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Gran Turismo 5

I’ll be quite honest from the outset; I couldn’t stand Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec. I’m one of the people that thinks the way that game feels to play is comparable to driving a brick. Hundreds if not thousands and thousands of people feel that way, and many of them have driven a car before. Now, when one of these people hits a wall in the game, they expect their car to be destroyed. Some visual damage, perhaps some glass breaking and even the sound of some mechanical grinding. Does this happen? Well, no, it doesn’t. And that’s when many people feel safe putting down the controller - their expectations were not met, because it turned out that they weren’t actually playing The Real Driving Simulator. Some argue that if you’re going off the track at all you’re playing the game wrong. In a boring and unimportant way, they’re right. But what is racing without the sense of danger? Some people watch NASCAR races just because of the possibility of a crash. You’re almost inevitably going to hit a wall at some point while playing Gran Turismo, and it’s going to be quite an impressive let-down when it happens. Some of the rolling and flipping is really nice, but it seems a bit like that wasn’t intended by the game’s developers.

The front of a car turning a corner.

A question: is Gran Turismo 5 better than 3? Perhaps in the sense that it has better graphics, but even that is up in the air, because the developers seem to have quite literally copied and pasted assets from the previous games into this new incarnation, so some of the tracks and textures don’t look any better than they did years ago. Some cars don’t even have an interior view, which I would argue would be one of the things that makes this game the least bit interesting and cool. The interface is obnoxious and slow, and even fails to load properly sometimes in my experience, making a PS3 restart necessary. It takes a long time to load, and installs data on the fly rather than letting the user install at the beginning of it’s usage, even after an optional installation that supposedly made load times shorter. But yeah, it’s better than 3, because in this game at least some sense of speed is provided.

The cockpit view when racing in GT5.

Why is this game fun to play? Is it fun to play? Some people like to collect cars, and there are a lot of them. Personally, the difficulty is what gains my attention. Never in a game have milliseconds mattered to me before, and yet in this game my improving skills can see me getting consistently within 100 milliseconds of the time I require, making the absolute most minuscule nuances of the game’s engine of the utmost importance. But even learning how to drive in this game has its limits, and completing such a difficult challenge only to be faced with a harder one next (and here I refer to the license test portion of the game, although some of the racing events are like this as well) is physically and emotionally draining. The question comes up why I even bother to continue, and other than to get all those precious gold trophies I am without an answer. The sterile look and feel of the game is depressing and frankly purgatorial without the promise of anything other than the heaven a user might get a taste of by seeing the gold trophy at the end. Sometimes it’s fun to take an exciting turn well, but equally if not more as often that turn is now committed to muscle memory, and the turns before and after it require constant attention that one must race over and over again to provide. I say all this, and then I’m proud of a replay when I complete a truly challenging license test. A replay that, when someone unexperienced in Gran Turismo watches, is just kind of boring. But when I manage to get into first place at the end of a really challenging race, I don’t think any other game has made my heart pound as hard.

The cockpit view when racing in GT5.

Of particular note to me was the artificial intelligence in this game. Now, maybe there is some, but for the most part they stick to a driving line, and refuse to not hit me. During the license tests in particular, this means that if the A.I. is being it’s usual stupid self, they can cause you a failure from out of nowhere. They also unintentionally hit your backside in just the right way as to make you spin out. It’s quite infuriating, and I really did wish that I was playing GTA IV so that I could exorcise my own will upon them at times. This brings one of my favorite nuances of the game into a similar light - it is possible to hit the A.I. just right, and not fail a license test.

Clearly there’s a love-hate relationship with this game for some of its players, and if you’re the kind of person who thinks any of the above sounds moderately interesting I would say it’s worth seeing if you like GT or not. And if you like elevator music, there’s a whole Blu-ray’s worth to be listened to throughout the games menus, and a very bad and lacking soundtrack for the race music. It currently holds my “Hardest Game Ever” award, for what that’s worth. And all in all, to me this game is pretty much a colossal failure with a few redeeming qualities that anyone who can put up with the game will find interesting or maybe even fun. There will be good races. There will be fun experiences. But the simulator misses the most important part of a good racing game, and the Dirt series got it right on the second try.

Rating: Worth Trying