It’s been six years in development and severely delayed, but having now spent a week with the game so many virtual racers have waited so long for – is it any good?
The short answer is yes, but not quite as good as it should be. The problem is when you wait so long for a game you expect perfection – and people that expect perfection will almost always be disappointed with what they get.
Don’t get me wrong, the game itself is excellent – but it has a few niggling flaws that stop it being a genre-definer. Firstly there’s the installation – which took my PS3 25 minutes to eek it’s way through, and even with a full hard drive install loading times are no faster than I would expect with any other game. I may have forgotten about it in a few week’s time, but the initial excitement of getting the game out of the cellophane wrapping and inserting it into the machine was tempered slightly by the delay before playing, although it did give me the chance to get some vacuming done.
The problems with the game are not with the actual ‘racing’ itself, which is tremendous, but the bits you have to go through to get to the racing can be a little laborious. Once it’s all up and running, the main ‘GT Life’ career-game menu initially looks impressive, but despite the large install loading times still slow things down. It should be much easier to skip between all the menu screens, and waiting for each of them to load in turn can be frustrating. The GT series format hasn’t changed much since it’s PS1 inception. You still have to do licence tests and they are the same as always – stopping challenge, drive through the cones quickly, drive round a corner very fast without leaving the circuit etc. You still have to race in the Sunday Cup and Clubman Cup too. Whilst it’s a little nostalgic that these things are still there, that feeling in tinged with a sense of disappointment – an ‘oh, they didn’t come up with anything new then’. You could argue the ‘ain’t broke don’t fix it line’ but I don’t find the format exciting anymore – a bit like a year-on-year update of an EA Sports game that’s a bit better than the last version, but doesn’t offer much that’s new.
But a lot is new within the game, for example we now have the ‘Special Events’ menu which is how Polyphony Digital have incorporated the new game modes – karting, NASCAR and WRC, alongside other challenges such as racing the Top Gear Test Track in VW Camper vans. These challenges however aren’t different enough to the regular events to seem to warrant their own menu. The VW Camper event for example is more a test of patience than of skill, and felt to me more like a licence test than a motor race as you trundle along at 50kph and get disqualified for nudging a rival. Some gamers will enjoy this challenge, others will find it infuriating.
The game is also huge. No, gigantic. To obtain a Platinum Trophy, one must obtain a gold-standard achievement on EVERYTHING. That’s every race, every special event and every licence test. To do this would take some serious dedication, as getting gold on some of the harder events can take hours of practice. On the flip side, you certainly get value for money as it will take players months and years to obtain all of the top vehicles on offer. The ‘used car dealership’ has been well-implemented too, as some of the rarest cars in the game pop up now and again, so it rewards regular checking. It’s also still great fun to customise your cars and paint them, fix them with alloys and give them a wash. They do feel like your babies, and you can share them with online racers and even donate them to friends – a nice touch.
Speaking of friends, online racing is impressive. Based in a well-designed lobby, the loading times are good, communication is easy and the events themselves are stable. As a session host you can provide cars for other people to use, enabling some great one-make racing so the winner is determined by driver skill rather than whoever has saved up enough credits to get the best car. I also like Polyphony Digital’s decision not to offer credits for online racing. This deters players from ramming and makes it all about the fun and enjoyment of competition, as well as guaranteeing the longevity of the online racing community.
The course creator was initially disappointing but after a few goes I managed to make a couple of impressive circuits. The layout is almost too simple, but if you have the patience to sit and tweak your masterpiece it can be rewarding. The number of locations on offer is a little small however, and the ability to personalise the tracks by placing grandstands and advertising hoardings etc. would be welcomed by those who expected something a little larger and more detailed.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my first week with GT5 and have got into it more and more as the week has gone on, but I had to get over my initial disappointment. The game is not as polished and slick as I thought it would be, and arguably should be for a game that has been in development for so long. However the few flaws won’t stop me playing and enjoying a great game that still has a lot to offer anyone with the time and patience to get their teeth into it. I’m off to take another big bite, but if you’d like to read more about the game, ORD’s GTDon has done a rather lovely full review of it, which you can find here.