The Most Beautiful Practice Lap You’ve Ever Seen!
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, for many people including myself, is the real arrival of the PlayStation 3. Before now, I had a PS3, but I must confess I didn’t use it very much. There were no really compelling exclusive games, and therefore there was just no motivation for me to really get the use out of the system that I probably could have. However, I knew that once Gran Turismo 5 Prologue came out, my PS3’s holiday was over.
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue may only be a practice lap for the full Gran Turismo 5 (slated for release sometime next year) but it is most definitely a full game that is a must own, not just for automotive enthusiasts but for PlayStation fans as well. This game shows off exactly what this system can do, both in terms of graphical capacity and original and compelling gameplay.
The first thing that you must talk about when discussing Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is how awesome the graphics are. When I tell you that Gran Turismo 5 Prologue has the best graphics of any current-gen title, I sincerely mean it. Everything about this game looks perfect. The first thing you’ll notice is the amazing detail put into the making of each car. Each one looks incredibly realistic, and the shine effects, both in game and during the opening animation are nothing short of phenomenal.
But the cars aren’t the only thing here that looks phenomenal. Tracks are rendered with an amazing attention to detail. I have actually had the fortune of attending several races and events at the Daytona International Speedway, and the way this track is brought to life in the game is nothing short of surreal. From the textures in the asphalt to the color of the grass (Florida grass has a very unique texture and color), there is not one detail missing from the game’s representation of this track.
Another facet of the graphics that is particularly amazing is the sky and weather effects. I mentioned this in the hands-on preview as well, but it bears repeating because the sky effects are really not something you think about when you’re looking for technical specs. But these sky effects are some of the most photorealistic I have ever seen. Clouds move past sunlight and create shadow effects in a very lifelike way. Although these weather effects don’t have any effect on the gameplay whatsoever, I think that they really add to the immersion factor of the game.
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue may be only a taste of what’s to come in a year or so, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling like a complete game. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue features over 70 cars, an extensive event mode, and some pretty compelling arcade features as well. The car roster, if I may be so bold as to call it that, includes vehicles from nearly every manufacturer that will be in the final game. You have your budget cars like Suzuki, your mid-grade vehicles like Ford Volkswagen, and your high-end luxury cars that include Lexus and Aston Martin. Each manufacturer has only a handful of cars, but the full unlockable vehicle count is close to 70. And if you’re worried about unlocking everything too fast, then you may be in for a surprise, because there are cars in here valued up to $2,000,000, so you will definitely have to play for quite awhile to unlock these beauties!
The main single-player mode of the game is the event mode, where you will compete in several events with your different cars to try to earn a high-class license. You start out with a driver’s class C license, which is the beginner’s class, and will have to complete a main series of Class C races in order to advance. Races are not simply “get to the finish first” either, and feature a lot of deep automotive strategizing. Certain races will require you to use certain cars, and depending on the A.I., you may have to pull off some risky cornering or slingshot moves in order to get past the competition. But the good news is that the event descriptions will generally clue you in to how to win a race before you actually participate in it, so as long as you feel confident in your ability to execute, then the events mode comes off rather smoothly.
If you’re looking for a more unrestricted GT experience, however, then the arcade mode will probably be the best for you. Arcade mode allows you to select your track and then choose from racing, time trial or drift events. The inclusion of drifting in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is somewhat disappointing to me, only because I feel that it was added simply because every other driving simulator seems to be incorporating it. But I understand that drift racing has garnered something of a mass appeal in the past few years, so I can’t fault them for trying to give people what they want. The racing and time trial modes come off pretty well, and I found myself utilizing the time trial mode quite a bit to hone my skills on certain tracks, as well as to break in new cars.
But enough with single-player; let’s move on to the online modes. I am not kidding when I tell you that the online modes in this game are seriously epic. You’ve got thirty-five modes to choose from the moment you boot up the game, and if the “new” tags are any indication, there are plenty more to come. But there is somewhat of a catch to the online experience. You can’t just hop into a Pro-rated match as soon as you boot up the game. You’ll have to unlock different license and vehicle classes to be able to compete in some of the more advanced online modes. But even with a beginner’s license, there is still a lot to love in the online modes.
You may be wondering how you can possibly get thirty-five modes out of a racing simulator with so few tracks. Well, the idea is actually pretty cool. Each of the online modes emphasizes a different strategy for beating the competition. For example, one mode emphasizes using the slipstream technique to pass your opponents. Another one focuses on navigating tight corners. The online modes are really a great compliment to the single-player modes, and though it may sound a little unorthodox, the online modes actually bolster the single player component rather than detract from it. The two components of the game really just work well together.
Sound in this game is first-rate. The menu music is very jazzy and matches the very classy menu look. The gameplay music is a lot more uptempo and features several rock tunes, as well as some generic driving tunes. Sound effects, however, are where this game really excels. Each car has its own motor sound effects, and if you have watched the “Beyond the Apex” documentary, then you can actually see them recording these motor sounds. It is a really cool detail, and it is undeniably another immersive factor of the game.
Control in this game is extremely straightforward and has you using the X button to accelerate and the square button to brake. You can also use the O button to use your e-brake, but I would only recommend using this control for drifting events. Even though the control seems straightforward enough, I must note that this game represents the very finest in precision-based control, and if you are a newcomer to the driving simulation genre, you may have some trouble with the controls at first. But I would encourage you to hang in there, because as soon as you get it, you won’t be able to put the controller down!
Although I have been nothing but complementary in this review so far, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is not without its faults. One thing I was disappointed with was the amount of tracks offered. There are only six individual tracks, each with one modification in case you want to switch it up a bit. Because there are such a vast amount of cars in this title, I was expecting there to be more content here in terms of tracks to race the cars on. Another thing I was somewhat disappointed in was the lack of any sort of crash physics. But supposedly these are getting a major overhaul before the release of Gran Turismo 5, so here’s hoping that this issue is resolved before the game’s final release.
Overall, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue certainly proved to be worth the hype. I was excited for this game, and when I finally started playing the full version, I was in awe of how amazing this game really felt. The Gran Turismo series has always set the standards high, but this game literally blows all other driving sims out of the water. Once you really spend some time with this title, you’ll have a hard time going back to Project Gotham Racing or Forza Motorsports. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue definitely lives up to its title as “The Real Driving Simulator.” This game must be experienced for automotive fans as well as Sony fans, and I can almost guarantee that you’ll have a blast playing this title. But be warned: this gaming bliss does have its cost: once you delve into Prologue, you won’t be able to wait for Gran Turismo 5! Oh, the agony!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 5.0 Graphics
The best graphics ever seen. The photorealistic environments are unprecedented and the level of detail on the cars is outstanding. 4.5 Control
Controls are very smooth and responsive. This one is a breeze to control, as long as you have the simulation chops to get through it! 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Menu music is jazzy and classy, while race music has a definite rock vibe and is very exciting! 4.7 Play Value
There are not a whole bunch of tracks, but there are plenty of cars and the online modes are absolutely epic. If you love your PS3, you will own this game. 4.7 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.