By on December 6, 2010

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Time and time again, it’s the comparison that kept occurring to me as I played Gran Turismo 5 on my PS3. The fruit of years – and years of development, Sony’s Forza-killer was finally bestowed upon us this November. Befitting its immense gestation period, the game is a mix of out-dated user interfaces and standard cars and tracks, a sublime driving engine, and incredible detail on some of the newer premium cars. Originally targeted at Forza Motorsport 2, it came out after Forza 3, and it plays like something in between the two.

Polyphony, the game’s developer, went for the bulk approach here in order to clear the 1,000-car mark. Everyone begins the game with standard cars. I began the game with a ‘93 Silvia, whose wheels I couldn’t change, whose interior I could not view, and whose engine I could not turbocharge. It felt straight out of GT2, let alone GT5. It’s not actually until you move up to the premium cars that the game’s 2009 and 2010 development years are apparent.

Those premium cars are styled beautifully, with incredible attention to detail. Assume the cockpit view, and, if you’ve got a 1080P plasma HDTV, it’s as close as you can get to the real thing for under $100.

It’s much the same with other aspects of the game. The game’s user interface is so cluttered with tiny buttons, it harkens to an Acura’s center stack from the earlier parts of this decade. The execution is similarly lacking. Tap “cancel” to leave GT (career) mode, for example, and you don’t actually leave GT mode. You get to a red button, which you must hit again in order to leave GT mode. It wouldn’t be so bad, were it not for the fact that you actually have to leave GT mode to collect the prizes you win during career races! Meanwhile, I’ve never seen a game whose interface is so ridiculous that developers actually have to provide a zoom feature for users to decipher all of the buttons.

The online play provides more dismal results. Back in Forza 2’s heyday, I could download the fastest posted lap with a given car on a given track and try to chase it in order to better myself. Forza 3 later, and GT’s online mode is limited to some generic racing. Great. Though we shan’t enter into a PSNet vs. Xbox live discussion, suffice it to say online mode trailed Forza 2 and is left in the dust by Forza 3.

Finally, the customization options are the most lacking of all. Standard cars can be upgraded, but only with non-branded generic parts such as “High RPM Turbocharger” or “Supercharger”. Most pathetic of all: you can’t upgrade your brakes. Ever. So forget about six-piston Brembos like in Forza 3 (or 2, for that matter). Of course, licensing items costs money and takes time, but let’s not forget this game’s been eons in the making.

The tracks, like the cars, are definitely two-tiered, with some getting and incredible treatment and offering picturesque views while others offer what could only be called “2D Mania”.

So what’s the Dr. Jekyll to all of the Dr. Jekyll above? Two things: Pure racing and special events.

GT5’s driving engine remains sublime, on-par or better with Forza’s depending on who you ask. This game incorporates all kinds of racing – from the extreme (snow, dirt, weather changes, night racing, drifting, NASCAR to the zany (driving a VW Bus around the Top Gear airfield) to the traditional (flinging a Ferrari around Rome) to the downright cool (testing AMG’s at Mercedes’ home track). And every single mode of driving is phenomenal.

Drive a NASCAR car and you can feel the strange mix of the car’s heaviness and its gradually increasing fickleness as you pick up speed. Drive a VW Bus and you’re almost nervous about tip-over.Your controller with rumble with the torque steer of a juiced up FWD car, and your rear will break loose as you’d expect if you gun it too early upon exit. Brake too hard while turning and say hello to lift oversteer at the rear.There’s no Need For Speed-style fantasy physics here, it’s all the real deal.

Unfortunately, even the game’s best aspects were not immune to the pervasive issues that plague the rest of the game. The damage modelling is mostly cosmetic and ineffectual. The GT mode is a grind, involving racing and re-racing the same tracks over and over again to level up, to get better and bigger parts. And of course, the AI is as deficient as its always been in the series. Take the lead on it, stay on the driving line and it may never actually pass you, no matter how slow you’re going.

It’s tough to know what to make of GT5. Every single time it pleases with an exquisitely delivered race, you know Mr. Hyde lurks in the shadows – lo and behold, here’s an eternal loading screen then dizzying array of buttons and Japanese elevator music. It’s the only game I can describe as both immensely frustrating and immensely satisfying at the same time.

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37 Comments on “Review: Gran Turismo 5...”

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Hate to be a buzzkill…but this review has no business being on TTAC.  Is there a “The Truth About Massively Time Wasting Video Games” site on which you could have posted this?

    IMHO, o’ course.

    • 0 avatar

      I donno, I’m still searching for a realistic daily driving training/autocross simulator that has proper steering feedback and a 3-pedal interface. If one were to appear, I would totally expect it to be reviewed and discussed here on this site.

