|Pub: Polyphony Digital|
|Release: November 24, 2010|
|Players: 1 - 16|
|Screen Resolution: 480p - 1080p||Mild Lyrics|
by Steve Haske
January 15, 2010 - Gran Turismo 5 has had more than its fair share of fits and start-overs throughout its long development time. The game has been delayed numerous times. GT5 Prologue, while good, was essentially little more than preview code tantalizingly slapped onto a retail disc. The PSN time trial demo hadn't really shown us anything we hadn't already seen. Damage modeling for the game has been seen once as a 'work-in-progress' at TGS and since disappeared.
After getting to test drive what one can only hope is a near final build of GT5 myself at CES, I can't say that all my fears, or at the very least, doubts, have been allayed. On the one hand, this is certainly the fine-tuned, meticulously detailed, 1080p Gran Turismo that racing sim nuts have been arguably waiting for since the series' comparatively provincial PSone debut over a decade ago. On the other hand, what Sony was showing was hardly a demo. Roughly half of Sony's small section devoted to showcasing PlayStation products was focused squarely on GT5-there's no doubt that it was the biggest title Sony was showing off at the show, culminating in a towering centerpiece of monitors and driving kiosks with Driving Force GT wheels that Logitech developed specifically for the game.
Yet the test drives were on a timer limited to two minutes and thirty seconds, and aside from being able to pick from a number of cars ordered by class, didn't seem to expand much at all on what millions of gamers had already seen after downloading the GT5 time trial demo. The most notable absence was the damage modeling that had previously been shown in an unfinished form at last year's Tokyo Game Show. I can understand something being a work in progress, but taking out a big, notable feature like that for a later demo raised a red flag in my head. Sony's floor reps said a car's bumper might get damaged if you hit it hard enough, and while there wasn't much time to test this, sadly little evidence of any kind of damage modeling implementation was forthcoming.
Aside from being shown in regular high-definition, Sony also prepped GT5 in 3D. Adding 3D to media is an interesting application of visual technology, particularly for games, but it's also clearly still in its infancy. Some games certainly benefited from the visual perspective changes-Sony's own 3D display of Super Stardust HD looked fantastic, for instance-while others felt a little flat. GT5 was one of the latter. The biggest change to seeing the game in 3D versus regular high-definition was a substantial change in visual depth of field, making your car appear to drive off into a distant horizon (the effect was compounded when playing from the game's cockpit view, which appeared very much in the foreground compared to the track ahead).
Yet when it came to your car's interactions with different planes of perspective, GT5 came up short. Switching the camera to a third-person view of your vehicle especially created a floating effect, as though the vehicle was moving magically along the track, not unlike Luke Skywalker's landspeeder in the original Star Wars rather than the tires actually gripping the road and interacting with the world around it. It may be visually interesting to see any sort of application of 3D technology at this point. But, for now, it seems that 3D gaming may be best left for games with a more "filmic" look, making games like Resident Evil 5 and Dark Void, whose movie-like lighting and visuals give off a feel of summer popcorn flicks, much more appropriate for implementing Avatar-style 3D effects. It just doesn't seem like the best fit for a simulation-style game, at least until the technology improves.
3D or not, at its core GT5 still had the authenticity you would expect from Gran Turismo: the cars were beautiful and had a marked graphical improvement over Prologue, (as did the tracks, but like any GT title, the tracks aren't exactly a focal point). The lighting and reflection on the cars was particularly impressive. Similarly, the handling, steering, and physics were dead-on. Clearly the guys at Polyphony have been doing something about development, as GT5 plays exactly like Gran Turismo 4, Prologue, or GT PSP, only with more horsepower under the hood and with all the requisite updates needed to keep a long-standing series fresh over the years (just how you would expect it to play, basically).
I was also happy to see more than one track on display (Tokyo Route 246, Road Course Indy, and the treacherous Nürburgring could be driven on) and a handful of cars from concept and GT Racing to Tuned and Super car classes. The final game will reportedly have about 950 cars, so what was being demo-ed was only the smallest of tastes, but even in the demo the manufacturers ran the gamut from the expected Japanese mainstays to triple-A roadsters from Ferarri and Lamborghini. There were even a few rally cars available, though Sony did not provide a suitable dirt track to really test out the game's off-road physics.
There's little doubt in my mind that suggested GT5 isn't going to be a worthwhile investment for car lovers and gearheads everywhere, whenever it finally ships. Polyphony has reportedly worked hard on getting a robust online component together, and the amount of specialized tuning you'll likely be able to do to your car will surely live up to the series' pedigree. Given a very small glimpse of what Sony was showcasing last week, most people would probably just think it's all to continue to build hype, but in light of the lack of damage modeling, lackluster 3D implementation, and the latest in a seemingly never-ending series of delays for the game, I'm torn between wondering if such measures really help to build anticipation or just a lack of confidence in the product. After so many years in development, the very notion that GT5 could actually be disappointing is pretty ridiculous, and as long as Polyphony doesn't reneg at the last second on any of the game's notable improvements, they have nothing to worry about. C'mon, Sony-we all know the game is going to be the best GT yet. When are you going to come out and prove us all right?
CCC Freelance Writer