Gran Turismo 5 review

  • Driving over crisp, clean snow
  • Wealth of data analysis to pore over
  • The licence tests are brilliantly hardcore
  • Non-scaling difficulty sticks two fingers up to skill
  • Some shocking graphical compromises
  • The Top Gear van race

It was supposed to be perfect. After five years in development, over a decade's worth of superlative numbered iterations before it and PS3 now way past the flaky games that plagued its early life, there is no reason Gran Turismo 5 should be anything less than Sony's flagship racer. We've deliberately taken our time over this review to bring you the definitive verdict... but it's not good news. Not a disaster, but way off what we were expecting.

When I reviewed the PSP version earlier this year, I said: "Persevere in your search for that classic Polyphony magic and it does come in time. And when it does, you'll be able to forgive almost everything else. If only for those fleeting moments where it's right up there with the best things you've ever seen."

In GT5, that magic is almost completely absent. I've driven over 1,000 virtual miles over the past week (many at 50mph) and I have been properly impressed twice. Once was during the Tuscan night race when the fireworks are going off and your headlights are illuminating the countryside as you cannon over ridges in a Lamborghini. Awesome. The other was the first time I raced in the snow at Chamonix. These moments are genuinely like driving the intro movie and are exactly what the game should have been all the way through.

This video shows the bits I liked enough to save to replay (you'll notice it's rather short). The rest of the time has been quite a slog and certainly not worthy of a highlights reel.

The first problem is the constant feeling that the game is teasing you with glimpses of the exceptional over the merely decent. Like you're going to really get into the game in a minute and it will suddenly let you loose to have boundless fun. But the reigns pull up again and stop you, either by giving you a rally track that simply goes 'left' for a mile or so, or by making you restart an entire event because you knocked over a small red cone when the AI barged into you.

Which it does a lot. Polyphony has taken on board the criticism of CPU drivers' fear of venturing off the racing line, and gone too far the other way. The AI drivers in GT5 are complete bastards and think nothing of knocking into your rear side door on the straights and putting you into a spin. I'm used to this sort of behavior online in other games, but offline in GT? Check this out:

At least they make mistakes now, often sliding off-track in a flurry of dirt and tyre smoke. However, you'll seldom see it because the AI speed is even more unbalanced than in previous games. The first few races are easy, as you'd expect. But then you'll enter a race where your car simply can't keep up. That 'go left' rally event asks you for a sub-245bhp car, so I bought a 203bhp Lancia Delta. It's a well-known rally stalwart, but it just wasn't quick enough to compete. I know this because you don't lift the throttle from start to finish on the first stage, so there's little you can do to go significantly faster, yet I still lost by several seconds. The only answer is to spend money on upgrades.

This is all a moot point when you get further into the game, however, when you discover the other end of the problem. Take, for instance, the Tuning Car Grand Prix cup on Expert. I bought a Ferrari 599 '06 and tuned it up to a snarling 820bhp to enter the event at Professional level (one off the final, Extreme tier). There was no competition. I drove past everyone on the first straight, had time to crash twice and still won by a country mile. I know I've criticised Oblivion for having a proportional levelling system, but Gran Turismo is in dire need of one. 


Safely locked in the garage

Most of the game is locked when you begin. You can hit arcade mode straight away and drive some fast cars, and I was able to import my garage from the PSP version immediately (sadly no F1 car – my 6,000,000 credits won't buy the Ferrari F1, even though it's finally appeared in the dealership). But just as I was thinking playing the PSP version had finally paid off, I saw that none of those cars can be used in career mode. You have to start from the bottom. Again.

Events are locked behind level targets. As you race, you gain XP which takes you up driver levels. Fortunately, expert drivers will be able to accelerate this process by acing the licence tests. Yup, they're back again, still asking you to drive 200m in a straight line and stop. I beat them all in a day and got my S licence, but was disappointed to see that the F1 car wasn't involved in the final tier. As it is, the S license is all overtaking challenges, which is a far cry from GT1 and GT3's mega-hardcore final lap time challenges.

In fact, the licence tests gave me the most satisfaction out of all the game modes. They appeal to the high score challenge school of gamers (like me) while testing your skills to breaking point. I got all the gold licences on GT3 back in the day and did the same with the PSP version recently – and I can see myself coming back to this to get the whole set gleaming with the shiny yellow stuff. The game makes more sense, too – Yamauchi is testing your understanding of automotive theory in short, concise practical application. It's so anal, it's practically disappeared up itself, but at least it makes sense.

