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Why The Most Anticipated Driving Game Ever Is Not A Must Buy

Premium (left) vs. Standard (right)

Premium (left) vs. The Real Thing (right)

These standard cars also look very simplistic compared to the 200 higher brow cars, with flatter surfaces, jagged texture edges and none of the damage and environmental effects the premium models can receive. You can't even swap their wheels for something aftermarket. This is the most glaring example of something that feels rather unfinished in GT5, though there are many more to come.

But the 200 premium cars – wow. They do look phenomenal. The many and varied vents, fins and gills on the '67 Lamborghini Miura are represented perfectly. Every switch, dial and screen inside Nissan's latest GT-R is there to admire. The luscious, swelling fenders on a '54 Mercedes-Benz 300SL curve gracefully. This is digital automotive porn at its finest, each ready for you to drive. It's just a shame they couldn't all look so good.

The story is much the same on the circuits. Some, like the new fictional Cape Ring circuit, the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans, and of course the epic Nürburgring Nordschleife (below) all look amazing and, in the case of the real tracks, look near-identical to their dirt and rock counterparts. Others look decidedly rougher. The textures and surfaces at Laguna Seca are dull and blotchy and everything is unusually verdant at a circuit known more for its browns than its greens.

Gran Turismo 5: Nurburgring

Other tracks have been oddly infiltrated by Jersey barriers where none exist in real life. The chicanes at Monza are now littered with the things, so, too, the frightening turn one at the Daytona road course. The Grand-Am runners at the 24 Hours of Daytona thankfully have a lot more run-off room than you've been given here. The final chicanes at Le Mans, meanwhile, remain free of the things – and you're free to cut them.

The Racing

Gran Turismo 5: Muscle Car Series
Ostensibly, Gran Turismo games are about racing, but they're really about collecting. It just so happens that the best way to capture cars is to complete in-game racing series, and thankfully, there are a good number to run through here.

GT5 offers a somewhat different progression structure than previous titles. There are still tedious license challenges to slog through and higher levels of prestige to achieve through each, but just as important is a new level feature. You earn in-game experience for completing challenges, bumping you up to higher levels and unlocking new challenges, races and gameplay modes.

The majority of these races and offline series are much the same as they ever were: a bunch of random yet familiar challenges with random yet familiar cars. Ferrari-only series? Check. Tire-shredding American muscle races? They're here. Hot hatch championship? You know it.

These are usually fun, but unfortunately the series doesn't take a cue from Forza Motorsport by scaling the competition based on what you bring to the grid. In GT5, it is far easier to bring a hugely overpowered car to any given race than it is to find one that leaves you on level footing with the competition. You'll constantly find yourself being outgunned and hung out to dry by opposing cars or, conversely, competing in a car that's far too fast compared to the others.

Yes, the game does tell you what cars your opponents are likely to show up in, but there's no guarantee those cars haven't been modified and, unless you happen to have one of those exact autos, it's still a guessing game. Unless you want to waste time showing up with a knife to a gun fight, it's a lot easier to just build a bazooka and bring that along.

Far more entertaining are the special events, a series of challenges that have an apparently zombified Jeff Gordon show you the fast way to turn left or Sebastien Loeb teach you how to handle a Citroën C4 rally car. Ultimately, there's not much actual teaching to be found, but the challenges are fun and, most importantly, many are legitimately challenging.

Unfortunately, the short nature of many of these challenges exacerbates the most frustrating aspect of Gran Turismo 5: the load times.

The Frustrations

When you first load up GT5 on your PS3, itching to kick tires, light fires and various other euphemisms for actually driving something, you're presented with an option to install 8GB of system files onto your PS3. As it turns out, this is not actually an option, it's a requirement, because if you choose "No" you'll be throwing the disc across the room after the second or third excruciatingly long wait for a track to load.

The install process is painful, taking up to an hour (despite a hugely inaccurate timer promising much less) and leaving you with nothing to do but wait. Load times are much improved after this install completes, but they're still frustratingly slow. You'll often be waiting for 30 to 45 seconds for a single challenge or test to load, a challenge that may very well be completed in 15 or 20 seconds. Only in the later races does the playing to waiting ratio begin to approach something respectable.

Still, there are many other frustrations lurking, waiting for you to find them. The head tracking mode that promised to provide greater immersion by allowing you to look around in the cockpit just by turning your head? Bizarrely, it only works in Arcade mode, and even then only works well if the PlayStation Eye camera is positioned no more than a few feet from your mug.

