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Gran Turismo 5 Hands-On Preview

E3 2006. That was the first time we got a glimpse of Gran Turismo 5, going under the name of Vision Gran Turismo, from there we were given snippets of info about the anticipated racer for the PS3.  Polyphony Digital wetted our appetites with Gran Turismo 5 prologue and then the GT5 Time Trial demo in December 2009. Since then we saw the March 2010 release date come and go with no sign of the title but at E3 this year Sony announced the game will be launching 2 November.  So, over four years have passed since gamers got their first flutter with the PS3 version of Gran Turismo, but does the preview build of the game give a good enough impression of four years of hard work? Or has the hype of Gran Turismo 5 built this title up so much that it fails to deliver in the crucial months pre-launch?
We had both the 2D and 3D versions of the game on offer, the 3D was a bit of a deflated affair. Depending on which view we tried to race in the 3D affects were minimal. The menus showing the track layout and times seem to pop out slightly from the screen but instead of looking 3D just looked embossed.
Depending on your view of the game the 3D elements varied, some environments such as trees and buildings would slightly come out but are rather too subtle, while inside the cockpit offers one of the most obvious examples of that extra dimension with the steering wheel seeming proud of the screen and at times you feel as if you’re the one inside the vehicle. Like I said overall 3D for GT5 was a bit of a disappointment, but to be fair 3D is going to be for a niche market until the technology goes down in cost. And besides the 2D version of the game is gorgeous.
The 2D versions of the game were set up in a special booth with a racing chair along with force-feedback steering wheels and pedals to bring the authentic experience to the racer. Taking control of some of the high-powered supercars on offer you could really feel the affect of understeer in some of the cars. With a racing line on the track for us to follow it was purely down to us as the driver to know when to brake and how much steering to put on the car while making sure the car didn’tt spin or get overtaken by an opponent.
It’s easy to see the true simulation experience which has gone hand-in-hand with previous Gran Turismo’s here. Try putting too much acceleration as the car pulls away and you’re going to over-rev the engine making it very hard to control and in-turn create a rather frustrating affair of balancing acceleration and the car’s overall handling to gain speed.
Once again Polyphony has insisted on using the X and Square buttons for accelerating and brake.  Why it has disregarded the R2 accelerator, which seems to be the industry standard, is beyond us. I suppose the term “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” can perhaps sum up this decision but despite some of the community begging for a R2 accelerator having the X button as the pedal it hasn’t stopped previous versions of Gran Turismo selling by the lorryload.
One of the toughest courses we had on offer was the Rally course, solely made up of dirt and gravel. This isn’t the run-of-the-mill DiRT 2 rally track that you might have mastered in the past. This is truly one for the experts, spinning off and crashing side on into the wall on the first corner and the two minute time trial was the same level of action. If anything, the difficulty to control a vehicle in the Rally course is something which Polyphony needs to address; while at the Beta Rooms I failed to notice anyone manage to control the car round the whole course and soon enough everyone was quitting and trying their hand at the safer option of the in-city Rome racetrack.
This is where I spent most of my time and using the variety of stunning vehicles that I could only dream of owning they all felt remotely different to handle. Whether it was down to how well they manoeuvred around the corners or down to the overall speed and acceleration you could truly decide whether you wanted to sacrifice handling for speed or visa-versa. Of course some of the tuned supercars were capable of pulling off both, but it doesn’t mean it was a walk in the park because you still have the exceptionally handled AI to push you to the limits of your driving prowess.
From the preview build you get the feeling that Polyphony has been wise to delay the game time and time again in order to perfect it. Driving enthusiasts and gamers alike will be in awe of the gameplay for Gran Turismo 5 and its true simulation of driving a car set in this lush environment. Each car looks like it was just picked up from the showroom and dumped straight into the different tracks of Gran Turismo 5 and I can see when the final game launches thousands of gamers spending hours upon hours just marvelling at these pieces of art before even taking them onto the track.
To get the added sense of realism (and if you have the spare money) I urge PS3 owners to purchase a steering wheel ahead of GT5’s launch in November. While the six-axis controller is sufficient adding the force feedback wheel and pedals really adds to the whole experience. Only having a small number of tracks and cars on offer from the selection of over a 1,000 vehicles it’s hard to argue whether the depth is there for GT5. Let’s just hope the career mode of GT5 resembles that of previous titles and not the failure of the PSP version. For me GT5 is worth the wait, it’s realistic, gorgeous looking and leaves you wanting more.
Bring on 2 November and let’s just hope Polyphony Digital don’t throw any more delays our way.

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