      That said, any attempt to leave arcade world on consoles is blatant herecy, and therefore any game that strives for realism must be for PC and for PC only.

    • 0 avatar

      Um, then don’t read it…  There are reviews of books about cars, why not reviews of games about cars?  Some people who like cars also like games about cars and, while this may also belong on a “The Truth About Massively Time Wasting Video Games” site, this site is not named “The Truth about Cars and Nothing But Cars.”

    • 0 avatar

      “That said, any attempt to leave arcade world on consoles is blatant herecy, and therefore any game that strives for realism must be for PC and for PC only.”

      Here here

      As someone who enjoys gaming on the PC as much as playing Mario Kart on the Wii (but/and for different reasons), I gotta say, I’m not too compelled to pick up a $300 console plus drop another $50-100 on a title to play a compelling racing game. Particularly when I’ve got the hardware to run graphics and peripherals in the man-cave. To say nothing about if I try to smuggle a new box into the living room; the lady will kick my ass.

      Are there any compelling racing titles available for the PC, ones with a robust library of tracks/cars?

    • 0 avatar

      I work on a survey ship on a month on, month off rotation.

      I probably log more time and miles driving games such as PGR, Forza and Gran Turismo than I do driving real cars. Reviews such as these are very helpful and most welcome on a site such as this.

  • avatar

    I have been waiting for GT 5 to come out for sooooo looong. This game is what turns my PS3 from a Blu-Ray machine into a Blu-Ray AND GT5 machine, as I barely use it for any gaming. However, now I’m waiting for the hoopla to die down, so I can snatch up a Logitech G27 wheel with the game for a bit of a discount.
    I gotta say, that damage modeling is very odd. It looks like someone took the “Smudge” tool in Photoshop and rubbed it all over the car’s front clip. The missing door and opened hatch on the Ford Focus look more satisfying.

    • 0 avatar

      Supposedly there is an update coming this month that will turn the cosmetic damage into mechanical damage.  And the premium car damage is more realistic than the standard cars, so that may be where the smudging comes in.

    • 0 avatar

      I was looking at the Ferrari 458 Italia pic when I though of the smudge tool. Is that not considered a “premium” car in GT 5?

  • avatar

    So, how does it compare to the hardcore sims such as GTR, Live for Speed, and iRacing? I haven’t played GT in ages, but the sim community used to regard GT as only marginally better than an arcade game.
    @alex_rashev, check out the above list sims for something that may translate a little better to real driving. IIRC, LFS and iR both are 3-pedal compatible. Dunno about GTR.

    • 0 avatar

      <i>how does it compare to the hardcore sims such as GTR, Live for Speed, and iRacing?</i>
      My guess is that it doesn’t.
      Forza 3 is shockingly good, actually. My company builds motion simulators; we were hired to build some custom rigs for the Forza 3 launch at E3 (yes, it was as cool as it sounds). Being a complete PC bigot, and knowing pretty well what simulators have good internal physics engines from being able to actually feel the cars, I was absolutely blown away by the quality of Forza 3.
      That’s not to say that it’s like iRacing or Live For Speed, to be sure. It can’t be, given the audience it’s aimed at. But while the tire models are forgiving and the braking performance is probably a bit optimistic, the underlying modeling is good. And the liveliness of the tracks – little bumps, camber shifts, changes in the road during T-junctions – is a glaring counterpoint to the pool table smoothness of GT’s stuff – at least in Prologue.
      I was also hugely impressed with the Turn 10 guys themselves; I got a chance to see their office (which looks like a homier version of CSI Miami – when I asked my host whether all the MS game studios were like this, he said something like, “They’re pretty nice, but, being successful helps…”) and spend some time with the devs at E3 and at the Tokyo Game show, which was a blast. The guys at the show were all tall, for some reason – there’s nothing like being on a packed Toyko subway car with 5 other tall Americans, having great fun and laughing uproariously…
      Anyway, where was I? Right. The point is that I think Forza 3 is going to be tough to beat. I haven’t driven the real version of GT5, and it’s doubtful that I will on our simulator, but no matter what, if you insist on console, you won’t go wrong with Forza.
      Funny Forza 3 development story, while I’m at it: When you make a final selection (I think this is still in the production version) an English-accented guy says something like, “Nice choice!” or “Excellent!”. At one point, I guess one of the coders stuck something into an office-wide test build, which played one of those voice things every time you pressed a button. Since everyone in the office gets updated to the latest build, all the devs were stuck with a version that, as you navigated through the menus, would go, “Nice choice! Excellent! Well done! Very good! Nice choice! Very good! Nice choice!”

