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access_time November 24, 2010 at 12:21 AM in Features by normalmode

Gran Turismo 5 First 5-hours impressions

There was a very slim chance that I could possibly play enough of Gran Turismo 5 this week in order produce a proper and thorough review, so I took an inspired cue from GamesRadar’s Gran Turismo 5 reviewer. While I don’t have a fully informed take on when such a title can be deemed reviewable, I’m thinking that logging 20 hours or acquiring 25% trophies will be a safe bet. What I can do right now is give my impressions of having played and explored the game for at least 5 hours.

Considering the series’ large following and that it’s been over a 5 year wait, it seems virtually impossible for Gran Turismo 5 to live up to the hype. Yet from viewing the game’s opening cinema, it’s easy to tell that developer Polyphony Digital is up to the challenge. In fact, they have the audacity to show two opening cinemas one after the other. One is a more traditional music video featuring GT5 gameplay while the other is a more epic affair, a practical fetishisizing of cars as they’re being made right from when they originate as sheets of steel.

In some ways, the whole point of the series is the fetishsizing of cars. The scene where your purchased or unlocked car is unveiled is a glossy production where the car emerges out of darkness to the tune of a rock guitar. Another way to view this fetishsizing in GT5 is the freakishly robust car roster of over 1000 vehicles. It won’t surprise longtime fans that, for better or worse, there is an arguable overabundance of Nissian Skylines and Fairladys. The natural tendency for any game studio to pack in more and more content with each subsequent sequel is evident in Gran Turismo 5. In fact, some who have not played Gran Turismo in years will find the mode selection almost overwhelming at initial glance.

Knowing that I was in it for the long haul, I just rotated among the available modes and tried out new ones as they presented themselves. The Quick Race section is essentially the game’s Arcade Mode and features the obligatory wide array of tracks, cars and environments. One amusing challenge I encountered was a rally format race in the snow; cars in front of my were tossing up snow so heavily that I barely had an opportunity to actually see where I was going. Thankfully it was set at a novice difficulty so getting past those racers only took half a lap.

The real meat of the game is in GT5’s My Home section, essentially the game’s robust Career Mode. As if I as relearning Gran Turismo, I thought to get a gameplay refresher by clearing the first set of license exams. Easy enough, and so where the beginner races. Upon completing my first few A-Spec races, the game was eager to unlock and show off its first few special modes. These sections highlight how much the series has taken a more worldly approach with each installment. It lets the player experience the distinctly American races of NASCAR as well as the highly influential Top Gear show and some rather unique races. Kart racing is the first special mode and certainly has its own special nuances, most notably the karts’ incredibly tight turning radius. Then there’s the AI-based B-Spec mode which was introduced in Gran Turismo 4. Once again you play a crew chief who stands on the sidelines and directs an AI-controlled driver.

Former Sega developer Yu Suzuki was known to remark that his classic arcade game Outrun is not a racing game, but a driving game. One can argue that the same could said about Gran Turismo 5, despite the title’s competitive nature. You get this suspicion that GT5 continually wants to you see it as an experience as opposed to a game. The game bleeds with that slickness that is only matched by the hi-end tech vibe of the PlayStation 3 console itself. The last time I was impressed with a game menu was when I played Final Fantasy XIII although GT5’s menu for My Home does not look like a menu at all, more like a computer desktop. Further adding to this experience is the large and diverse selection of music; very much like past Gran Turismos, only more of it. Bossanova and classical tracks really does set the mood for much of the pre/post race activity and it’s not often you can find a sensible way to present the always somber ‘Danny Boy’ in a video game.

(These impressions were based off playing and exploring the game for 5 hours. 5 out of 59 trophies have been unlocked [PSN ID: oilywater].  A pre-retail reviewable test copy was provided in advance by Sony.)

Developer: Polyphony Digital

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America

Platform: PlayStation 3

Released: 11/23/2010


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