Review by RoxasANobody

"The Real Driving Simulation"

Polyphony Digital kept delaying Gran Turismo 5 due to Kazunori Yamauchi's fear that releasing the game too early would cause an upset amongst the fans. The wait was well worth it, especially to fans who weren't hoping for the release every year that passed by. Polyphony didn't fail to deliver; they presented new things to the Gran Turismo franchise such as new cars, new tracks, voice-actors, NASCAR, and even Top Gear. One of the most vital things to Gran Turismo 5 is the online availability. Gran Turismo 5 is a gem since nearly every aspect of the game is new and not rehashed.

Gameplay - 10/10

Without a doubt, the best in the racing genre. There is no game that can compare to the physics that Gran Turismo has to offer. The player has the option of applying or taking off any assists that they wish. Assists such as traction control, anti-brake locking, controller sensitivity, active stability management, and even active steering can be found in the game. Some assists have a value parameter ranging from 0 - 10 (ten being the strongest setting and zero completely turns off the assist) while others only have the ability to turn off and on. The thing about assists is that the more assists that the player has off, the better times a player can achieve, however, the catch is that the player will have to apply real life driving techniques (such as throttle control) in order to keep the car on the track. The higher the setting for an assist usually means that the player will have to be very minimal about their inputs and the car will not suffer from under or oversteer.

An older aspect of the game was pushed aside for the leveling system. The License system took a bit of a backseat for this game. Licenses normally present a challenge to a player - reach "X" destination in "X" amount of time for a Gold trophy [best time], Silver trophy [second best], or a Bronze trophy [minimal time]. In the past Gran Turismo games, the license the player has normally dictates what races he/she can get into. For example, if all the challenges are completed for the "B License" test, the player would be able to participate in any race that required the player to have the B License. If the player tried to access a race that they didn't have a license for, they would be blocked out of it until they completed the challenges for the specified license.

The new leveling system has received a lot of mixed reviews. Some complimented it for its RPG-esque feel while others criticized it for locking them out of races they were perfectly qualified for. Although the license system was a nice way to steadily introduce users to the game and slowly level them up, it did lock users out of races that they wanted to do. A perfect example are the endurance races - endurance races aren't available to the player until they reach level 25 in A-Spec or B-Spec. Although it's nice for PD to slowly introduce players to the game before presenting the endurance races; level 25 takes a bit of time to get to. In addition to that, if players have a difficult time progressing through Special Events; they'll have to entirely rely on the A-Spec portion of the game to level their racer.

In the previous installment of the series, Gran Turismo 4, PD introduced the concept of "B-Spec". B-Spec allowed the player to control a racer - it was like a manager mode of a football, soccer, or basketball game. The player could tell the racer to go faster, slow down, pit, and/or overtake the car in front of them. In Gran Turismo 4, the player could pick between A-Spec [the default mode where the player regularly races around the track themselves] and B-Spec. In Gran Turismo 5, the concept is reintroduced in a different way. The player is given the option to advance their career via A-Spec or B-Spec in this game as well, but both modes are separate.

To put it into perspective, B-Spec and A-Spec allowed the player to advance simultaneously in Gran Turismo 4. In Gran Turismo 5, with the new leveling system in place, the player has to play separate modes in order to advance their level in A-Spec or B-Spec. [e.g. in order to get to a higher level in A-Spec, the player must race an A-Spec race. In order to get a higher level in B-Spec, the player must command their racer in B-Spec.] The problem that this has arisen with many players is that they aren't playing the game when they choose B-Spec. Normally, what many players do, is they pick B-Spec and then they let the game run; what they do during that time is completely up to them.

The only way to advance the player's B-Spec level is to race races within the B-Spec portion of the game. However, in order to advance the player's A-Spec level, the player can choose between racing races within the A-Spec portion of the game, racing in Seasonal Events, completing license tests, racing online, or even participating in special events. Special events are challenge specific [much like licenses are]. Special events, however, award the player with money and experience points. Special events include NASCAR, AMG Academy, and Top Gear; Polyphony Digital even took their time to have people like Vettel, Loeb, and (Jeff) Gordon do voice-overs for their game.

