Review by CyberStryke
"GT5's inconsistency will drive you insane"
Yes, I couldn't care less how many times that pun has been used in describing a car game, it's too good to pass up. So Gran Turismo 5 has been in development ever since 2005. With that much development time, the expectations around this game was ridiculously high. Especially with the emergence of Forza Motosports 3 (And FM4 coming out in 2011), the developers (Polyphony Digital) knew they had to set the bar high in making Gran Turismo 5 as the best driving simulator to date. So with the amount of development time they had, I, like every other racing fan, expected this game to be near-perfection. Sadly, this game does not live up to the hype surrounding it. It isn't bad by any means, but it is not the game you expect, especially knowing they've spent five whole years working on this. Long review, so let's get started (Quick summary at the end of review).
Car Selection: It's over 1000.
There are over one thousand cars to select from in this game, anything from a Toyota Prius to a Bugatti Veyron (Yeah, I didn't know what a Bugatti was either). There is no denying Polyphony Digital has quantity covered. There are literally 40 different versions of the Nissan Skyline, so you can't deny this game has nearly every car model and brand available (Porsche didn't make it into the game, for licensing reasons). But does this game sacrifice depth for breadth? Somewhat. Out of the 1000 cars to select from, 800 of them are Standard models while the other 200 or so are Premium models. Simply put, more work and detail has been spent creating the premium models, and although standard models don't necessarily look bad by any means, you can still tell the difference in terms of quality whether a car is standard or premium. When you look into the interior of each premium car, you know PD has spent countless hours ensuring these cars reach maximum swag level. On the other hand, there are no interiors for standard cars. Lastly, there also seems to be absolutely no criteria for what car becomes premium. A Toyota Prius is premium. The Bugatti Veyron is standard. I'm not whining that they shouldn't have spent all that time detailing a Toyota Prius, but just know some of the best cars in the game aren't premium.
Premium cars can be purchased from the dealership at anytime (Yes, there are premium cars that can only be won by finishing an event). The two requirements in purchasing the majority of the premium cars are money and level. You need to have enough money and you need to be at the required level. They are always in abundance, and you'll never worry missing an opportunity to buy a premium car. Standard cars, on the other hand, have three requirements. On top of the money and level required, the standard cars must also be available. All standard cars are bought at the Used Dealership, but this dealership does not necessarily supply you with the car you want at any given time. And because the selection in the used car dealership changes every now and then, it will be hard for you to buy that one model you're looking for (out of 800, no less). I still can't understand why they decided to limit the supply of Standard car models yet provide an unlimited supply of Premium car models. Shouldn't it have been the complete opposite? What this creates is that a lot of standard car models are much more sought after, because some standard car models are hard to come across in the used dealership. So premium cars are available anytime to anyone, which ironically makes these cars much more standard
A-Spec Mode: Doesn't necessarily deserve the A.
So A-Spec is the main mode in the game which you as a driver start your career. Beginning with beginner level races, you'll race your way through every track available with a wide array of cars available. Along the way, you'll earn experience points to level up, as well as credits to buy new cars and parts. Here's where the issue arise: For many of the races, you'll end up winning by a large margin. The problem is that with no car restrictions for some of these events, you'll end up bringing a car that's 300 horsepower higher than the fastest opponent. That means for numerous events throughout A-Spec, the game is only as hard as you want it to be. This creates inconsistency in the difficulty, as you'll end up completing some of the higher level events before the lower level ones. So you'll easily win the level 22 event because there are no restrictions in car selection, but still struggle immensely to beat the level 17 event because it restricts you to driving a car made before the 1970s.
B-Spec: MOAR LIEK BORING-SPEC LOLOLOLOL!!!111!!
