I can’t believe I’m playing this. After nearly six years of development, Gran Turismo 5 is finally spinning inside my PS3. To be honest, the cynic in me never thought I’d see this day. With each passing year, it seemed like Gran Turismo 5 was less and less likely to ever see the light of day but Polyphony Digital has proven me wrong and now, I can finally see the fruits of their labor and it is good.
I started off installing the game to my hard drive. Since installing the game promised shorter loading times and better overall usability, I decided to give it a go. Final install time? 35 minutes. Not as long as the quoted hour that some folks have experienced but not exactly short either. Personally, I’d rather get things like this out of the way first so they don’t intrude on my gaming experience later.
After installing the game, the intro move began to play. I won’t go too in depth about this but the intro is fantastic and easily the best I’ve seen from any racing game, much less a Gran Turismo game. You really do get the feeling that Kazunori Yamauchi and the rest of the Polyphony Digital team really do love cars. The video begins with the birth of the car, showing the various stages of a car’s manufacturing process, from gathering of raw materials to pounding out chassis components and finally, the vehicles finally rolling off the line and then, gameplay footage begins. Absolutely epic stuff here.
So, after watching the intro movie, I was eager to plunge into GT mode and begin my career as a virtual pro racing driver and get out there onto the track. To start off my career, I bought myself am ’89 Mazda Eunos Roadster and immediately headed to the track in the A-Spec Sunday Cup. As I expected, the driving experience was highly satisfying, thanks in no small part to the fantastic handling physics which feel much improved from Gran Turismo 5: Prologue which leads to more responsive handling, an appropriately weighty feel of the vehicle you’re driving and a more visceral and raw driving experience. Polyphony Digital has really crafted an excellent sim here based on what I’ve experienced so far.
After winning the Sunday Cup, I was surprised to see that I’d also won a PD100 kart racer and that a special kart racing event had just opened up under the Special Events section of the menu. So, interested to see how Polyphony Digital handled kart racing, I loaded up the event and took a spin in my brand new Go-Kart.
Without mincing words, this is by far the most fun you’ll probably have playing Gran Turismo 5. The karts, albeit limited to only 75 – 78 mph or so, are so incredibly fun to drive that you don’t miss the triple digit speeds of higher end cars. Another reason you don’t miss those high speeds is the fact that Polyphony Digital has nailed the sense of speed. Sitting so low to the ground and in the open air, the perceived sense of speed is much higher than normal and thus, you look and feel like you’re going a lot faster than you actually are. Driving a kart is an absolute blast in GT5 and is highly likely to become a fan favorite online.
It wasn’t long until I’d finally gained enough experience and saved up enough credits to buy myself a new car, another Mazda, an ’02 Spirit RX-7 which was a considerable step up from my Eunos and once I hit the track again, I couldn’t help but smile as I began to drive the RX-7. It was an amazing handling machine that I immediately fell in love with. The handling model in this game is truly impressive and allows me to feel the power the RX-7 delivers to the road and the smooth, weighty but not heavy handling that defines the driving experience the RX-7 brings to the table.
Visually speaking, GT5 is quite the looker at times. The premium cars are highly detailed and are about as close to the real thing as you’re likely to see in a videogame. It goes without saying that the graphics engine powering GT5 is a very impressive technical achievement considering that it has to render up to 16 of these highly detailed cars at once at 1080p (granted, not full 1080p) and at 60 frames per second. For the most part, I’m very impressed but some of the standard cars aren’t quite up to par, and by not quite up to par, I mean some of them look positively awful.
Initial impressions of GT5 are quite positive. The driving physics are very impressive, the visuals are great and the kart racing is an absolute blast. I’m looking forward to spending a great deal more time with the game to see just how well it performs after the initial rush has worn off. Hopefully, the game will shape up quite nicely over time and my long term impressions will be just as solid as those upon first playing the game.