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Gran Turismo 5 Review

December 06 2010

Gran Turismo 5 Review
by Buddha

Gran Turismo 5 Review

Gran Turismo 5 (PlayStation 3)
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Released: November 24, 2010
MSRP: $59.99

I’ve decided that a full review of Gran Turismo would require months of gameplay in order to provide an in-depth, fair review. The game is that massive in scope. Also, as fans of this iteration know, the game changes dramatically with levels, wherein skill becomes a key to success.

My youngest son and I have been playing GT5 since its release day, clocking in a great many hours. Upon entering our living room, you would expect to smell tires burning out on pavement, because the sounds of racing have been constant in our house. Much love to my wife for being so very patient with us. She’s even taken to watching some of the races and commenting on our cars.

I decided that I would release this initial review, making certain that everyone knows the levels I have attained, as well as the experiences I’ve had so far. From here, I will also continue to write features on the game which will act as updates on my progress. You see, as I level in the game, I am finding that some of my initial thoughts on aspects of the game are changing… some outright.

Case in point, I initially saw no reason to ever build a B-Spec team, one which I control as a pit crew chief / team owner. Now however, my B-Spec team is higher level than my A-Spec team (me)... and not only is that ok with me, but it thrills me.  I’ve got 3 team riders so far.  I know their names, their strengths, and I know I’m imagining this, but I picture their preferences with specific cars and tracks.

I’ve made my B-Spec team into a very enjoyable, and profitable part of GT5. Sometimes, I micro-manage them through tough races, directing their pace so that they can avoid very costly mistakes. As with first person races, a single blown corner can cost you a race, taking you from 1st to dead last.

As I write this, one of my drivers is on the 1st lap of the first race in the Gran Turismo World Championship.  He’s in 1st place, thanks in no small part to a gifted McLaren F1 Stealth Model from @Legayofheroes, but I keep having to direct him to keep his pace up. He may not remember the times he’s lost because he relaxed while in the lead, but I do.

As an aside, that car makes me happy in the pants. It is absolutely gorgeous, and looks stunning on the track. I also love the way it handles, having gotten to drive it on several tracks myself.  And that’s important to note, as I’ve felt the same way about my Jaguar XK Coupe Luxury ‘07 which I had to save up for, driving countless races on a crappy Toyota Celica that I didn’t bother to upgrade as I was saving all of my money for the Jag.

Why?  Is that Jaguar that impressive a racing car?  Not really. But it’s a car I’ve always loved. There’s something about Jaguars that I find so very sexy, and now, I get to drive one!  Kinda.

This is also important, as I’ve been reading many people saying the same, in terms of them saving up to buy their dream cars. Polyphony Digital has done a very good job with GT5, in terms of incorporating leveling features which keep us racing in order to gain levels to unlock cars, tracks and driver slots for our B-Spec team roster.

One moment…

“See what I mean, Steve?  You’re on the last lap, and you’ve allowed yourself to relax and now look who’s hot on your bumper.  Savidis in that fucking Toyata Supra.  I can’t turn my head for one second, not even to work on this review, can I?  Now PACE UP DAMNIT!”

Let’s continue, shall we.

I’ve been reading a lot of reviews of GT5 since the game was released. Many reviewers received advanced copies and were able to clock in some hours prior to launch.  Having now put in many hours myself, I feel I’m in a place where I can either agree with, or vehemently disagree with some of these.  I’m not naming names… though I am looking at you Joystiqwink

A lot of reviewers have also been making many comparisons with other games, which though necessary to a certain degree, should not be something which dictates the entire review. A game should be allowed to stand on the merits of its own achievements. It should also be allowed to do so without being measured against its own pedigree, I believe.

Now, that doesn’t mean that these shouldn’t be taken into consideration.  Far from it. But rather that they shouldn’t be the main focus of a fair review.

You see, the thing to keep in mind with the Gran Turismo franchise is that the games are not meant for everyone.  They’re not even meant for all racing fans. Gran Turismo is meant for a very specific type of racing fan.  It’s meant for the gamer who would gladly race a hundred lap, thinking the time well-spent if they’d shaved a split-second off of their lap time.

One moment please…

“DAMNIT Solano, you overtake that bastard and I don’t care if you have to swap paint to do it!”

Where were we?  Ah yes, the split-second.

In breaking in my Jaguar, upon adding some costly upgrades, I shaved a half-second off of my lap-time on a much hated track; Nürburgring, I’m looking at you now.

Gran Turismo is about the precision in racing. It’s not about drifting through corners, though that is a skill that you will need to master with each individual car you upgrade to race on a regular basis, because each car handles differently… a feature that makes me want to race every single car in the game… not just once, but until I’ve mastered each.

