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We're waiting with baited breath for the arrival of Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo 5. It's getting more difficult to sit on our hands all the time, so it's a good thing that Polyphony has released a time trial demo to wet our whistle. The demo is available free of charge for anyone on the Sony Playstation 3 network, and we recently got hold of the 200+ mb file for ourselves (it took about 30 minutes to download via high-speed cable Internet) to get a sense of whether the game is worth our elevated anticipation.

The time trial demo features both a stock and a tuned version of the Nissan 370Z. The goal is to manage the best single lap in each vehicle on a special road course layout of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and our experience with the demo shows that beating every GT5 fan out there for a chance to win a trip to the Indianapolis 500 is going to be no easy task. Hit the jump for our first impressions of the game, along with video of a hot lap captured by Dave Hinkle over at Joystiq.


Related GalleryGran Turismo 5 Demo

[Source: Joystiq]


We've taken about 50 laps around Indy so far, and we can tell you firsthand that the demo is more than a little difficult. Many of the customization options that are available in GT5 Prologue are disabled in the demo, and the settings are fixed on the most difficult level. Go too hard around a corner and you're in the grass. Hit the grass or the gravel and you're spinning all the way to the wall. Hit the wall and your next lap will be invalidated.

The stock 370Z is so incredibly tough to keep under control that our first lap was about 40 seconds off of the world record time, which is at about 1:46 the last time we looked. In other words, we suck, and it took everything we had to keep playing. We still have a long way to go, as we are about 12 seconds off the record pace and the world's best cyber drivers are chiseling away at the fastest lap times.

Drive the tuned 370Z and Indy becomes a lot more manageable. Corners are easier to negotiate, tires are a incrementally stickier and the brakes work a bit better. The tuned Z can also be configured a bit, which helps a lot. We switched traction control from 7 to 9, an alteration that leads to less spin at the drive wheels when coming in and out of turns. The downside to bumping up the TC is that the tuned Nissan has a bit less pop at the pedal. This blogger's fastest time was a pedestrian 1:47, though our friends at Joystiq managed a 1:46 with a lot less practice than we had.

There are very high expectations for GT5, so we expect nothing less than earth-shattering graphics, a killer sound track and a virtual driving experience that rivals the best racing games of all time. We understand that our first taste of GT5 is only a demo, but so far we are a bit disappointed by what we see. No damage rendering, no customization and a very frustrating driving experience to master. But we will withhold final judgment until we are able to play the full game. That should be next summer, but with the seemingly infinite amount of delays to GT5, we wouldn't be surprised if we have to wait until next year's holiday buying season.

If you haven't seen the GT5 demo in action, click on the video created by our sister site Joystiq. And if you've got any tips to help us get our terrible lap times down or have some times of your own, feel free to spill your beans in the Comments below.