Like Gran Turismo 4, B-Spec mode makes a return in this game which allows you as the player to instruct an A.I driver throughout a race (Note: I have not played GT4). And in doing so, your driver earns himself experience points and level ups, similar to A-Spec mode. So instead of driving a car, you'll get to issue commands (slow down, speed up, maintain speed) to an A.I who drives the car for you. Like you, when I first heard about this, it didn't sound too fun. And we would be right. It isn't. B-Spec is nearly the equivalent of watching your friends play a game while you sit on the side. You're essentially providing your driver three different commands (mentioned above), which at the end of the day, does not make much of a difference to the end result of a race. For the grand majority of the races in B-Spec mode, all it requires you to do is put your driver in an overpowered car and just watch him overlap his opponents with ease. Yes, every now and then you'll have to babysit your driver during the first ten or so levels of his career, but once your driver becomes stable, all you'll have to do is start a B-Spec race and do something else.
Think about that for a second. With the ease of B-Spec, (and it being a rather good chunk of content for this game) Gran Turismo 5 actually encourages you to not play the game. You'll only be able to watch your A.I driver go around the same lap so many times before you lose your mind. Nobody can sit in front of their television and watch their driver do 30 five-minute laps and still call themselves mentally stable. I don't care what your passion is for cars, or how great the scenery looks in this game, there is absolutely nothing in B-Spec mode that would make me want to stay throughout an entire race. I turn on this game to play the game, not do the opposite.
Many people argue that B-Spec mode is a great way for your A.I driver to earn you money and prize cars while you're busy doing something else. What the hell? I would be happier knowing I did something to earn that money rather than knowing someone else (or something else) earned that money for me. Hey, the money and the prize cars are great; they help me a lot in A-Spec mode. But it sucks knowing I did near-absolutely nothing to earn that money. You will never win a B-Spec race thinking to yourself, Wow, great race, I totally earned that 1st place position. Difficulty wise, B-Spec is the complete opposite of Special Events and License Tests.
Special Events and License Test: What the hell, man?
Special Events and License Tests are optional modes which essentially tests out your driving skills. They either consist of finishing within the targeted time or placing within a targeted position. Once you spend enough time with this game, you'll realize Special Events and License Tests are essentially the exact same thing. Both are forms of tests designed to drive you insane (honestly, no pun intended), except Special Events test your skills with different form of special vehicles and events (which includes NASCAR, go-karts, and rally cars). Here's my first problem with Special Events and License Tests: Their criteria for disqualifications. In both modes, you are forced to beat the targeted time or position without bumping into another opponent or the wall. It makes both these modes very challenging, especially if you plan to gold all the events. I have absolutely no problem with that. I enjoy games with challenges, and golding the events are indeed a challenge (unlike B-Spec). However, there is no fine line between what is considered disqualification and what isn't. Scraping the wall at 5km/hr? Disqualification. Smashing the wall at 150km/hr? Continue driving. Sometimes you'll be allowed to hit a wall, sometimes you're not. Sometimes you'll be able to hit an opponent's car while it brakes, most times you'll be disqualified. Sometimes you'll get disqualified for touching grass, other times you'll be allowed to have all four wheels on grass. So instead, it becomes a toss-up on whether or not you will be disqualified for touching another car and or the wall/grass. Thus the criteria for disqualification in these two modes become very fuzzy, and most of us will end up going mad trying to gold (or even silver) most of these events. But hey, on the other hand, these modes are again very challenging, so once you do gold an event, the accomplishment feels almost résumé-worthy.
And since we're talking about difficulty, I want to voice my concern with the inconsistency with these two modes when it comes to difficulty. A good example would be the Rally Special Event. This event is broken into 3 parts: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. Common sense would dictate advanced should be harder than both beginner and intermediate. However, advanced is the only part of the special event which allows no restrictions on car selection. What this results in is me golding the advanced portion of this event with ease, while I barely inched the win on intermediate stage because there were car restrictions. What's the point of having a level restriction on special events if those level restrictions don't dictate the difficulty of the event itself? Rather, I'm working backwards to gold the remaining events, starting with the hardest event available.