The game promises the full racing modification option that hasn't been seen since Gran Turismo 2, but this is available on such a limited number of cars it might as well be absent here, as well. There is no way to upgrade a car's brakes, the 20,000 credit "fully customizable" gearbox doesn't let you specify individual gear ratios (effectively only final drive), the top-shelf suspension doesn't allow asymmetrical setups and, crucially for oval racing, doesn't allow positive camber. Finally, and perhaps most annoying about car setup, you can't save and load your favorites. Jumping between gravel and asphalt rallies a lot? Prepare to spend a lot of time fiddling with ride heights and spring rates between events...

Thankfully, it's certainly not all so bad, so let's dive a little deeper into some key aspects of the game.

The Physics

We're very, very happy to report that the physics in GT5 feel great; they're a big step up from those seen in previous games. No, the realism here is still a far cry from things like rFactor, netKar Pro and iRacing, games that put the hard in hardcore sim racing. But still, this is easily the most realistic feeling Gran Turismo yet, including finally offering some amount of collision physics. Yes, you can still bounce off of your AI opponents to get around a turn if you like, but now if you do it too hard you might actually cause them to spin. Or yourself.

Still, things aren't perfect. Unmodified cars feel oddly loose when braking, as if the brake balance was set too far to the rear by default. And the proper race tires in the game are far too forgiving, not giving up their grip even when you're pushing a Formula car to Formula D-style drift angles. But, that's all to make things more fun, and driving here certainly is fun.

The Rally Mode

Gran Turismo 5: Rally

Rallying returns, one of the more enjoyable if not least realistic aspects of the game. Realism here is not really improved over previous games, if only because the majority of the rally tracks and stages are hugely wide, hugely flat and bare little resemblance to the rutted logging roads and rocky hillclimbs that make up a typical WRC event.

New to this game is the so-called Gran Turismo Rally feature, which randomly generates a series of stages to compete through. The idea is genius, but, like many other things here, the implementation leaves much to be desired. Stages are again comprised of uniformly too-wide roads that are generally too easy and too short – the latter problem again bringing out the worst of those load times.

The handmade rally tracks, like those at Eiger Nordwand, are much more fun. But, rally racing on a circuit just feels a little wrong.

The Karting

Gran Turismo 5: Karting

A taste of karting in an early version of the game left us feeling a little queasy, so we were quite pleasantly surprised to find that karting in GT5 is good. This is, of course, a subject we know a good bit about, and driving a kart here is actually not all that far off from the real thing, particularly in the feel of the higher-speed sections and corners, with the kart even seeming to hop a bit when it has too much grip on the front end.

It's in the slower turns, and any attempt to fix that hop, where the missing aspects are found. One of the trickiest bits of karting is dealing with the rear brakes and, in a real kart, if you lock the rear axle in a slow turn, you'll find yourself facing the wrong way before you know what went wrong. That simply doesn't happen here. Also, while karts are hugely tunable, you can't make a single camber or tire pressure adjustment here. Gearing is the only thing you can change.

The Online Play

Finally, we have a GT game with proper online play, but it feels a bit dated in many regards. Here you create a room, give it a name and hope up to 15 others stop by. It's a bit like gaming was back when Gran Turismo 5 started development, but it works well enough. While you're waiting you can at least go out and lap the track, getting some practice in before the race begins.

You can put some restrictions on the cars that others can bring to the grid, but they're a little loose. As is usually the case with online gaming, you're better off finding some friends and racing with them, then creating unofficial rules and restrictions about what cars can be included and what should be left in the garage. You also might have a chance of getting through the first turn without catastrophe. And it'll be hard to tell who's who.

Unfortunately, there aren't enough car and driver customization options to really make your mark visually. You can paint cars other colors, colors which oddly must be earned, but there's no way to apply custom graphics here. You also can't even change the color of your driver's suit or helmet, being given only a choice from a handful of set combinations.

The Photo Mode

Gran Turismo 5: Photo Mode

In Photo Mode, you can take your cars and drop them into one of many hand-crafted environments, placing them just so before you fiddle with aperture and exposure settings to get the perfect shot. And, since there are no game physics to worry about, all the horsepower of the PS3 can be used to create stunning photographic results, which can then be exported as JPEGs, like the ones peppered through this post.

