Against my better judgment, yesterday, I purchased a copy of Gran Turismo 5: Prologue. Ever since I saw the limited amount of content to be included in this “game” for such a steep price ($40 USD), I couldn’t shake the feeling that Polyphony Digital was merely delivering a glorified demo to milk hardcore Gran Turismo fans out of a quick buck before the real thing comes out, which some speculate won’t be until some time after 2009. Well, having played it for a few days prior, I’ve changed my tune…for the most part.
I guess before I truly begin to discuss my impressions of the game, I should explain how I define a “lack of content”. First off, Gran Turismo 5: Prologue features around 70 cars, from over a dozen manufacturers, including series newcomer, Ferrari. What’s surprising about this is the fact that GT5: Prologue includes more cars out of the box than many full games, including the likes of the recently released Need for Speed: Pro Street. Clearly, the number of cars couldn’t be the issue, could it? No. While 70 cars is only one tenth of the 700 featured in Gran Turismo 4 and an even smaller fraction of the rumored 900 cars set to be included in the full release of Gran Turismo 5, there’s still a nice variety of cars to choose from.
So, what could be the thing that troubles me most? Well that’s simple. While there is an abundance of cars available to the player, the track selection is meager at best, limited to six tracks and twelve layouts. No, not twelve layouts per track, just twelve layouts in total. This is where GT5: Prologue stumbles and falls to the ground. Before long, the track selection can grow stale and repetitive, seeing the same environments over and over again as you race around the same track for the umpteenth time during the career mode. This is where the sting comes in and your wallet begins to curse you for making this purchase.
But…(There’s always a “but”)
For the most part, what GT5: Prologue lacks in content, it makes up for in presentation and gameplay. Polyphony Digital knows how to draw the player in with an attractive set of front end menus and, most importantly, how to make cars look sexy. As you navigate the elegantly presented menu screen, the car you’re currently “in” sits behind it, amidst one of several eye-catching and gorgeous backdrops relevant to the location you most recently drove in. The camera slowly pans around the car, allowing you to see the entirety of is svelte figure and wonderfully proportioned lines.
To merely say this game looks good would be the understatement of the year. Gran Turismo 5 truly puts other racers to shame with its incredibly detailed and well lit car models (it’s amazing what good lighting can do to make a car look stunning), and detailed environments. While I’ve been a staunch supporter of the impressive graphics delivered in Project Gotham Racing 4, I can’t say it looks better than GT5: Prologue in any way other than the convincing weather effects. The in car view is also mighty impressive and my current favorite way to view the race, despite the loss of visual real estate.
All the great looking cars and environments wouldn’t save the game if the gameplay was lacking and I can happily say GT5: Prologue isn’t lacking in that respect. The numerous cars in the game have their own sort of “feel” to them in their handling and overall performance and all drive with an impressive realism about them, which feels great. A new feature, borrowed from the Forza series is the dynamic racing line, which changes color from blue to red to indicate you’re going too fast. Of course, for a most realistic and suitably challenging experience, this, as well as the other driving aids (variable traction/stability control) can be turned off prior to a race.
Overall, GT5: Prologue isn’t a bad game. I’m almost willing to say I overreacted a tiny bit. Almost. Once I came to grips with the fact that my only real issue was with what I perceived to be a high price tag (if the game was $20, I’d have no problem at all buying it), I was mostly fine with the lack of content because the gameplay made up for it. For me, a new fan of Gran Turismo 4 as of late, this is a pretty fun stopgap between the two full games that should, alongside its PS2 brother and my reigning favorite racing game, Forza 2, keep my simulation racing needs satisfied until Gran Turismo 5 finally decides to come out.
That or Forza 3, of course.
It goes without saying that diehard fans of the Gran Turismo series are going to add this to their ever growing collection regardless of what I say about it. For the rest of you who happen to be on the fence, take these words with a grain of salt. If you can, like I have, get over the initial shock over the lack of content, there’s a good game to be had here.