Rewind back to 1997 and PlayStation gamers will undoubtedly remember the game that started a series which has shipped over 47 million units worldwide across all of Sony’s PlayStation consoles. We’re now up to their fifth instalment of the series, and here I am reviewing a ‘segment’ of the game in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue.
In today’s videogame world, there seems to be a three-way battle in the racing genre with Gran Turismo competing against two Xbox360 titles; Project Gotham Racing 4 (PGR4) and Forza Motorsport 2. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions, but recently GT5: Prologue has had a slating for being unfinished - which is true, but this is a ‘teaser’ of what’s to come, and isn't actually the full-on Gran Turismo title. I’ve played all the Gran Turismo’s, PGR’s and played the two Forza Motorsport titles and they all have their positives and negatives, but I’ll stick to the what this review is on - Gran Turismo 5 Prologue.
Having started out on the original PlayStation, Prologue is the first taste of Gran Turismo on the PlayStation3 and it’s in HD. The gameplay hasn’t changed drastically and is still as fun as ever, but as it leaps into the new generation of consoles, Prologue certainly does look the part. But before going into the graphics, does it really play the same? Yes, Yes it does. It’s a formula that's only been tweaked ever so slightly, and still proudly boasts the title as the ‘ultimate driving simulator’ - and this is just a slice of what’s to come.
Featuring just over 70 cars and seven courses, Prologue is fast, smooth and ultimately fun to play. Although there’s ’only’ 70 cars to get your hands on, all of them handle differently as you’d expect. You’ve got the sluggish Suzuki Cappuccino that is slow but surprisingly handles well around tight corners and then you’ve got cars such as the Golf GTi, Ford Focus ST ‘06 and Mini that aren’t that powerful. Other cars that appear in Prologue include the Subaru Impreza WRX, Mitsubishi’s Evo X and the Ferrari F40 [And my personal favourite, Audi R8 -Ed]. There’s a great selection of vehicles to choose from knowing that all you’re playing is a fraction of what the game has to offer when released (hopefully) in 2009.
It’s all good knowing what cars are on offer, but of course you’ll have to earn credits to get the best cars available. Although the ’beasts’ of cars cost hundreds of thousands of credits, it’s possible to race the same race over and over again to quickly wrack up those credits - something which I admittedly have done on the quicker 1 lap races to get more powerful cars. Starting out in the C class, it’s no surprise that the opponents you’re racing in this class don’t go that fast and average between around 100mph to 120mph.
Once you complete each of the challenges (with either a bronze, silver or gold trophy) in the C class, you open up the B class and once you’ve completed the B class you open up the last class available on Prologue - the A class. To be totally honest, it’s very easy to go through C and B class as you only need to get a trophy in the events, whether it’s bronze, silver or gold, the only difference apart from the trophies on offer is the amount of credits you get for gaining 1st or 3rd place.
The AI in Prologue is also practically the same. Your opponents stick to the racing line and they aren’t rough - which is good as it’s part of the racing experience. Although they tend to stick to the racing line (the best line to take and you can see it if it’s turned on), you can take advantage of it by watching the line they’re about to take and you can overtake them by cutting inside or swinging around the outside of them and getting up the grid. Polyphony do boast a sophisticated AI system however, claiming that each car is "thinking" as it's driving. This is evident in some parts of the race, but it can still feel quite obvious that you're racing against a computer and not a player. It would of been nice to be able to set the "human" attributes to the AI, maybe allowing for more aggressive driving by your opponents if you're confident enough.
Unfortunately what Polyphony Digital have done in Prologue is the rolling start; the computer starts the race for you and you’re constantly moving. Personally, I prefer the grid start - revving up your engine and getting the perfect start by overtaking several cars and gaining a good advantage on your opponents - something that isn't seen in Prologue. As a result of the rolling start, there’s no qualification before a race, just a straight rolling start and you tend to start in the middle or just a little further behind; around 6th or 8th in a 12 car race. It’s not a huge problem, but the rolling start is stuck at a specific MPH.
What has been missing from the Gran Turismo series is the damage to vehicles and again it has been missed out in Prologue. While this is bad news for the more ‘realistic’ gamer, you’ll be glad to hear that in a recent interviews Kazunori Yamauchi, CEO of Polyphony Digital and creator and producer of the Gran Turismo series, replied to various questions about if damage is to be featured in Gran Turismo 5 or 6 and his reply was that he wants to add damage to GT5: Prologue - good news!
The online side of things on the PlayStation3 hasn’t taken off yet, but you’ll be glad to hear that Prologue does have an online option for up to 16 players. While it’s good to have an online feature, there’s a downfall to the online mode both in the actual gameplay and the opponents you face. I’ve played online for several hours and experienced some bad problems such as lag. You can be whizzing around the track and cars will be flashing in one place and appearing in another place - like a teleport is on the track. There’s no problems with your car jumping around the track, just the opponents. While this is a problem that can be fixed in the near future, what can’t be fixed is the players who continually ram each other off the track, using the walls as an advantage as you continuously keep your speed. However, while players are ramming you some cars, including your own, can go transparent where you won’t hit opponents cars and your opponents cars won’t hit you - giving you an advantage from those nut-cases trying to spin you out.
The series has always been renowned for how detailed and how smooth the vehicles look and as you would’ve guessed, they do look extremely life-like. Just browsing in the Dealerships at the cars can be enjoyable - looking at the cars you want, but can’t afford. What’s on offer in the Ferrari dealership is the F1 2007 car and it looks great, and as stated, if you can’t afford an F1 car (I’m pretty much certain that about 99.99% of you can't), you can buy the F1 car for a small fee of two-million credits - racing a 5000 credit race 400 times if you wish. Mmmm good luck on that one.
Along with the cars looking beautiful, the tracks on offer also look great - although some will argue not to the best of the PlayStation3’s abilities. The tracks on offer in Prologue are the High Speed Ring, Daytona International Speedway, Suzuka Circuit, Eiger Nordwand, Fuji Speedway and a welcome addition to the series, London City Track - all of which look great and even though these are the only few tracks on offer, they offer alternate routes and they can also be raced in reversed - which adds a smidgen of longevity.
The audio in Prologue is another accomplishment for Polyphony. Everything from the screech of the tyres around the corner to the roaring sound of the engines on a straight run sounds authentic and with the addition of the games soundtrack that has several genres of tracks for that adrenaline rush including classic rock and electronica, it's definitely full marks for the sound.
To round of what’s been a pleasant experience, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is certainly a gem of a game despite the slight slowdown I’ve experienced on very few occasions. People have been slating it as a demo and still costing £25 - it might not be a full on Gran Turismo experience just, but it certainly gives us something to play with before the full game next year. A few niggles with the frame-rate and a few problems online are quickly forgotten when you slip into the new inside-car camera angle of the game (which is just as detailed as the outside).
Prologue is a superb game in general and if you can live without the online play as it’s a pain in the backside on most occasions, there’s no reason not to pick it up. It’s fast, fun and the extremely life-like models of the cars make it an enjoyable experience and with the inclusion of damage to come (hopefully) in the near future, Gran Turismo 5 is certainly shaping up to add to those 47 million units shipped worldwide. A sure contender to take pole-position in the racing genre in the future.
- Still the same ol' Gran Turismo
- Superb car models
- A great appetiser
- Online is flawed
- A few frame-rate issues
- AI isn't challenging enough