This is far and away the most polished aspect of this game, and if that makes you feel a little uncomfortable given the lack of refinement seen in other, seemingly more important aspects...

The Audio

Sound effects in GT5, as a whole, have more in common with the chaotic nature of an orchestra tuning prior to a concert than the blissful harmony they can achieve during the performance. Every now and again you'll hear the wonderful tune of a properly-rendered engine note, but just as often you'll be droning along in something that sounds like a Hoover.

Volume levels are also a bit off. The engine note of the car coming up behind you often seems louder than the engine within your own car, while crashes and other unexpected-yet-frequent events seem rather too quiet.

The music, meanwhile, is a complete mess. You'll have light jazz transitioning into cowpunk then techno before easy listening jams and a little ragtime to cap it off. There isn't a hint of continuity to be found, but thankfully you can disable any song you like – or just shut them all off.


Through here you can watch videos of cars, some for free and some, like Super GT races, costing $2.99 a pop. Humorously, many of the free videos shot and provided by Polyphony Digital for inclusion in Gran Turismo 5, including coverage of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, were filmed in 2008.

Car Damage

Damage modeling is one of the more eagerly awaited features in GT5, yet on many cars there's little if any noticeable damage, like the ones you can see above. Only the full racing cars have what you might consider to be proper damage. This is the amount of damage applied to a poor, unsuspecting Maserati GranTurismo S after we spent five minutes doing nothing but alternately reversing and driving into barriers. Note that the car still drives perfectly after all that abuse.

Indeed series producer Kazunori Yamauchi has confirmed that there is absolutely no mechanical damage in the game at all, that it's coming in an update "probably" for "early December." This is yet another frustrating missing piece and an odd choice – making damaged cars something of a reward for putting hours and hours and hours into the game. It should be there from the beginning, but it should also be another driver aid that can be disabled.

Escape from Trial Mountain

It's hard to put a summary at the end of all this, because after the closing credits rolled on Gran Turismo 5 we weren't quite sure how we felt. Yes, this is arguably the most fun entry in the franchise, with physics that are closer to reality then ever before while still taking enough liberties to keep things entertaining.

But, for every smile we were also shaking our heads at some bit of frustration. It often feels like an incomplete title, a feeling that the two 100+ megabyte patches released within days of the game finally shipping really hammered home. It is still a very good game, however, and if you own a PS3 and you like racers you'd be remiss to skip this one.

That said, if you were looking for a single excuse to buy a new video game console and racing wheel and spend the entirety of this holiday season in pure gaming bliss, we're sorry to report that the long awaited Gran Turismo 5 isn't it.

Update: The review has been updated with Kazunori Yamauchi's confirmation that there is no mechanical damage in the current version of the game, and that there is no "unlocking" of damage.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      It looks like the PS3 hardware was pushed to its limit with GT5 and that's why some of the features look unfinished and raw. A new PS4 with a faster GPU is needed or we won't see many more improvements in games like this.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I bought this game with a Logitech Driving Force GT steering wheel with pedals on Sunday. In 2 days, I've logged (with a friend for half of it) about 18 hours playing. I am overall not disappointed. Without comparing it to Forza, which I have not played, GT5 is an absolute blast to play, IF you like simulated racing. I do. I also like arcade racers. But I was not looking for an arcade racer in this game. If you are looking for arcade, look elsewhere.

      Also, if you are not using a wheel, you are not playing the game correctly. The wheel make ALL the difference. To be honest, I might be a little bored with the game if I was using a controller. I would imagine the reviewer had used a wheel of some kind to play the game, I don't recall it being mentioned in the review though.

      Some of the gripes in this review I really have no problem with. The loading times are not that bad if you do the install. I played for awhile without doing it, and the times were a bit long, although nothing terrible. After installing the majority of the game on the hd, the time decreased quite a bit.

      I didn't have a problem with the music. If you do, just install your own stuff. Fixed. Also, you have the option of turning the music down or off if you want. I found some of the jazzy elevator type music kind of fun. Then again, I have a pretty decent surround sound system.

      "That said, if you were looking for a single excuse to buy a new video game console and racing wheel and spend the entirety of this holiday season in pure gaming bliss, we're sorry to report that the long awaited Gran Turismo 5 isn't it." For me, this couldn't be any farther from the truth. I can see myself playing this for a looooong time. Extremely happy with my purchase, even after spending almost $200 for the game and wheel. And I am not a rich man by any stretch. A friend asked me how it was, and I can easily say, after 30 years of playing video games, this is by far the most fun I've EVER had.