The special events are quite perplexing. As with A-Spec, B-Spec, and license tests; special events start off easy and progressively get more difficult. Gran Turismo 5 offers go-karting as a special event at first, then, as more events open up, the player is given the option to learn the Nurburgring, tour Italy, and race in a car developed by Red Bull and Polyphony Digital. The downside to all these special events and license events is how difficult it will get. Posting Gold trophy times can be nearly impossible on some challenges. Not only is it difficult to believe that those times were set by the staff, but it's also hard to believe that those times can be achieved by anyone.

In terms of difficulty, however, the player ultimately chooses how difficult the game can be for them. Although posting the higher times for the license tests and special events will require higher-tier skill, regular races [whether they be online or offline] can be tuned to the player's liking. If the player finds it hard to control a car, they can set the car to have Active Stability Management and start up the Traction Control. If those two options are taking too much speed away from the car, the player can turn off Active Stability Management and tone down the Traction Control. If the player has trouble keeping control of the car when full-brakes are applied, the player can active the Anti-Brake Lock System. Before the player enters a race, they can check the competition and they can either enter with a competitive car or with an upgraded car that will blow the competition away.

Content - 9/10

Beforehand, in Gran Turismo 4, the player could become easily lost while trying to find races. The screen was continuously moving so the player would lose sight of "Photo Mode" while navigating towards their garage. In this game, they fixed that problem perfectly. On a standard television, the player is given the option to hit "R1" to zoom into the content. On a HDTV, everything is affixed to one location so the players won't get lost at all.

Since Gran Turismo 5 is majorly targeted towards the Japanese audience, it's only natural that there will be more Japanese cars than American/German/Italian/etc. cars. The thing is, however, Polyphony Digital did inflate the 1,000 car limit by adding in a dozen types of Hondas,Toyotas, and Nissan GT-R's. This isn't a problem in Japan as it's been highly rated because of that content, but, for those who want to see other cars, it is a bit of a problem. Not only is there a huge over-indulgence for Japanese cars, but Polyphony Digital [although, this was due to license problems with the company who had the legal rights for the use of the car] wasn't able to bring in the Porsche models once again.

When the game was initially released, the game was almost like a skeleton - the content seemed cut short and there didn't seem to be much to do. After a month or two of awaiting for a patch for the game, Polyphony Digital finally released their "Online Dealership" and their "Seasonal Events". Seasonal Events, at the time, expired after a set amount of days. Now that the game has been out for a while, the Seasonal Events no longer expire and they can be raced permanently [so long as the player has an internet connection].

Although the content is extremely lacking as compared to other Gran Turismo games, it doesn't fail to keep the player entertained, especially if the player enjoys taking out the 500+ cars onto random tracks to just set times in. With that said, however, it did lack content when Seasonal Events weren't out, but, as with other games that depend on the mutiplayer-online-system; this game will never truly lose all of its content since it has a decent online community.

The inclusion of the online feature is something new for Polyphony Digital. Not only can the player participate in specific-ruled races [e.g. no penalties; one-make cars; specific horsepower; rain; shine; etc.], but they can participate in any race whether the race be held by someone who's in Japan, in Germany, in Switzerland, in South America, in Canada, or even in America. When the player enters the online mode, the player has a flag tacked on to their username [as to signify where the player is currently playing at]. The flag cannot be changed by the player as it is IP-specific. Races that players can participate in are races like drag races, NASCAR-only races, and even F1-races.

Graphics - 8/10

Polyphony Digital did an amazing job with the graphics. The graphics are best showcased through the photo mode feature of the game, but, regardless, the graphics are still amazing nonetheless. Although the graphics do deserve some of the best praise in the industry [as it does reflect real life quite positively], it must also be demeaned because of the jagged textures [often referred to as "the jaggies" by many fans] and the 2D environments.

The problem with the jagged shadows is that it's almost always noticeable once the player finally catches it. The most common appearance for these "jaggies" is when the player creates a smoke of dust behind their car. Whether it be an actual smoke of dust or just smoke, the shadowing becomes absolutely horrid on the car and it destroys the positive look the graphics attempt to create. The worst part is how smooth it doesn't look. The problem is too obvious for it not to have been noticed by Polyphony as they decided to test out their game.