Above: I cleared all of the licenses, on GT1, GT3 and GT PSP, and now GT5. This stuff is brilliantly hardcore



What doesn't make sense is the optimisation – or lack of it. By now, you've probably heard about the 50 minute optional data install. But it doesn't stop there. Everything seems to be preceded by a loading bar. Creating settings for GT TV, loading every track even with the install (which is hardly any quicker, in all honesty), connecting to online lobbies… none of these are cardinal sins on their own, but they're everywhere and it starts to grate.

Above: Even with the data installed, you can find yourself waiting for thumbnails and 3D previews to appear

This is amplified by the cumbersome user interface. Is it too much to ask that career events have a direct link to the dealership so you can buy a car that you need to enter a specific event? You can't. Want to switch off the driving line assist and change to manual transmission mid-race? You can't. Want to quit a series after the first race has ended? You can't – you have to load the next race and quit out from there, resulting in more loading bars.

We're used to games like this having long load times, of course. Forza 3 is famous for it, but at least Forza gets a lot of other things right. It does have comparitively plastic-looking cars, of course. But GT's bound to get that right, isn't it? It is, after all, a series that's always been so far ahead of the curve, traditionally they've been unmatched until the next generation of hardware has come around. Well, there are some blemishes that no amount of Turtle Wax can hide…

More Info

Available Platforms: PS3
Genre: Racing
Published by: SCEA
Developed by: Polyphony Digital
Franchise: Gran Turismo
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Mild Lyrics
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending
Justin Towell

The longest-serving GR+ staffer, I was here when all this was just fields. I'm currently in charge of reviews but still find time to make daft Photoshop stories and try to explain why there need to be more arcade racing games.

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  • vrman - July 20, 2011 7:11 p.m.

    I Only ask because I'm occasionally confused by the english that the writers here use, but are all of the writers on this site british?
  • GR_JustinTowell - September 18, 2011 1:36 a.m.

    There are two teams, one in the UK and one in the US. We both post to the same site, though, so there's no separation. Sorry if British English is different, but if it's written IN England, I think it should be allowed ;)
  • sauros73 - January 19, 2011 6:08 p.m.

    I can't see only one answer why that bad results. They wasn't ready (i know after 5 years!) and they fall under the public pressure
  • desudesu893 - January 13, 2011 5:16 a.m.

    raaaaeeeeggggggeeeeee!! how could they possibly stuff up on the graphics, on a ps3?? thats just slack on the devs' half. they had the hardware to work it on, why couldnt they pull it off?
  • mostlyhybrid - January 6, 2011 7:04 a.m.

    loading times worse than forza? ouch.
  • Chaza__94 - January 5, 2011 9:32 p.m.

    The hype surrounding the game made it seem sooo immense, then i played the game :|, i was underwhelmed by the sheer lack of detail given to the "Standard" model cars, i didn't think it would be that low. The polygon trees and pixelated shadows i dont mind as i don't pay attention to them when i'm racing. The one thing i was dissapointed with, was the choice Polyphony Digital made with putting the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 in the "Standard" model catergory as it's the car i drive the most, i'd have liked to seem it as a "Premium" model, i guess not :/. P.s the loading times suck
  • KuwaSanjuro - December 23, 2010 2:43 a.m.

    Watching the comparison between GT3 and GT5 it makes it really look like GT5 is just a HD remake of GT3. I also think it lost itself in how long it was in development. They started out making a launch game and that's what it is a game made for back when the PS3 was to be launched and not taking advantage of the advancements that other games have made. Pity.
  • BlitzIzDaShitz - December 22, 2010 12:15 a.m.

    Defiantly have to try it out, especially after the new patch that supposedly fixed some stuff in it. Plus I loved playing 4 with my bro and we both sucked at it so much it was awsome.
  • elilupe - December 17, 2010 2:13 a.m.

    @Wolverine08 How can you "KNOW for a fact is the best racing simulation made in my opinion having played it"? If its your opinion you cant know it for a fact.
  • ultraextreme - December 12, 2010 12:24 a.m.

    Oh man how could you be so ignant! I havent played the game and its just fucking awesome, its the best thing forever my live revolves around how amazing it is. Next you will attack my GOD huh is that what you want? To ruin my faith! Fuck you you lazy cretin all you want to do is hurt! How can you say that something i want to be good is bad! You know nothing! You might aswell be foreign. I hate you! Love you GR, played this, agreed with the review, boom.
  • Zengaku - December 6, 2010 11:07 p.m.

    Meh, i am still going to get this either way, always have loved the GT series ever since i was little. I'd rather choose this than Need for Speed: Burnout edition.
  • shpongled - December 4, 2010 6:36 p.m.