      As far as I'm concerned, if you like driving sims, and have a PS3 and a wheel, it's a must buy. If you like NFS or Burnout, this might not be the game for you.

      • 4 Years Ago
      finally an honest review; nice to read one for once not written by a mindless fan whose never seen sight of another racing franchise or an objective thought about GT.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I was really looking forward to this. I must say though that learning that 80% of the cars are apparently cars straight from GT4 without the new GT5 features is really disappointing. I almost feel they would’ve been better off not including any of the “standard” cars in the game. They didn’t fill GT3 with noticeably lower quality GT2 cars to boost the car count, so why now? The Premium cars look amazing though, great job in that area.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I am a torn here. I have loved the Gran Turismo series from the very first iteration. I even loved GT2 with all of it's glaring faults, but I cannot help but feel disappointed with GT5.

      I really do not feel like Polyphony brought anything new to the table with GT5, just more of the same. I know I know, there is a lot more to this game than previous GT games, but I cannot help but feel that I am playing a slightly more polished version of GT4.

      I was also expecting more from the car models considering how long this game took to get to market. Don't get me wrong, I care more about physics (which are a really big improvement over GT4) and shaving time off of my best laps than I do about how the game looks, but let's not kid ourselves here. The GT series has always been about the "pretty" factor. A big part of this series and one of it's main claims to fame has always been the graphics. Sure, the "premium" cars look absolutely stunning, but the "standard" cars, well, I was expecting more polish even though I knew they were carry-overs from previous GT titles.

      Another big disappointment is the level of tuning you can do. I am a gearhead, and I love making small, incremental adjustments to every little part of my cars in the hopes of seeing positive results on the track. Maybe Forza 2 and 3, which I began playing in GT's absence shortly after Forza 2 came out, have spoiled me in this respect.

      I am also VERY disapointed that one cannot save tuning setups. This is a glaring omission as far as I am concerned.

      I also like putting simple custom and replica racing liveries on all of my cars, another aspect in which I have been spoiled by Forza. Not that it is that big of a deal, but I just love to create things, and it is cool to see and show off your creations in online races and replays. I wasn't really expecting this type of thing from GT5 though, so I cannot call this a disapointment. I wish we could at least put number plates on your cars, if for nothing else than to be able to distinguish your car from similar cars on the grid. Again, not a big deal, but a little visual distinction would have been nice.

      The car list is a bit littered with several versions of the same cars. Again though, this is to be expected, and not really a big deal to me.

      The user interface is absolute crap.

      The online aspect is not nearly as complete or entertaining as Forza 3, or even Forza 2 for that matter. It is adequate though. Not bad at all, just not as good as others, especially PC sims.

      I haven't really experienced much damage, but the damage I have seen so far is laughable. The lack of mechanical damage is also a big disapointment for me. Crashes should have consequences.

      The photo mode is astonishingly well done, but I didn't spend much time with it in GT4, and I don't see myself spending much time with it in 5 either.

      Another big disappointment for me has been the car selection. A lot of my favorites are there, old and new, but there seem to be a lot of cars that should have been in this game from the start that are not. This boils down to personal preference though, so no big deal.

      Despite my rant, I absolutely LOVE GT5!!!! I haven't played anything else since I got it. Sure, I am disappointed in a lot of aspects of this game, and I still feel that this game was rushed, if that is even possible for a game that has been in developement as long as this one has, but I am still enjoying it. The hot-lapping is addictive in this game, especially with the greatly improved physics. The AI, like pretty much every other racing game out there, provides absolutely no competition most of the time, and the online racing hasn't really been fulfilling for me so far, but the hot-lapping, which I usually spend most of my time doing in racing games anyway, has been stellar.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The game is very disappointing. The upscaled GT4 cars and tracks look terrible, the online modes are bare boned, the UI is obtuse, there's frequent screen tearing and popup and the track designer would have seem weak had it come with GT1.

      6 years to design a game and there's not Spa? Imola? Road America? VIR? Road Atlanta? 12 versions of the Yaris, but no Porsches?

        • 4 Years Ago
        Porsche is a licensing issue. There's nothing PD can do about it. If you want Porsches in GT, complain to Porsche.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Most boring thing in GT5: Nascar!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've had the game since launch.

