As you can see from the score, GT5 is nowhere near the worst racing game ever made. The driving itself is still of incredibly high quality, whether played on a racing wheel (where the force feedback even simulates G-force loading on the front wheels – amazing) or on a DualShock 3, which I used for a good three or four hours during this review. Both let you feed in power progressively to beat wheelspin, settle a car before a turn and control a perfectly-executed powerslide. And after ten hours' play, you will have a car that feels fast and is fun to drive – even if it is way faster than the rest of the field offline.
The real fun comes from taking the fast cars onto the proper race tracks and enjoying the impeccable simulation of grip and weight distribution you'd get in a real racing car, which is still good enough to pull it out of the increasingly big hole it's dug itself. But only just. When you realise you're having fun driving because you're essentially in Time Attack mode some 20 seconds ahead of the actual race, there's something wrong. And it needs to change.
Above: This is me playing GT5. On my GT wheel. You don't need a wheel to enjoy it, but it certainly helps
I firmly believe Gran Turismo 3 is the best racing sim ever made, so seeing its grandson wearing such tatty clothes but still acting like a snob is a major disappointment. After a compare and contrast exercise between GT3 and GT5 (which shocked me with the difference now between HD and standard def), I've fallen in love with the PS2 game all over again. Every frame still screams 'I'M AWESOME!' and the soundtrack is superb. The force feedback is just as good in GT3… it's only let down by the screen resolution and lack of damage. Those things are technically both addressed in the new game, but it's undeniably lost its magic along the way, while improving very little. Observe:
In the end, the game's reputation makes its failings all the harder to swallow. Back in 2001, GT was so far ahead of the pack, it was embarrassing. Now, it's so far behind, I can't see it ever catching up.
Forza Motorsport 3? No. Forza may look more sterile, but it gives the user so much input, both in deciding what they want to do and what they want their car to be like, GT suddenly looks restrictive. Both feature roll-overs and crazily-realistic physics simulation in their latest builds, but Forza's class system for upgrades ensures you're never over/underpowered in races. Oh, and every car has a cockpit view. Sterile though it is, Forza has far less faffing around when you don't want to faff and just as much when you do. You can even paint the Mona Lisa on your car, which is something GT5 simply doesn't allow.
F1 2010? No. Regardless of how much you like the sport itself, F1 2010 is super-fast, super-exciting and utterly spectacular compared to GT5's sedate and cumbersome experience. F1 may not be creaking under the weight of a million extra game modes, but it gives you a phenomenal, reality-based racing sim with GRID's videogame sensibilities intact. I reviewed F1 2010 and gave it 9/10, so if you're wondering what wondrous kind of racing game is so much better than GT5, check that out. You'll see where I'm coming from.
Need For Speed: Shift? No. I would never have imagined I'd be saying that, but NFS is just a better game. The driving itself is nowhere near as good, mind, as the car's all over the place, to give a heightened sensation of speed. But you always know what you should be doing next, always have something to do thanks to 'mastering the corner' challenges, and the spills are more visceral. We gave that game a 9 at review (it'd likely get an 8 if reviewed today) and at current second-hand prices it's not a purchase you'll rue if it doesn't float your boat.
Gran Turismo has lost its mojo and become a dinosaur among modern racing games. It still drives brilliantly, but it's also bloated, scrappy, unbalanced and majorly dull for prolonged periods of play.