Monday, April 28, 2008

Review - Gran Turismo 5: Prologue

Blog shouldn't be personal endorsements, but fuck it - this is my space, right.  So here is my review of Gran Turismo 5: Prologue from

No game has impacted the simulation racing genre like the Gran Turismo franchise.  Since the series debut in 1998, it’s represented not only the perennial who’s who of the automotive industry, but the pinnacle of simulated driving physics in a virtual environment.  While the studio has inspired a number of would be challengers, Polyphony Digital has cemented their reputation, for almost ten years now, as the premiere studio in this corner of the videogame market.  The success of this series is attributed to not only meticulous research, but the fact that this team loves cars so damn much, and it shows in their attention to detail on every level.  

Somehow, each sequel surpasses Polyphony’s previous benchmark thus exciting more fans and piquing the interest of non-hardcore gamers who just happen to love cars instead.

Before your expectations of this new semi-sequel shoot upward into the stratosphere, remember that Gran Turismo 5: Prologue is a prologue - an introduction, or preview of a much larger work - that ‘larger work’, in this instance, is a sequel due sometime next year  

If you’re a fan of racing sims there is enough here to be excited about with an impressive list of 70 automobiles and vibrant photo-realistic graphics - but is there enough content to justify the ambitious $40 price tag?  Read on dear readers and find out.

Gimp My Ride?

It seems as though every Gran Turismo release seems to reset fan expectations for simulation racers, and this title follows that credo in two very specific areas, mainly: A) the graphics and B) the realistic handling.  

Polyphony Digital crafts the best car handling model on the planet, and they’ve been doing it for quite some time.  However, while the visual presentation hit the typical OMG levels the series is known for, the game just doesn’t feel as inspired as other titles in the series.  There are very few tweaks to the vehicles - like to aerodynamics and suspension parameters - compared to the last four games which, in the end, makes this Gran Turismo feel gimped. For a long time this series has been built on the notion that it incorporates the finest simulation model - A model so real that even professional racers and automakers have constantly praised its authenticity.  But this grand experience is missing a phenomenal element that has been a part of the series success since the beginning: customizable cars that can be with a series of upgrades that you purchase.  These upgrades make you appreciate your ride because it may be the only one you could afford for a while since the prices in any GT series always mimic real life.

The fact that this element missing hurts Gran Turismo 5: Prologue.

This product sports a narrowed perspective, delivering the vital visual punch and a kick-o-physics, but the rest is just a hollow museum of attractive automobiles, if nothing more.  Granted, this isn’t a full sequel (making it tough job to judge) but at times I wonder why this product exists if the final game can cure all these ailments.  

After all, I don’t mind getting lost in Gran Turismo 5: Prologue’s vast showroom of 70 cars, but it’s missing the core element that make me appreciate my automobiles.

Licensed to Ill (online and off)

Various modes and features do help to alleviate some of my issues with Gran Turismo 5: Prologue and, at the same time, offer some variety.  A new Drifting mode was added to the arcade time trials and career races.  The six courses have been designed to cultivate your inner speed demon and teaching you the best line for each course (this is on by default, but can be turned off), and it’s a welcome addition.  And yes, every car still drips with authenticity that can’t be duplicated anywhere else; and the new in-cockpit view shows off the interiors so well you could practically smell the Meguiar’s on the leather. 

Hopefully when the final game is released they’ll have the addressed the on-again, off-again AI that continues to plague Polyphony Digital (their Achilles heel, some would say).  The AI barely intelligent and this is still Gran Turismo: Bumper Cars - where I can just slide into a pack of cars as my own personal way to beat/ cheat “the system”.  

Although these tactics are employed by the lesser skilled hooligans of the Gran Turismo community, there should be a way to curtail it with damage modeling (which is confirmed for the final game) or penalties in this fifth game of the franchise.  

Online racing has penetrated this Gran Turismo for the first time, but the result is a mixed bag.  Racing online in GT 5: Prologue takes one step forward with integrated matchmaking but two steps back with limited online racing options (which would be fine if they were part of a wider mix of options) and the inability to race online in a room with friends is just wrong.  

Outside of the above issues, the strange “ghosting” that happens during collisions in online races has to go because it causes way more issues than it solves.

The Final Spin

Gran Turismo 5: Prologue is a great entry point for folks looking to have a marquee racing title with impressive graphics and tight physics, it’s just a shame that this prologue wasn’t more.  The disk has enough content to validate the $40 price tag in modes and features, which is fine,but this game is an awkward in-between that leaves this fan wanting much more than Gran Turismo: Pretty.  Gran Turismo 5; Prologue is a solid title, that will remain stuck in neutral until the final sequel comes out next year.

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