      Went out and bought a PS3 that morning just for GT5.

      Initially I had a lot of gripes. The standard cars look terrible, some tracks look like PS2 quality, and the AI is as boring as ever. The position they hit the first turn in is usually the position they finish in. No jockying for the overtake, they never crash or spin out and the all drive in single file. Like a big snake just flowing through the course.

      But after a while the game really grew on me.

      The UI is very nice, premium car graphics are mind blowing and the special challenges are really fun. Once I beat the Elise Challenge on the Top Gear tracked and also unlocked Nurburgring Nordschleife my driving skills have gotten really good so I can compete at Pro level no issue.

      I'm at level 15 and drive a fire red Audi R8 v10 modified to 958hp. It's completely thrilling.. Especially in photo mode. I spent nearly an hour in there last night taking high speed shots of the R8 doing 219 down the straighaway.

      The more I play it the more I love it but I can definitely see how it may be underwhelming to a lof of folks that overhyped the crap out of it!

      I'm going home from work today knowing I've got about 950k banked from winning races and I get to buy something fun! Lambo maybe? :)

      Stick with it. It get's better.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Agreed- it takes time but with our attention span of a gnat, who will wait?

        GT5 was made for people who want to tweak transmission ratios (which I have yet to unlock!) and mess with suspension settings. Some people was NFS, some people want a sim.

        I'll take there are 800 standard cars but I can't paint ot mess with the wheels? Poo! And that no-brake upgrade was a bit odd.
      • 4 Years Ago
      i have all Forza games all GT games and have played NFSHP (I took that pathetic pile of crap back)

      and i have to say GT5 out performs F3 as a game and a better driving sim. F3 is the most boring sim ever made. I put over 100hrs into that game in a year and stopped playing as i got BORED. all the game did was give me more boring tracks with more boring laps, pathetic. GT5 is packed with different events which get increasingly more difficult as you earn more xp even the karting events at level 17 is hard compared to beginner level.
      the races in F3 always feel like your in the same position. never really fighting against the whole pack of racers, you are just racing with the 1st 2nd 3rd place unlike gt5 where you race with the whole pack and concentration and skill is needed to just get bronze let alone gold.

      GT5 has been out 1 week and I have probably put 30-40 hrs into that game already in just 1 week because the game is that good which says something.....

      GT5 is the much better GAME.

      anyone who says F3 is better than GT has DEFINATELY not fully played BOTH games extensively or is just a 360 only owner.

      add me on 360 or ps3 if you think i dont own both - PainfulTimez
      • 4 Years Ago
      Anyone think that this game shouldn't have been released just yet?

      I mean, when a game isn't finished, it isn't finished. You don't throw s$*& into it and call it done, just for the "fans." YOU FINISH THE D#@% GAME.

      Hopefully the higher quality cars and such will be added in many updates, though I don't like the fact that they weren't there from launch... AS THEY SHOULD HAVE BEEN.

      And, I don't even have a PS3. I just hate when stuff like this happens, "for the fans."
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm pretty shocked by the reviews for this game - both from media and friends. I have heard all about the difference between premium and regular cars and have seen the (IMO) very incomplete car and track lists. However, this is the first I have heard about the extremely limited set-up options. That is a huge knock when you consider how much praise the physics and car dynamics have received. Lack of individual gear tuning and no setup saves are hugely disappointing. In Forza, for example, I will often tune a car to several different tracks which sometimes results in a 4 speed gearbox at one track and 5 or 6 at another.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I played GT5 for about 3-4 days .. got to level 14.. It got extremely tedious, the multiplayer was kind of lame. and most importantly; I dont have a G27 racing wheel.. However I DO have a MS Force Feedback Racing Wheel for my 360. Luckily, I sold my GT5 back to a co-worker and went out and bought the Ultimate Forza collection for $30 (A STEAL, considering you get the full game and all the DLCs, even if already own the original).
      Can't be happier. GT5 would be ok if it was $40 but def not worth buying a G27. If this game isn't worth buying the wheel for than what is?
        • 4 Years Ago
        If you're willing to put up with the awful MS Wireless Racing Wheel, then you should be looking at a much cheaper wheel for PS3 than the G27.

        You could for example get the Logitech Driving Force GT, it's more than a match for MS' wheel and it's a lot cheaper.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I already own the MS Wheel, it was a gift, and it works great. Also Forza is more fun.. and a better experience.
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