Well it’s finally here, and after years of planning, and development, and yes, delays, GT5 has arrived. Or has it? Sure, the title is here, but is the promise of another console racing simulation revolution from Polyphony something you can bank on, or will the relatively soon to follow GT6 be the real deal? That all depends on your contextual expectations I suppose, and what the future may bring.
If you’ve read some GT5 reviews by now you know the verdict has ranged from silly semi-confused musings, to mild exuberance, and even general approval. This in and of itself is a bit of an indictment when you consider the lengthy gestation period of GT5. Why shouldn’t it be the racer of the decade, when, after all, it took a half decade to get it to market?
The buying public is a harsh master, but the non-buyers are even harsher. So let’s dispel one notion right at the beginning, don’t listen to the haters, and, don’t listen to the fan boys. GT5 is neither the greatest console simulation racer ever, nor is it insufficiently done either. It is an interesting and entertaining gaming result that reveals a kind of simulation crossroad where old meets new.
Since most if not all the GT5 reviews are already out, and cover the same basic outline of the game such as how many tracks, cars, modes, special events, challenges, levels, etc., there are, I’m not going to drive down that well worn path, but instead try to get to the real meat of the GT5 matter. You know, talk a little bit about what everyone really wants to know, like, is it better than Forza3, and is it good enough to buy?
Where others have said GT5 feels the least complete of any GT game, I see a game with the most inclusion of old and new elements possible. I suspect that it is the retention of these older features and car models, as in the case of the less detailed 800 or so “standard cars” that spoils the taste for those looking for an entirely different and revamped direction for the franchise. There is a certain jaded cynicism amongst game reviewers these days using such phrases as, “only 200 premium cars” and “painfully slow (initial) HD install.” Seriously? Does anyone seriously stare at the TV in agony while the game is installed to the HD for 40 minutes? Or do they go get a bite to eat or watch TV until the process is complete like me? Only 200 premium cars is a, “shame?” Really? To this day I don’t have 200 cars in my Forza3 garage, and I don’t feel cheated. “In game load times are painfully slow?” Honestly? I’d say they are either the same as or slightly faster than FM3, is closer to the truth.
Apparently much of the mis-interpretation or angst of GT5 comes from those who don’t know what Gran Turismo is, or is trying to be. Rather than objectively try to positively accept the game for what it is, the reviewers tend to try to make it fit into what they think it should be. And if it is an odd fit, then they are quick to criticize it to no end.
So what is GT5 exactly? It is a major console simulation racer that has a unique heritage all its own, and a historic reputation for creating the genre in the first place. GT5 is a mix of old and new themes and technology. It’s the first 3D variation of its kind, and offers some of the very best car modeling ever seen on any platform.
So, let’s get to it, by the numbers, does GT5 match or exceed the driving pleasure and entertainment value that FM3 has delivered, and if so, is it enough to justify buying it? I’ll let you do the math on the 19 categories listed below…
Driving Physics: On a simple scale of 1-10, GT5 wins easily with a 9, over FM3’s 7.
The tactile sensation of GT5 is very noticeable. You can feel the tires in contact (and not in contact) with the track. FM3 by comparison seems to be less sensitive and vague, as though its cars are hovering above the track by about an inch. For the first time that I can recall, the proper motion is being experienced with GT5 to the extent that the technique of “throttle steering” can be fully utilized in a console racer like never before. In a word, the physics are, ‘great.’
GT5 cars’ exhibit pitch, roll, and yaw motion, with every input of the steering, accelerator, and brake. You see and feel such actions as nose dive under braking, or front end lift under acceleration. This body movement is not exaggerated, but gives a great sensation of weight transfer and momentum that, like a real car, has to be considered at all times when hustling around the race track. Tires make the biggest difference to the GT5 cars, and braking is very sensitive without ABS. There’s a feel to the physics that gives you the sense that there is an infinite range of fluid control and modulation, using the G27 wheel.