Gran Turismo is also for racers who are not so interested in the polygon count of bystanders in the game; that they would downgrade a review because of it. I really, truly don’t care how realistic the dude with the camera looks like close up. He looks just fine at 180MPH. 

As an aside, going back to the thrill of B-Spec racing; I just had to put my iPad aside (upon which I am writing this review) and grip my PS3 controller with as much tension as if I had been racing.  In the first lap of the 3rd round of the Gran Turismo World Championship, my driver was hit in the back causing him to spin out of control, going from 2nd to last in that one instant.

I micro-managed him back to 2nd over the course of 4 gruelling laps, my hands sweating as they held the controller. I watched all the other racers’s lap times, very carefully chose my corners to overtake, and in the final lap, surpassed A.Morimoto in an R8 LMS Race Car and won with a +3 second lead.

I was literally on the edge of my seat and despite the bad knees, stood and cheered once he’d crossed the finish line.  I bring this up, not because B-Spec team racing will be the focus of this review, but rather to impart up you, that as thrilling as this moment was, it pales in comparison to doing the same from behind the wheel (A-Spec racing).

Racing in GT5 is absolutely amazing. I’ve read some grumbling about handling from some reviewers which led me to wonder how many cars they drove, and whether they upgraded any of them.  This is very, very important. It’s an aspect of the game that cannot be overlooked.

You can’t just buy a Mini and expect to win the Mini only race event. Because odds are, you simply won’t. What you have to do is pimp that Mini… and I’m not talking about a fancy paint job.  You need to have saved up enough credits (the in-game currency) to upgrade the engine… perhaps the first couple upgrades, as you’ll need the extra HP. You’ll definitely want some new tires to help with traction control in the corners.  And you can’t go wrong with some exhaust and drivetrain upgrades which provide an inexpensive though noticeable HP boost.

Now take that Mini Cooper and tell me it doesn’t drive like a fucking bat out of hell in that same event.  And tell me you aren’t absolutely loving every minute of it.

Graphics and Attention To Detail

Gran Turismo 5 is, of course, about the love of cars. It’s about attention to detail… but only where it matters… though that statement is open to discussion and debate. I have been playing this on a 52” 1080p Samsung plasma television.  It’s a very good television in terms of color accuracy… not to mention the fact that it can make vibrant colors pop from the screen.

Polyphony Digital chose where they wanted to spend the bulk of their designing time.  As mentioned before, the hoomans in the game aren’t that beautifully rendered, however the tracks are gorgeous. You can’t drive the Roman circuit without being seriously impressed, even when clipping by at 140MPH.

Some of the buildings on certain tracks don’t have the attention to detail that the cars have… though as you all know, not all cars have that same attention to detail either.

Of the over one thousand cars in the game, only two hundred received the premium treatment; granting them a far more detailed appearance.  This is a little disappointing, though not enough that I hold it against Polyphony Digital. When looking at some if my favorite “standard” cars, wishing they looked as awesome as say my Jaguar, I remind myself that if Polyphony Digital had applied the same poly-count coat of paint to all 1000 plus cars in the game, we’d have to wait another decade to play the game.

The thing to keep in mind here is that despite what some may have you believe, those “standard” cars still look and drive awesome. My fully tricked out Dodge Viper GTS ‘99 that I used on a great many races, is a “standard” car… and it looks fuckin’ incredible, and drives like dream.

Once again, it all comes down to why you want to play this game. If you are not interested in tricking out a Yaris to win the Yaris-only circuit, then you’ll notice the sometimes blocky shadows and you’ll complain about the overuse of blur effects as a means of making up for the low poly-count on many of the cars.

Personally, when I’m concentrating on my speed, braking, cornering and making certain that bastard behind me doesn’t pass or send me into a tailspin, I could care less.  And with that, I’ll say one last thing before moving onto other topics; the game looks amazing. Is it flawless?  Not by a long shot.  However the attention to detail is applied to those places where they belong in a game such as this.


The A.I. in GT5 has its pros and cons. Most races start exactly the same, in terms of the other drivers’s actions. If you fuck up a pass on the first corner, restart the race, and you’ll notice the cars will move in exactly the same manner. The A.I. also doesn’t suffer the same fate as you when you receive a “nudge” up the ass.  Whereas this send you into a race-losing tailspin, they are far more easily able to scoff off such aggression.

This is disappointing.  Not because I have to be careful when other cars are near me.  I like that. It produces a very real tension that’s needed for a racing game. What I don’t like about this is that the A.I. is doesn’t suffer the same fate and so does not have to worry about my tailgating.

