Gran Turismo 5 is a lot of things, it’s about cars, about speed and about craftsmanship, but above all else, it’s about one man’s obsessive quest for perfection. Originally introduced to the public in mid 2005, Sony’s much anticipated driving simulator was met with delay after delay – and why? Lead designer Kazunori Yamauchi would accept nothing short of perfection for his game – and it shows. It shows in the remarkable attention to the smallest details, the perfectly environments and the flawless rendering of some of the world’s most wanted cars right down the lugnuts and gears.
Yes, Gran Turismo 5 is, as the box says “a real driving simulator,” but at the same time, it comes dramatically short in terms of games. Throughout much of my time with Gran Turismo 5, I couldn’t help but feel like I was in an art museum – there were a lot of pretty things to look at, but I couldn’t appreciate all of them. If you’re a car guy, and I mean a real car guy – the type that obsesses over every fine detail of their ride all in an effort to shave a few milliseconds off your time, this is your game, but those not that hardcore could be bit turned off here. Yes, the learning curve is steep, some may say even daunting, but in the right hands, that could be a very good thing.
Yes, Gran Turismo 5 is insanely detailed from the painstakingly sculpted cars to the picturesque skylines you’ll drive though; but it’s not all looks, the game packs a walloping punch of content that’s sure to keep you busy. From small and flimsy go-karts, to the newly implemented NASCAR cars and even big hulking pieces of metal and engine like Dodge Challengers, there’s no shortage of cars here. You start off the meaty portion of Gran Turismo 5 with a rundown jalopy, much akin to the first car you probably bought when you were sixteen years old. Through competing in races and spending time in the shop, you’ll eventually create your own custom ride built to your own specifications. It’s quite the feat, but also insanely rewarding when pull it off.
Here’s the problem though – I’m not a car guy, never have been. I don’t have the patience or knowledge of the automotive world to give to the minor details and tweaks the game asks of me. I know how I like my racing games, I want to jump in, feel some awesome velocity and compete, with Gran Turismo 5, you do all that, but in between you’re micro managing the tiniest decisions about the tiniest piece of a gigantic machine. No, this isn’t necessarily a fault, but it can be seen as daunting to players like me who just want to race. The game is great at what it does, it’s just got to do it in front of a very selective audience.
As superb and detailed as the game’s creation system is, it’s got some strange omissions as well. You mean to tell me that while I can decide the tiniest decisions about my car, I can’t do a fully customized paint job on specific cars? The selections seem to get stranger as you unlock the more higher old cars. Whether or not this is because the game uses licensed cars is debatable, but it makes the game feel uneven at times. Outside of the cutsomization, there’s a few omissions as well, including a dedicated career mode.
More often than not, Gran Turismo 5’s visuals are jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but much like other portions of the game, it too is a mixed bag. Certain tracks, like London and Madrid are breathtaking and prime examples of what a game can do, it’s just a shame that the folks at Polyphonic Dream didn’t give the same love to all of the game’s venues. Tracks like Cape Ring and Daytona feel flat and uninspired due to flat looking textures and a lack of imagination.Gran Turismo 5’s online suite is capable if nothing else, there’s little deviation from the straight up racing format, but it handles so amazingly that it’s excusable. The real crime is the fact there’s no real depth to the online mode at all. For instance, why are there no leader boards? I may not be one, but I know a lot of car people, and there’s nothing they want more than to put their customs up against others. Why no rankings? Why not a rivals system? Polyphonic Dream has committed to bringing some of these additions to the game’s online suite, which should help things, but why didn’t we have it right out of the box after years of waiting?
The Blast Factor: To the right audience, Gran Turismo 5 isn’t just an astoundingly detailed game, its perfection, but for those not willing to put forth the effort and time to navigate through menu after menu, customization after customization, it can be a bit lacking. While other games like the incredibly fun Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit focus on the pure of high velocity action, Gran Turismo focuses on the minute details of being obsessed with your car – and it’s both a positive and a negative depending on who you are and how you like you’re racing.