Overall Game Content: GT5 gets about an 8, to FM3’s 8.
Both games come equipped with roughly about the same content and time needed to completion.
On-line racing: GT5 nails a 9, FM3 only a 6.
The return of host controlled lobbies, (a feature that was sorely abandoned in FM3) makes GT5 the easy winner in this category even without adding twice as many cars to the track. The ability to name a lobby, and have new people come and go in a system that allows you to practice without stopping to let someone in, is pure genius.
Damage modelling: FM3 has a solid 8, GT5 more like a 6
GT5 has too basic a damage model; it’s there, but barely.
Track Modelling: GT5 gets an 8, FM3 a 7
Tracks are fairly close, but the GT5 tracks are slightly better looking, and offer a greater range of textured surfaces and animations.
Engine sounds: FM3 captures a 9, GT5, maybe a 7.
GT5 is less natural sounding, and too artificial compared to FM3’s quality engine noises. And GT5 crashing noises are underwhelming too.
A.I. quality: GT5 8, FM3 7
The A.I.’s are comparable gentleman drivers in GT5 to the ones in FM3. They seem to make more sensible moves, and will allow you to race them clean 90% of the time. They will even take a chance now and then and wipeout occasionally.
Peripheral wheel support: GT5 a perfect 10, FM3 no more than an 8.
With both a fine factory wheel (DFGT) and great after market wheels (G27-T500RS) GT5 is better supported than FM3, which no longer sells the factory Microsoft Wheel, a wheel that had a variety of bugs and durability issues.
Photo mode: GT5 about an 8, FM3 close to the same, about an 8.
This is a close category to call, both have fairly good picture taking options.
Community features such as leader boards and car exchanges: FM3 nails the 10, GT5 only a 5.
GT5 is lacking in this area, but it is promised that leader boards are soon to come. It’s hard to beat the FM3 leader boards and auction house features, it’s a complete package.
Car manipulations such as painting, tuning, upgrades: FM3 a pure 9, GT5 barely a 7.
GT5 hasn’t the detail for tuning, or painting, and doesn’t compare that well to FM3 in this category. However, all those who either hate to tune, or can’t, will have less to fear in GT5.
Misc. features: GT5 manages an 8, FM3 about a 7.
The new ,“Course Maker” just about trumps anything FM3 has in this category even though it is very basic. The 3D aspect of GT5 is great too, if you have the right TV.
Number of cars: GT5 gets the 10, FM3 a secure 9.
Obviously 1,000+ GT5 cars wins over everything currently offered. And of the two games the only open wheeled race cars offered (Formula One), gives GT5 the nod here.
Number of tracks: FM3 has the perfect 10, GT5 the 9.
GT5 has a soft selection of 70 tracks or so, FM3 has 100+.
Weather and day/night tracks: GT5 gets at least a 7 for trying, but FM3 = 0
This feature really helps tip the scales toward GT5, because FM3 has no such feature.
Number of grid positions: GT5 rules with a 10, FM3 merely average with a 7.
Another no-brainer that really makes a big difference, GT5=16cars, FM3=8cars
Promotional events: GT5 again scores a 10, FM3 just a 7.
GT5’s, “GT Academy” in collaboration with Nissan is an unprecedented event (in the US – it previous ran in Europe). “The top 32 virtual racers in the country will compete in the live national finals event scheduled for March 2011 to become one of 16 GT Academy finalists. The 16 finalists will compete against each other in a series of challenges, including behind the wheel of real Nissan race cars, for a chance to become a professional race car driver as the GT Academy winner for the U.S. The winner will have the opportunity to train with elite race car drivers at international tracks and race as part of a professional team.”
Modes of play: GT5 9 vs FM3 8
Both have about the same number of modes. GT5 has dirt/snow rally racing, and FM3 has drag racing, but all things being equal, the dirt rally racing in GT5 is more functionally fun, than the non-functioning drag strip of FM3. (Starting lights don’t offer staging, reaction time, or red lights.)
