thing as a quick race in Gran Turismo 5
The user interface reflects Polyphony Digital?s approach to driving and cars in general. Take one of the licence tests for example. The menus are now ordered in such a way to promote you to play, review, replay and further review your performance until perfection has been achieved.
To move to the next licence test you have to click right seven times and then press X. This is terrible user interface feng shui. The menus do not flow as they should. Given how huge Gran Turismo 5
is, and the amount of time that you need to invest in the game to get the most out of it, I?m amazed that little was done to make the menus more user friendly and a damned sight quicker. No wonder it took them five years to finish the game as most of it was spent navigating the menus. I?m surprised there isn?t a ??time wasted in menus? statistic.
Gran Turismo 5
?s director and creator - Kazunori Yamauchi - has previously gone on record saying that Gran Turismo 5
is restricted by the PlayStation 3 hardware.
I have to say I completely agree with him. His vision for Gran Turismo
is still beyond the current capability of the PlayStation 3 hardware.
It reminds me of when Rare released Perfect Dark
in 2000. Their follow-up to the awesome GoldenEye
was a game far too ambitious for the poor little Nintendo 64 to cope with. Visual detail was prioritised over frame-rate, making the game unplayable at the higher difficulty levels. Only now, in 2010, can we enjoy Perfect Dark
with a decent frame-rate on Xbox Live Arcade. Perhaps, the same will be true of Gran Turismo 5
in 10 years time. A re-review in 2020 then?
Tests, tests and more tests
As with all Gran Turismo
games you start with a teeny, tiny amount of money with which to buy a car. This buys something that is slow, unresponsive and generally rubbish, just like the menu system. So, I splashed all my cash on the most expensive, non-rubbish car I could find and proceeded to blitz the easiest races in the A-spec challenges.
To start off with I won many races through the tried and tested Gran Turismo
driving technique ? point your car at the apex of a corner, break later than everyone else and crash into them to help you stop. This tactic works in every Gran Turismo game
What really makes this method of driving so effective is the stupendously dumb opponent AI. They all follow a set path through each corner, nicely bunching up, allowing you to dive down the inside. They do, however, have a bloody annoying vindictive streak that results in them constantly barging into your car, after you?ve overtaken them.
This stops you from accelerating away, and puts you at risk of being left for dead by the other competitors. As I progressed through amateur and professional events this behaviour didn?t change. It just repeated itself at higher speeds with nicer cars.
After a few races I focused on completing the licence tests because driving around in a Toyota Yaris is not my idea of fun. These tests are something of a surprise to people who haven?t played Gran Turismo