Gran Turismo 5 Prologue might only be a demo, but it’s worth 40 bucks alone to justify the $2000 you splurged on a PS3 and a 1080p HDTV. Prologue - the preview version of 2009’s full-on GT5 - looks even better than the screenshots you can see here. It’s the game you’ll use to convince confused loved ones about the power of PS3. The demo may have been available in Japan for a while, but thanks to the new Drift Mode, car tuning, two-player split-screen, and a spanking-new set of online and offline Race Events, the US version is now the definitive package.
Screeching down the course carved out of a mountain in Eiger Nordwand feels great. Crowds mill around trackside taking snapshots as you speed by, creating a real sense of race day action. Taking to the narrow streets of London in a Mini Cooper S genuinely excites as you whiz past recognisable landmarks like the neon Sanyo signs of Piccadilly Circus. And, as the interiors of every car have been recreated perfectly, you get to experience driving cars that you’re unlikely to ever afford in real life. Not without a crippling bank loan, anyway. Inside your chosen motor, virtual hands clad in Sparco racing gloves grip the wheel and shift gears in incredible detail. As always, the replays are worth checking out - exhibiting the fidelity of 1080p HD like nothing else. You can even record them to your hard drive and show off your skills to your mates. But this is all cosmetic - there’s plenty more on offer.
Prologue really gives you a taste of the level of intricacy GT5 will incorporate. For learner drivers, there’s a host of aids to switch on - like traction control to stop wheel-spin and driving lines to show you when to brake and accelerate, so you’ll never feel out of your depth. But if you’re a more advanced racer, you’re in for a treat. When you turn off all the aids in Prologue, the heat turns up and the tension rises. Certain races require you to pinch as many split-seconds as you can to achieve a first place gold trophy, and the only way to do this is by playing in the most realistic way possible and turning all the aids off. Sure, you can get a bronze trophy with pretty little effort but the true test of skill is winning as if you were driving a real car.
However, as of release, Prologue still doesn’t allow any cosmetic damage to its range of motors. Not even a wing-mirror will snap off after a side-swipe and all your metallic paint will remain intact. We'll have to wait for a later download before we see how the smashes will look. On the plus side, Prologue comes packing extra features to the Japanese version. We get a Drift Mode, which works well but it’s nothing compared to the arcade-style cornering from NFS: Pro Street and Juiced 2. There’s also a set of new online race days to compete in, two-player offline split-screen races and the ability to get under the hood of your motor and tweak your vehicle’s performance, rather than just relying on the Quick Tune option.
Prologue isn’t perfect, but even lapsed GT fans can’t deny the clarity of its 1080p visuals, or the thrill of taming its exacting physics. You might not like the idea of buzzing around in a VW Golf - chances are you know someone who has one - but it’s unlikely that you’ll get to thrash one around the F1 track of Fuji Speedway. For $40, you won’t regret test-driving GT Prologue - not only is it the perfect bridge between now and Gran Turismo 5 in 2009, but it’s also the best-looking technical demo your TV and PS3 have ever had.
GT5 Prologue is available at retail now, and as a download on April 17 via the PS3 Network.
Apr 15, 2008