    I feared as much, PD seem to be living in the past. Things have moved on A LOT in the last 5 years of racing games, and they've been left behind. The cars sound pathetic yet again, they can't seem to get that right. Even full on snarling racers are reduced to hedge-trimmers in GT games... That GT3 vs GT5 video is a real eye-opener, and the Japanese really need serious help with their presentation / menu structure in games it's just awful.
  • kazimierz3000 - December 2, 2010 9:12 p.m.

    @Howitzer I have to agree with you completely, this game is being judged not for what it is but for what people seem to want it to be. Instead of saying whether or not this game good and focusing on why it isn't the best racing game in the history of racing games. It's strange, although this game is getting reviews (even the poor reviews) that rate it 7 and higher, how does that score constitute a bad game? Hell I've been enjoying this game to the fullest as have many of my friends, with nary a complaint. It's not the best or most beautiful game and it has it's quarks, but it's fun, I guess at the end of the day what matters is whether or not you enjoy it, if not skip it, if so play on.
  • e1337prodigy - December 2, 2010 9:02 p.m.

    oh dear. I feel sorry for PS3 owners only and top gear for putting their track in this. It's such a shame, have to wait all this time and for it to be such a disappointment. I'm sure there are great moments in it, that fireworks track looks brilliant. I thought GT5 has rain effects as well? if so, that's something that Forza hasn't got and needs for its next release along with night races. But, otherwise this is a massive disappointment. Fancy sticking in a damage model but then not allowing people to use it until they get to level 40!! wth!! that van race... you went through all that and you get disqualified? you got to laugh really.
  • Howetzer - December 2, 2010 4:08 p.m.

    Oh silly me I forgot the part about Nascar (which again sis not get a mention in the review), oh yeah and the karting which I actually found very frusttrating because I was not used to how they handled, I had to learn from my mistakes with them, and again I feel that is a great thing about this game. The cars all handle differently, its not like any other game where the cars are all pretty much the same except the look and the speed. Anyway I guess we could say I am a GT5 freak like you are a GT3 freak Justin...ok I think i'm really done this time lol.
  • Howetzer - December 2, 2010 4:01 p.m.

    Not to mention the fact that you left out some things this game has PACKED into it: 3D - are you kdding me?? I wish to GOD I had a 3D TV for this game, it would be so awesome..don't you think you could have included ANYTHING about that in the review for the game? Seems to me you should have at least said that it either looks great or not...but we got nothing about it. All the speacial challenges which were challenging and fun at the same time as teaching you how to be a better racer and enjoy more cars. Photomode is so good it should have been in there twice lol. Sharing cars/ photos of your cars with all your friends, this is a cool feature I thought. Yes you can give/receive cars directly from each others Garages! It's neat. When you get a car it starts it up and sounds JUST like the car in real life...maybe not every -single- one, but hey I know alot of the ones I've gotten do, and I think that's cool, it shows what was put into this game..alot of people are on here saying where did the money, etc go? Well when you can climb into the EXACT replica of 200 cars' driver seats and listen to that cars engine guess what? Thats not cheap or quick to do...or easy to pack into ONE damn disc. Bah enough, Im sure no one will read this, but if you do Justin let me know what you think...I just feel you were looking for GT3 (part2) or something and failed to see all of this games' brilliance in the process. Sorry for double post but I ran out of room one first one lol
  • Howetzer - December 2, 2010 3:54 p.m.