I'm not even done criticizing Special Events yet. Another very irritating thing about Special Events is the inconsistency in checkpoints. Every License Test in the game has checkpoints. Checkpoints are essential in a racing game, especially when literally every second counts. It is a great way to measure how far off my current run is compared to previous runs. All of the Special Events have checkpoints except for AMG Academy (Intermediate and above, anything after run #1). You can argue having no checkpoints in this Special Event makes the game harder. You are indeed wrong. If that was the case, all of the events after AMG Academy shouldn't have checkpoints. But they do. Having no checkpoints just forces me to create checkpoints for myself (I'm sure current GT5 players do this as well). Find a landmark, and then find when your car passes that landmark. That doesn't make this game more challenging. That makes this game more annoying. The only thing it challenges is my patience. AMG shouldn't be any different than any of the other Special Events, yet it was the only one without checkpoints. Was it overlooked by PD, perhaps? Of course, having no checkpoints in a few Special Events shouldn't be the reason you completely avoid the game. However, it does show me this game still needs some work.
Endurance Races: Seriously?
Then there are Endurance Races. They can be unlocked once you hit level 25 in either A-Spec or B-Spec mode. These races will challenge your sanity. It will challenge your patience. If you finish all 9 Endurance Races and still find enjoyment in this game, then you are my hero. I want your babies. You deserve a life-size statue in Central Park which will immortalize your legacy throughout all of eternity. I enjoy doing homework more than Endurance Races.
So anyways, Endurance Races are similar to any other A-Spec race, but rather than racing for 5-10 laps, you'll be racing for 60+ laps. The 60 laps event is just the first endurance race in the series. The last 2 endurance races makes you race for 24 hours in real, HUMAN time. Driving the same car for hours on end (anywhere from 1.5 hours to 24 hours, depending on the endurance race of course) on one stage does not constitute as fun for me. To add to this, there is no option to save mid-race. That means you're only allowed to pause the game until you finish the race. I put race in quotations because all endurance races are not races at all. The other 11 cars might as well be non-existent. You'll end up in first place before you even hit the first turn on lap 1, and you'll never give it up [Insert Rick Astley joke here]. You'll be overlapping all your opponents fifteen times by the end of a race. But I guess that's a good thing. Can you imagine finishing second in a 4 hour endurance race? So keeping up with the theme of inconsistency, these Endurance Races which can only be unlocked at level 25 are on par with beginner races in terms of difficulty. The only challenge from endurance races is consistently convincing yourself you're not crazy for driving on the same stage for 9 hours straight. When I tell my friends I'm doing Endurance Races (gamers and non-gamers alike), most of them actually don't believe they're real.
But Endurance Races are just like grinding for hours on end, similar to MMORPG. Except nobody grinds on Endurance Races. They are there for us to complete just so we can say we've completed it. I find it hard anyone can get enough enjoyment from any Endurance Races to be willing to redo them again. Unlike MMORPG, you will find there is no addiction with grinding for hours on end in Gran Turismo 5. Rather, it becomes a real chore leveling up in this game. I can't remember the last racing game I've played (I don't even think there is one) that requires me to drive on the same level over and over again just to gain experience to level up in order to unlock another stage. It's easy enough to level up from 1-20, but once you're past level 20, it becomes a daily grind to reach the next level. There will be more grinding here than a nightclub on Friday night. So you'll eventually try to find the easiest and shortest track in the game which provides the highest amount of experience points. The game, again, provides no difficulty in the grinding process when we're forced to drive 20 laps around Indy 500. All for what? Just so we can enjoy the next endurance race the game has waiting for us. Endurance Races were clearly catered for hardcore racing fans, so if you're a casual-racer type of guy, you shouldn't be touching this mode, even with a ten-foot pole.