      Drove ’em all nuts until someone put up a fixed build…

  • avatar

    This is a game that I wanted to love, and I don’t.  I like it.  Sometimes a lot, but it’s definitely not love.  There are moments that make you hopeful, like when that cute girl you like admits to being a Star Wars fan, but then you see enough of the faults that you want to stay friends.
    In this case, I do think this is a good game.  But for everything great (Premium cars, driving physics, track selection (Top Gear track and the ‘Ring!) most graphics…), there are enough problems (standard cars, damage, shadows, interface, racer AI, etc…) that make a game that took 6 years to make still feel rushed.  Still worth playing, but definitely not good enough for it to be a monogamous relationship (despite all the variety).

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with absolutely everything you’ve written above. I have the G27( i cannot recommend strongly enough getting one) and I must say there are times when because of my chassis (with real S2000 seat) that the simulation experience is amazing and love inspiring.
      I think what is most upsetting to myself and my roommates is the lack of real progress in the game by three guys with different work schedules able to play it daily, we blame the prize cars being soooo inadequate. Getting all gold in race after race only to get a worthless car you will never drive and cannot sell…it boarders on insulting.
      hell of a game though…

  • avatar

    This review absolutely belongs here.

  • avatar

    I hope Polyphony has learned a valuable lesson: as fast as the gaming industry moves, nobody, not even the benchmark, can stand still for too long and get bogged down in development. Don’t start a game you can’t finish in a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise you get a game that’s obviously caught between two generations, and not in a good way.

    It’s the same with cars. The gaps in quality and refinement between the Cavalier, Cobalt, and now Cruze never had to be so stark; if only Chevrolet was content to make yearly updates to their models rather than start over every six years after the model has rotted on the vine. If this pattern continues, we’re stuck with the Cruze virtually as-is until 2016, by which point it will be woefully dated and uncompetitive, and they’ll be compelled to re-name its successor.

  • avatar

    Then, which one you recommend to buy? FM3 or GT5?
    I don’t have any console at the moment, but may have one in the future. If a decent racing or simulator game is available, that console will get my $$$.
    Is there a FM3 review in the site, if not, please provide.

    • 0 avatar

      It depends. Do you plan to use a wheel? The wheel experience is much better on GT5 with Fanatec wheels, Driving Force GT, G25 or G27. Forza’s rather gimped with wheel choices, weaker force feedback and 270° steering support.

      Forza’s also much more forgiving than GT5, especially with the rewind mode. I personally don’t use it since it’s a bit cheesy, but it’s there if you need it.

      I own both consoles and a wheel for each, but I feel GT5 is the better game for me.

  • avatar

    Correction: ‘So what’s the Dr. Jekyll to all of the Dr. Jekyll above?’ should be ‘So what’s the Dr. Jekyll to all of the Mr. Hyde above?’

  • avatar

    I waited a while for GT5 and the wait has been worth while and much more. The Physics engine, coupled with the tracks, cars, and lessons in this game have taken my driving to a whole new level. Every time I turn the game on, I ask myself how can I improve as a driver. The game is not like a classic game where having as much fun as possible for a couple weeks is the goal. This game is about fun for years to come, its very very rewarding. The games issues are pretty small in comparison with the opportunities it provides.

    Also I have an old steering wheel from GT4, I wont play racing simulators with a controller anymore cause its a waste of my time. Specially not Forza, where a GT2 acts likes like an AWD Subaru.

  • avatar

    Good to see you back.  I’ve missed your reviews in the past several months.

  • avatar

    I’ve been playing GT5 for the last week or so and I love it.  My buddy bought the game at the same time and he feels the same way.  I don’t know why you’d be having trouble getting your experience or cash levels up.  I’ve never had to redo a race specifically because I needed to earn either, and I already have a lot of great cars, including some six-figure cars.  I haven’t needed those yet though; the last race I did was won with a ’91 Miata.  You gain a lot of cash doing the special events and licensing tests.  Many of them are fairly quick and easy to earn gold.
    Maybe I’m not far enough along, but I’ve seen no collision damage or repercussions for collisions yet.  I’d prefer that it be “game over” after any significant crash, and that minor ones adversely affect the car the way they do in reality.
    I’m a car guy though, not a gamer.  At all.  I have no modern reference to compare this game to.  I bought a PS3 a few months ago only because I had fun playing GT5 Prologue at my buddy’s place, and I have no plans on buying any other games.  Prior to this, my last video game system was a Sega Genesis, though I did once rent a Panasonic 3DO in high school to play Need for Speed.  My buddy also lent me his PS2 for a couple months a few years ago when I had a broken leg.  I played nothing but GTA3 on that.