During races wherein the cars are all fairly evenly matched, the A.I. is very good. You have to keep a close eye on everyone. You want to watch lap times and keep an eye on specific drivers in championships which involve multiple races.

However, in races wherein you race is vastly better (or worse) than that of the other drivers, you are basically racing against yourself, trying to best your time on each lap. Also, even if your car is only marginally better, if you manage to get an early lead, you can normally stretch that lead to a comfortable distance that the A.I. cannot recover from.

Personally, I don’t mind this all that much for two reasons.  One, I enjoy besting my own lap time and seeing just how much I can shave off, even if it’s only a split second. Two, I know that all it takes is one blown corner, sending me into a tailspin, and those drivers I left in the dust earlier will be on my ass, pounding my bumper and laughing as they cross the finish line ahead of me.

And speaking of dented bumpers…


This has been a source of much discussion on the interwebs. A lot of folks are disappointed in the lack of damage in the early game, and I have to admit to being one of those people initially. I love realistic damage in a racing game.  Hell, I just plain love ramming into the car beside me and seeing it hit the wall which sends it flying into the air, spinning, sending sparks in beautiful arcs.

But this isn’t Burnout Paradise. And damage costs a lot of credits to repair.

By changing when and how damage occurs in stages, Polyphony Digital is able to give us the time required to become better drivers, amass a garage of cars which handle well, and have earned enough money to afford the repair cost.

You’ll be far less likely to speed into a turn knowing that the damage you’ll incur will cost you a pretty credit to fix.

At my current mid-teens levels, I’m seeing the effects of damage on my cars, and am feeling the difference as I’m bumping, grinding and crashing (insert mandatory “that’s what she said” here), however I’m not yet having to pay for repairs.

Because of that, I’m still driving a little less conservatively as I may in higher levels. My creds are important to me. I’m dying to pick up a Ferrari Enzo, and every credit counts right now.


Gran Turismo 5 is a beast. Plain and simple. There is so much information on that disk and even after a monstrous install, there are still many load screens which slow the game to a crawl at points. 

The game continues to install various things as you are playing it, however I would like to see an option to install even more. Some of us have fairly large drives in our PS3s and would not mind very large installs in order to alleviate some of this wait time. What’s a few gigabytes between friends for the sake of moar racing?

The speed boost would also make navigating through the game a little less frustrating. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the huge deal that some would have you believe, but it can get mildly annoying at times.  The problem is that the U.I. isn’t always intuitive.  It requires more bouncing around than it should.

Overall, bouncing back and forth is not that bad, however there are places where better thought should have been placed into options. If I’m about to enter a race, and my car doesn’t have the required tires, I should be able to pop into the tuning shop with the click of one button to purchase said tires.  Instead, I have to exit out of the race selection screen, back to My Home, and from there go into the shop.

This wouldn’t be so bad, where it not for the loading screens.  However, this can be hot-fixed via patches… in case you’re listening Polyphony Digital.

Parting Thoughts

I won’t end this review with “Final Thoughts”, simply because, as I’ve said, I intend to continue writing about this game in features as I level and work on completing all races… not to mention acquiring all of the cars like fucking Pokemon.

Pagani Zonda R ‘09, I CHOOSE YOU!”

If I’ve left anything out of this review, feel free to ask in the comments below… though keep in mind that certain aspects have been purposely omitted in order to write about them in detail later.  There are simply too many layers to this game to give them justice in one review (I mean, look at how long this already is).  Things like multiplayer, community, weather, Arcade mode, special race events, tuning, Gran Turismo TV/Museum, Photo Mode and more, which though not discussed, were still taken into consideration when reviewing and scoring this game.

As everyone loves game scores, I’ll end this with a solid 9.5/10. Considering that score comes not from a fanboy, nor someone whose opinions may be influenced by a free copy of the game, I hope the score will have meaning to those considering purchasing it.

If you are gamer who loves precise racing, this game belongs in your PS3.  The attention to detail is there… where it belongs.


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Lorangriel's avatar
Lorangriel 10:20am, 12/10/2010

you haven’t mentioned anything about car modifications. You aluded to the fact that you could do it with the Yaris comment, but didn’t go into any depth. How invilved is it and how important?

Buddha's avatar
Buddha 02:12pm, 12/13/2010

Modifying your car is in depth, though not complicated.  There are a number of options, and in order to win races, you most definitely need to delve into all of those options.  A 100k car can take quite a few hundred thousand creds more to make it worthy of competing.

I will be writing a feature specifically on car modifications soon.

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