In order to combat the repetitive grinding you will experience in this game, PD has created Seasonal Events. New seasonal events are implemented every week or two, and you can only earn the credits once (no clue how long they will continue for). Unlike other races, you start out last place here and fight your way to first position. Again, here is where I see inconsistency. The difficulty in seasonal events does not even come close to the amount of experience points and money earned from these events. Even starting in last place, you'll have absolutely no trouble (or very little) in golding all the events on the first try. Again, with no car restrictions, these races become a walk in the park. They're providing me with 1.5 million credits for completing a seasonal event that takes five minutes, yet a 9 hour endurance race won't even net you a quarter of that amount in money or experience. Seasonal events are a great way to help us level up. In fact, I was so tired of grinding, seasonal event races were the reason I got back into this game. However, it does bring up the question on how inconsistent the rewarding system is in this game. To reiterate, I am not complaining about how ridiculously easy seasonal events are. I am however, complaining on the inconsistency of the rewards compared to other events and races throughout the game.
Graphics: Like the rest of the game, it is inconsistent
I have already mentioned how finished and nice the cars look, at least for the premium models. Now I also want to talk about the photo mode available in the game. Photo mode really did show me what the PS3 is capable of. When you see photos online taken by other members of the community, you will be shocked on how realistic the cars and backgrounds are. I would go as far to say you'll have trouble determining whether or not a picture (some) is real or fake. I have tried my best, but I cannot find a single thing wrong with the photo mode in this game. It exceeds beyond what it sets out to accomplish. This mode truly is the place for car lovers. I can really appreciate how much time and effort was taken into the creation of backgrounds and sceneries in photo mode.
However, the same thing cannot be said during the races. The good thing is that cars still look nice during a race. I also must acknowledge how great the tarmac and grass look. I struggled just to keep my eyes off the ground. That ground is lifelike. The same cannot be said about the trees and the crowd. I mean yes, if you're driving by the crowd and trees at 200km/hr, you're probably not going to notice how ugly they are. But once your car stops and you take a look around, you'll notice the crowd is just a bunch of poorly-rendered pixilated polygons that barely look human. How can something so ugly be in a game that otherwise looks so stunningly beautiful? I'm clearly nitpicking, but the more time I spend playing this game, the more flaws I begin to see.
What else am I missing?
Guess I should talk about how the car handles in this game and whether or not the physics are realistic. I can't write too much about this subject as I'm no car expert. Can't compare any car in the game to the real thing since the few cars I have driven isn't in the game. However, many people have said the physics in this game is as realistic as it gets. I would agree. Each car has a different feel to it, and although it can be minimal, it never feels like you're driving the same car twice. It is as close to a real driving simulator as you can get. It is not a Need for Speed or Burnout game. Don't expect to take a shortcut by going across a grassy field. It will screw you over.
So to wrap it up, this game isn't too bad by any means. I know I've been ripping this game apart throughout this review, but if you can stomach some of the obvious flaws associated with it, then the game become much more bearable. This game has been in development for over five years, yet it leaves a lot more to be desired (not in the good way either). The finished product here does not justify the five year development time spent on it. Should you buy it? Not unless you have a passion for cars.
+ Stunning graphics (Just pretend the crowd and trees don't exist)
+ As close to the Real Driving Simulator as you can get
+ Can be very challenging, especially earning gold in license test and Special Events
+ Photo Mode (DAT QUALITY)
+ Great soundtrack
- Can be very easy, most races you'll finish miles ahead of the opponent
- B Spec Mode (What's more fun than watching a computer drive for you?)
- Special Events and License Tests needs more work and tweak
- Endurance Races (9 hour races never sound appealing)
- Hours of grinding to level up (IN A CAR GAME)
- Inconsistency seen in nearly every aspect of the game
P.S: I do realize the irony in complaining about Endurance Races being ridiculously long and boring, then end up typing a 3000+ word essay reviewing the game.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 01/18/11
Game Release: Gran Turismo 5 (US, 11/24/10)
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