Immersive quality: GT5 is about an 8, FM3 only a 6
Without a doubt the immersive quality of GT5 exceeds FM3 by some amount. Not because it is vastly different, but because of the emphasis and focus placed on the minor animated details, such as black rubber marks that stay on the track. Nice touches like a false start option that kills your car if you jump the start, for a few seconds, and pit stop decisions on fuel and tires. Tracks are more animated with rain, snow, and fireworks going off in the distance. Reactive spectators taking pictures as you pass by, and flinching in terror if you get too close to them on a turn. Cars that visibly lean when acted upon by the forces of nature, or regrettably going into a violent high speed “tank slapper” due to an over aggressive right foot. Or maybe driving the excellent facsimile of a Sprint Cup Car from NASCAR, and gaining immediate respect for the skill and manliness it takes to handle one at 200mph door handle to door handle. (Sorry Danica you’re not quite there yet). Or how about almost feeling the G-force generated by the pro karts. It’s these numerous minor details and experiences that crank up the immersive giggle factor, and put a smile behind your face shield every time.
Perhaps the best judge of the quality of the GT5 simulation comes from someone who isn’t a gamer at all, hasn’t done many racing sims, but is a real car guy that has raced. I know just such a person, and after trying first FM3, and then GT5, he exclaimed, “Now this is more like it!” It was clear that he was able to pick up on the physical feel of GT5 faster than FM3, and was not as frustrated by GT5 as he was with FM3. No “sticky grass” or time penalty to deal with in GT5, and the A.I.s were more fair in his opinion. I can’t say that it was just the game that allowed my friend to “master” GT5, it was more the seamless cooperation between his real knowledge, and the virtual experience of GT5 that allowed him to identify with the sensations better. Even so, he was quick to confess that the game gave him the impression that he had a long ways to go before true mastery set in.
So is GT5 the better console simulation racer? Depends on who you are and how you add the numbers up, but for my money it is. As a long time Forza racer and original Gran Turismo guy I can honestly say this is the more enjoyable game. As I get closer to completing the game it feels like the goal of mastery grows at the same rate as my newly discovered skill, and with each quicker lap I make, there seems no real end in sight.
Bottom line, throw out all the hype and the haters, and the way I see it, you definitely have an overall improvement to the breed. Forza was good, but GT5 is better. It’s not light years ahead, and it’s not the revolution that GT1 was which started it all, but it is better. GT6 may be the real GT5 in the end, but for now, if you want the best console sim-racer on the planet, Sony’s premier title, GT5, is it.
(Editor’s note: If you haven’t bought GT5 yet, here’s a list of options and links)
There are several different options available to buy Gran Turismo 5:
Collector’s Edition: Game, Custom-etched keychain, 1:43 scale model of the Nissan GTR Spec-V, 300 page book, voucher for 5 DLC cars, Certificate of Authenticity.
Signature Edition (Exclusive to Europe/Australian): Steel case, book, Gran Turismo wallet, 1:43 scale Mercedes Benz SLS, voucher for six ‘Stealth’ cars and more.
- Gran Turismo 5 standard edition (amazon) (Pre-order includes Mercedes SLS AMG Stealth)
- Gran Turismo 5 collectors edition (amazon) (Pre-order includes Mercedes SLS AMG Stealth)
- Gran Turismo 5 Standard edition (Game)
- Gran Turismo 5 Signature edition (Game)
- Gran Turismo 5 standard edition (Gamestop) (Pre-order: McLaren F1 stealth and GameStop NASCAR car with Gran Turismo 5 logos.
- Gran Turismo 5 signature edition (Gamestop) Pre-order: McLaren F1 stealth and GameStop NASCAR car with Gran Turismo 5 logos.
- Gran Turismo 5 standard edition (Play.com) (Pre-Order: Mercedes SLS AMG and Nissan GT-R GT500 Stealth models)
- Gran Turismo 5 Collectors edition (Play.com)