    Ok I have already commented on this game, but if you do read these coments reveiwer, and others who just want to know whether or not to buy this game, here are some more points of view from me on this game and this review: First I'll say that the reason I came back here and read all these coments again is because I wanted to see more people coming to the defense of this game because I love playing it and thought other would start to say they have as well. Which it looks to me, they have. First lets go through the reveiw. The Tuscan night race with the fireworks and your headlights causing the road signs to reflect back at you,the fireworks going off in the distance that makes you want to take your eyes off the road and just watch etc is absolutely awesome, there is nothing like this course at night that I have EVER seen in ANY racing game, giving 2 sentences to this kind of visual orgasim in your review is simply not enough Justin. And one of the sentences was "Awesome." The critisism on the AI drivers...they piss me off too, but you know what? It's a race and guess what else? They don't want you to pass them. Sorry but I find it hard to fault that, it adds challenge and fun to the races. Speaking on the non-scaling aspect with regaurds to the cars/competitors you face on races, there is a nice little button that shows you the common competitors' cars and BHP you will face for EACH and EVERY race Justin, use that to gauge who you will be facing and if you feel that youre too powerful or not powerful enough...dont enter the race until you are, or find one more suited to your car. So again it's hard for me to fault the designers and the game because I am entering races that I should not be when they provide you with that info. The licence tests are a great way to get a feel of different cars and help you to become a better driver, I feel they are well done, which you seemingly mostly agreed with. The load times, I have no problem with the load times, I understand that there are alot of load points and yes I agree that is a little annoying, but it does not detract from the game for me at all, and yes I did the install. For the online stuff, I'm sorry I did not try online yet, Im having fun with just the 1P aspect so I cannot comment on that, but Im sure it wasnt that great considering they almost immediately put out a notice of what was going on and updated the game to try and solve the problem. I do wish you could do a couple of more things in the quick options menu while in a race, but again it does not make me think any less of the game, I can actually see why you couldn't switch between Automatic transmission and Manula during a race in a simulator though...can't you? But the driving line I agree would be nice to turn off or on midrace. "Photo mode is photo mode - it's meant to look amazing" This is again very, very short on the details and what this mode deserves. This mode is absolutely AWESOME. What other game has anything that can compare to GT5 Justin? There are none that I can think of....not that there isn't but I certainly have never played one. The cars are placeable in so many locales, and areas then you can take absolutley stunning photos and show off your beautiful car, it really is amazing. Then you start the graphical problems, which I would actually say is the most accurate..almost the only accurate part of the review. The shadows at standstil are a little ridiculous, the trees..meh dont really bother me too much, same with the crowds..maybe because I play with full screen mode and so I'm enjoying flying around the tracks and feeling every little bump, dip and curve the road has to really is amazing the way it makes you feel you're driving a car..really fast. But back to the shadows..gotta say I NEVER once noticed them when I'm racing..also same with the smoke..all the tire smoke I've seen has been awesome, in replays I have seen a VERY slight dip in framerate sometimes, but really again barely noticeable. "The premium cars look gorgeous" This is about all you said about them..I'm sorry again you are lacking here. Did you mean the 200..that's TWO HUNDRED premium cars look gorgeous? Because you're absolutely right, they do and oh yeah there's two hundred of them. Sorry it's hard to gripe about something that no one else has done for me..maybe not for you though. Bspec mode- yeah I dont play this much, but what I have wasn't that fun even though it still looked amazing, but it's still there waiting for those people who DO like to play it. The damage on the cars thing. Ok I am level 16 and I have seen plenty of damage on my cars..not even premium ones too...I know it seems like I have unlocked more of that then when I first started, but hey I like that..I'm being rewarded with MORE content for playing the game longer..I'm sorry you have an issue with being rewarded for playing more..I don't, and maybe there are others like me as well. Im out of space,but whatuthink? 7?
  • swolern - December 2, 2010 7:40 a.m.

    GT5 in stereoscopic 3d feels like an adrenaline rush like never before. Absolutely love it.
  • sniper141 - December 1, 2010 7:32 p.m.

    OH my god its Charile Barret times a million naw just joking great rewiew honest reliable im a gamesradar fanboy
  • twinkletitsMcGee - December 1, 2010 7:16 p.m.

    @kazimierz3000 Have you read any of the stuff that the people said on metacritic. There are a bunch of 100's at the top with reviews that sound like they started up the game looked at the best tracks and cars and then gave it a 100. Just because a game has a good metacritic rating doesn't mean the game is any good. 2 of the 100's come from publications that have playstation in the title... PSX extreme said: "There are simply features and options that Gran Turismo offers that no other racing game does." so according to them if you toss a bunch of new features into a game then it deserve a 100. Playstation Lifestyle said: "Kaz Yamauchi's passion for the racing sphere shines through every aspect of the game. The incredibly-detailed cars, the slick presentation, the spot-on physics. Polyphony Digital brought its A-game. Nothing else on the market can come close to the realism and immersion you feel throughout. Gran Turismo 5 is virtual racing at its very best." But Justin's review showed us that very few of the cars and tracks were given "incredible" detail. Destructoid said: "The level of care taken by the people at Polyphony Digital shines in every aspect of this title, and this makes for a racing game that truly has no parallel. Gran Turismo 5 is a massive love letter to those that love cars. This is their dream videogame." Yes they cared so much that they have crowds ad scenery that make me feel like I am on a PS1 or PS2 at best. All three of these sources gave the game a 100 based off observations that the gamesradar review disproved. Moral of the story? A few undeserved high scores on Metacritic can raise the average to a score that the game doesn't deserve.