PS3 Review – Gran Turismo 5

B-Spec mode brings new meaning to Gran Turismo‘s tagline of being the real driving simulator. Surprisingly, in B-Spec mode, you don’t actually drive a car. Instead you manage the driver, much like you would control the actions of the supporting characters in an RPG. You have access to several cues which tell the driver when to pick up the pace, maintain speed, or even overtake opponents. As the manager, you are privy to a number of statistics and a live feed of the action, so it is easy to see what effect your commands have on the car and the race. The drivers themselves start out as novice and can be molded into an imposing force behind the wheel. They even have their own temperament, so if you’re hot-headed, you may want to pick a more reserved driver for your team to balance things out. Choose and manage up to 6 drivers in total through a series of difficulty levels, challenges and races. This mode is a great addition to the overall package, and does offer a significantly different experience versus being in the car.

Moving back to the levels in Gran Turismo 5, it’s worth mentioning that as you rank up you’ll gain access to a variety of extra modes. This is where you’ll find additional ways to play, such as Kart racing, Nuburgring, and NASCAR modes just to name a few of the many. Kart racing is great fun, but requires a lot more practice than you might be expecting. These karts are no joke, and similar to the other game modes, you’ll need to adapt quickly to the physics behind the wheel to succeed. The NASCAR school is a nice treat for fans of the sport, and it does a great job of layering-in some of the fine details that make the sport so popular in America. NASCAR mode is all about heart-pounding, exhilarating speed, and learning advanced racing techniques like drafting.

New to the series is the addition of both car damage and weather effects. Car damage is available on all vehicles, but only the premium cars see the real intensity of collision. While paint chips and steel mangles, the end result looks more like the car was a lit candle left out in the hot sun. The end result is slightly underwhelming, but the impact on performance is a welcoming component for the series given the game’s simulation heritage. Weather effects, however, are extremely impressive. Not only does it significantly change the way the car handles, but it makes the track all the more challenging. Slick roads from fresh rainfall are much easier to slip on, especially if you trail off-track a bit and your tires run over wet grass. Snowy corners are treacherous and must be approached with caution. Lower gears work the best in order to stay in control, just like in real wintry road conditions. Snow and dirt kick up from cars racing ahead of you, impairing your sight. To top it all off, windshield wipers sway back and forth clearing away these acts of nature while in cockpit view, and the visual presentation of such conditions is absolutely stunning.

Also new to the series is a Course Maker mode. Hopefully you aren’t thinking this means you can create tracks as sophisticated as ModNation Racers, because you can’t. GT5‘s Course Maker mode doesn’t let you add customization or personal touch to your created tracks. Instead, you’ll simply be given a list of pre-made layouts. From there you can select how many “sections” you want the track to have, then go into each “section” to further tweak it. Customization comes in the form of section difficulty settings, and to add further challenge, you’re able to increase or decrease the width of the road as well as the sharpness of turns. The end result is usually a decent track to race on, but the entire mode lacks deep personalization. In the day of Play.Create.Share., the Course Maker mode just doesn’t make the grade. It doesn’t detract from the game experience and it’s not badly done, it’s just the fact that we’ve come to expect more out of this type of feature. With that said, its addition means once you’ve raced on the dozens of pre-installed tracks a few hundred times, you can play some of your own. Great concept but just not executed to the fullest.

The game’s Online mode will certainly appeal to those of you looking to race alongside fellow humans rather than AI controlled cars and doing so can make for a more exciting experience if you’re racing against someone who knows the ins and outs of the apex. Find a novice who doesn’t know the rules of the road, and you’ll be more frustrated than anything else. Though, that’s not the game’s fault. Hopping in and out of the game’s online lobby is a breeze, and setting up races with friends is just as simple. To make it easier to join friends, each room is assigned a 20-digit numerical code. Just click on the globe that says “specify room number” and punch in that code to be brought directly to the room your friend is in. Races were smooth and without a hiccup in connection. Voice and text chat is available in the lobby, with only voice available in the races themselves. If you want to best experience, it’s best if you install the game data, and this will not only help you but others as well.

Gran Turismo 5‘s racing experience is phenomenal. Each and every car has its own personality. The game’s physics engine is finely tuned to properly match each car’s weight, torque, horsepower, and other attributes. The stimulation gained from racing a Ferrari at breakneck speeds is something truly to behold. Turns are unforgiving if you’re moving too quickly, in the wrong gear, or brake too late. Various road conditions have adverse affects on your performance on the track. It really doesn’t get anymore life-like than this. AI is much improved over previous iterations in the series, and other drivers seem to pay more attention to your location. Many times another driver will catch you off-guard by forcing you off the track, and nothing is more fun than coming back from behind and showing that guy who’s boss.

Even though it’s difficult to do justice to such naturally beautiful vehicles and landscapes, Gran Turismo 5 does them more justice than any other game seen before it. In the case of the premium vehicles, every curve in the car’s exterior down to every crease in the interior’s leather is there. Environments are breathtaking and give a sense of believability when cruising down huge open environments with trees, hills, and the like. Superbly done lighting effects are the icing on the delicious cake. It’s not all perfection, though. Premium cars have noticeably more detail than standard cards. Human character models look stiff and low-res. Voices don’t sync with lips or facial expressions and look downright strange. However, these issues are quickly rectified once you jump into one of the game’s feature cars, turn on cockpit view, and race down any stretch of road, snow, or dirt that the game provides.

Engine sounds are created from recordings of the actual cars they’re representing and you can hear the difference from model to model. Changes to your car even leads to changes in the aural experience. The sound of screeching tires and the following impact to the car in front of you sounds realistic. The small, subtle sounds help make the game even more immersive, all the way down to the ‘thunk’ noise you hear as you ride over metal grates in the road. The game’s music ranges from upbeat or classy to cheesy elevator music. Luckily the game features custom soundtracks, so you can add your own musical tastes to the game and make your favorite dream car your own.

Don’t expect to finish this game in a few short hours. In fact, there is so much game packed into GT5, you could easily play for a month straight and still miss out on trying a few toys. The Online mode and the fact you can keep trying to beat your best lap times give the game virtually endless replay value.

Gran Turismo 5 is the pinnacle of the racing simulation genre. After years of technological progression, hardware is finally powerful enough to provide Polyphony Digital the platform needed to deliver such an unbelievably lifelike experience. Kaz Yamauchi’s passion for the racing sphere shines through every aspect of the game. The incredibly-detailed cars, the slick presentation, the spot-on physics. Polyphony Digital brought its A-game. Nothing else on the market can come close to the realism and immersion you feel throughout. Gran Turismo 5 is virtual racing at its very best.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+Gameplay is the best in the genre

+Cars, tracks, even menus – everything is presented gorgeously

+Tons of modes and new features really help to expand on the driving sim experience

10 out of 10