  • avatar

    I just got his a few days ago actually (although I’ve had a wheel and a copy of GT5Prologue for a long time). I completely agree with most of your criticisms, although I’ve never felt like I had to grind out races to earn money, or noticed a lack in the upgrade options. Sure, there’s basically zero aesthetic improvement available for your cars, but the game is also pretty laser focused on it’s physics engine, which is amazing. I find myself buying cars to beat races, not spending time upgrading the ones I have with hp improvements. This is a game where you have to make your own fun, so I basically don’t use race tires or build up unbeatable vehicles. Of course, I doubt this would be that much fun without the steering wheel, this game really punishes leadfoot tendencies.

  • avatar

    Do the engines sound good in this game?
    I remember that in GT4 driving a HEMI Superbird or LS6 Chevelle sounded like I was using a vacuum cleaner.

    Oh, and do the rally races still suck?

    • 0 avatar

      Rally racing takes a bit of skill, I had fun when I learned to do well, but not when I did not know what I was doing. Watching the Sebastien Loeb replay helped me a lot.
      Engines sound a lot better, specially depending on view point. I like some cars a lot, others aren’t very interesting.

    • 0 avatar

      Some sound great, some sound terrible.  It’s a big factor in deciding whether I keep a car.  In general, the higher revving engines sound the most pleasing and realistic to me.

    • 0 avatar

      The biggest glaring flaw in older versions of GT was the unrealistic V8 engine sounds…this has been improved to some extent, but I don’t know why a game with such great attention to detail in other areas still can’t replicate the basso profundo rumble of a Ford GT or a musclecar.
      It is about 50% better than GT2-4 in this regard, though….

  • avatar

    This review confirms my own worst fear about GT5. Playing and enjoying it requires you to not have played and enjoyed Forza 3.

  • avatar

    I love the game just like I’ve loved the others. The menu’s are the only thing that suck. I have a wheel, displaying it on a 110″ screen, 200lb subwoofer, and 5.1 NHT’s so the experience is great.

  • avatar

    To answer the multitude of “which game should I buy” type questions, here is my $0.02.
    If you like a wheel, get GT and play it with this:
    (budgetary constraints, notwithstanding)
    If you just want a great all-around racer, get FM3.
    Regardless, you can’t go wrong with either game.

  • avatar

    Here is a good link to demonstrate my gripes about the AI, someone sent this to me after reading the review:

  • avatar

    I’ve been pretty happy with the Driving Force GT. Can’t think of anything else I would need on a wheel. I never use the shifter on the right. I just use the paddles behind the wheel.

  • avatar

    For anyone that doubts this game just surf over to and dig up any of the various GT5 vs Real Life videos. Various drivers have filmmed their track days then run the same car on the same track in the virtual GT5 world and the results are pretty darn impressive.
    I’m a HUGE GT fan and this game is without a doubt the best GT game to date, however the review is spot on. They got about 1/2 the game perfect and yet managed to complete fubar the other 50%. Once you reach the higher levels it becomes a real grind to earn the credits and experience necessary to move up. Don’t get me wrong I love the lower spec events, however the questionable AI and the lack of any rewards for redoing those races means your stuck at the lower levels for what feels like too long. This is the first GT game where I felt credits were too hard to come by, considering there are cars costing $20 million to buy… and darn it I want to play with those too!
    I guess my biggest complaint is that the difficult level is all over the place. This is mostly due to the crappy AI, they are dog slow in the turns and yet take off like rockets on the straights. In some races I can out pace them by 6 to 7 seconds in an equal car (I’m 50/50 gold and silver licenses, so I’d say I’m only slightly above average???). But in other races (anything on the Sarthe or Monza come to mind) you need all the power you can get just to stay in the draft and have a chance at overtaking in the next turn.
    On the other hand the feeling of actually driving the cars is fantastic. The first time I caught a slide mid corner and power steered out of trouble in a near perfect 4 wheel drift I nearly cried… it just feels (and looks) so good. This in a nutshell is what makes GT5 so darn fun. Its a car simulator allowing you to do stuff you’ve always dreamed off. Having the Top Gear track means you can “be the Stig”. The old school cars are a blast as well, what other game has the same ’83 Civic S 1500 Hatchback I drove in high school in it? The attention to detail of the premium cars is especially impressive.
    There are over 1,000 cars and a complete auto museum, fantastic photo mode, special challenges (rally event, go-karts, etc) and other things that make a car guy just drool. They are patching the online mode to make it better so if you have a PS3 and a wheel (I’ve got the affordable Driving Force) you MUST get this game.

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