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Review: Gran Turismo 5: Prologue

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Part 1 of Polyphony Digital’s Magnum Opus has finally been released. Gran Turismo 5: Prologue is the signature PS3 benchmark game. While it’s not feature rich and plays more like an extended play demo than a full game, it gives us a glimpse of the future of the series.

Graphically, GT5P outclasses just about every racing game ever made. The use of lighting and reflections in this game is unbelievably lifelike. The in car camera is so accurately detailed, you’d think you were really sitting behind the wheel. The demo comes with 75 beautifully rendered cars. They said GTHD was a small glimpse of what this game was setting out to be, but I think there’s no comparison.

Gameplay was always an issue with me with this series. They claimed that it was a simulator but there has never been a physical or graphical damage model for these games. If you slam into a wall at 100mph you would just stop. If you hit another car from behind, the car gets a quick boost and stays ahead of you. None of those gameplay mechanics have changed. Car handling however, is 10 times better than GTHD and every GT game before it. I hated every incarnation of GT until GT5P because the driving mechanics were horrible. All of that seems to be fixed now.

GT5P has a few new options we’ve never seen in a GT game before. There’s GTTV for HD movies and downloads, Online Racing, a News Center for news updates, Arcade and Event racing. There’s also a split screen mode for local matches. The events are split up into 3 classes. Each class has a set of events you must place 1st, 2nd or 3rd to complete. If you beat all of the single player events, you can start tuning your car. I don’t know why tuning wasn’t available from the beginning. It’s pretty sad that you have to play the game bare bones before really having fun with it.

Cars can be bought from the dealership with the money you earn from racing on and offline. Every track has car restrictions and sometimes you might not have the car necessary for winning the event. This means you have to hunt and peck for a very suitable car for each event. You are basically forced to spend money on cars that you don’t like just to complete the events.

Online racing is something totally new to the series. It’s been implemented and it works, but it just doesn’t work that well. Because of the lack of car damage, people don’t respect you on the road and will constantly ram you off the road. There’s also a lack of collision detection at some points in the race to prevent pile ups. So you end up just driving through cars at times when you or the AI vehicle are recovering. They also included a penalty system that will slow your car down. This was put in to prevent griefing. I like the concept and since it’s a way to deal with the lack of damage, it works, but not always perfectly. There was more than a few times where I was bumped off the road by a car and penalized for hitting the wall. The way I saw it, the car that bumped me should have been penalized. In Forza 2, if you hit a car you risk totalling your car and losing the race all together. You could also cause a pile up and that would upset all the other players who would commence the reporting. Lag wasn’t a real issue but there were several times where I saw cars jumping all over the track. Since it’s their first time doing online racing, I have to give them a lot of credit. They have a lot of work to do to improve on it though.

There are 6 tracks included in the game. The London track is breathtaking and reminds me a lot of the PGR4 London track. All the tracks are fully detailed and are photo realistic.

The menu interface is also beautiful to look at as it keeps track of time and weather around the world and also shows your car parked in the garage while some slick music plays in the background. GTTV is cool if you have the Blu-Ray version of the game with the movies already loaded, but if you bought it online, it will take forever to download the movies. There are some cool films included though.

Polyphony Digital has their work cut out for them. There are games like Forza 2 doing the things that GT5 should be doing. This demo is great but I don’t think it’s worth $39.00. They should have sold it for $19.00 because honestly, that’s all it’s worth. It’s enough to keep the hungry gamers at bay for awhile, but people really want the real thing. PD has announced that a patch will be available with damage modeling in the future. I’ll believe it when I see it. For now, I will enjoy the splendor of GT5P.

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