Another key problem is the 2D environments. This has been commonly criticized amongst fans as well; some argue that it's easily overlooked while others seem to just be nitpicking to destroy the game's name. On a more positive note, the 2D environments help the game run smooth - and not all the environments are 2D. The trees are just staggering and the 3D people who take photos on the track are nearly realistic as well. The best part of the environment is how the environment finally changes from day to night on certain tracks. The player can race when night turns to dawn and when dusk turns to night. The player can see the stars start to come alive as the sun dims in Toscana. The seldom 2D environments can be easily overlooked by the beauty of the positive environments.

A concept introduced to this game was "Standard" and "Premium" cars. Premium cars are, without a doubt, more sharper and better looking than Standard cars. Ultimately, there are about two-hundred Premium cars and about eight-hundred Standard cars. Premium cars allow the player to use the visual mode from inside the car [meaning that the player can see the driver's hands, the driver shift, and the interior of the car]; whereas Standard cars don't have this mode at all. In addition to that, Premium cars are the only cars that are allowed within Photo Mode [Standard cars can still have photos taken of them, but it'll have to be the photo mode within replays rather than the feature dedicated to taking photos]. Other than those subtle differences, both of those classes remain the same.

Photo Mode is the best example of the graphical power Gran Turismo 5 has to offer. Photo Mode allows the player to choose a destination, place their car in that destination, and then take a picture of it. Destinations include the Red Bull Hangar, Kyoto Japan, and a place in Germany. Even the photo mode for races are remarkable. Since time essentially stops, the player can mess around with the settings on the camera to make a picture look as intense as they want or as relaxed as they want. The camera has options such as filters, zooms, lenses, and even a specific camera mode [e.g. one mode makes the car look blurry while another mode will make the road look like a blur as the car stays perfectly in focus].

Audio - 9/10

The soundtrack for the game is absolutely amazing. Polyphony Digital did a great job of investigating music from all around the world. They didn't go "one way" with their music choice; their music choice was quite diverse. Although quite annoying to some players, hearing BREAKBOT's remix of Baby by PNAU before entering a race was quite invigorating. They have artists such as Deadmau5, the Yeah Yeah Yeah's, Two Door Cinema Club, and Daiki Kasho on the racing library. Each of those artists come from some place different and although, as mentioned above, this is targeted towards a Japanese audience; Polyphony Digital has not forgotten that this game is played by people in America, in Europe, in South America, and in Asia.

Gran Turismo 3 and 4 had remarkable Lounge music. The "Lounge" was essentially the main menu for the GT Life/Simulation portion of the game. Gran Turismo 5 takes it one step further and implements the perfect Lounge-mood ever. There are so many Lounge tracks that the player will never have time to listen to one completely. Although track names and track artists are labeled within the library, it would have been nice if Polyphony added in a little box that stated what the song and who the artist was at the bottom of the screen when a song started playing. Jazz is commonly associated with the Lounge, but it isn't limited to just Jazz.

If Gran Turismo 5's soundtrack isn't correct for the player, the player has an option to make their own soundtrack from music on their PS3. The racing soundtrack and the lounge soundtrack can be changed, so the audio quality will always remain in tip-top shape as it can always appeal to the player.

The voice actors, although very new to the series, sounded very dry and new to voice acting. Hearing Jeff Gordon say, "Remember! The car is heavy!" every time the player fails is quite annoying. However, hearing the British voice actor say, "You've obtained 'x' License!" was quite refreshing. So, although the professional drivers weren't so great at the voice acting; the voice acting was superb where it mattered.

Finally, the cars; the cars are the most important part of the game since they are the most dominate sound within the game. The sound of tires squealing as the player drifts, the sound of a turbo kicking in, the sound of a supercharger hurling the car towards first place, and the sound of pure speed is quite prominent within the game. Polyphony Digital didn't fail on this aspect. However, some cars are absolutely ruined by the sound of upgrades. Upgrading a Viper SRT with a turbo charger makes it sound like a lawn mower rather than a powerful machine that depends on speed and looks.

Overall - 9/10

For those looking for an easy platinum - feel free to look away now. This game has been labeled as one of the most difficult to platinum by a lot of people. This game is fun for playing with friends and family - but if the player is more interested in challenges, then this game is the game to get. I'd highly recommend that you buy this game. Not only does it correctly represent real life physics [whether you be playing with a wheel or a controller], but it's just all-around fun to play.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 06/27/11

Game Release: Gran Turismo 5 (US, 11/24/10)

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