Why Gran Turismo 5 is NOT a revelation

We've said before that Gran Turismo 5 must be the best racing game ever. With so many years of development and such a brilliant base of four trailblazing games to build from, it can only be amazing. However, having played it at Sony's London offices, I can confirm Gran Turismo 5 is not a revelation. It is an incredibly stubborn series, steadfastly refusing to follow GRID and DiRT 2's lead and sticking instead to its own idiosyncratic ideals.

If you've been following coverage, you're probably afraid I'm about to confirm your deepest fears. But rest assured that while some aspects are shocking, others are quite brilliant. So take a deep breath - let's take it out onto the track.


3D is fine, not astonishing

The demo room had a 3D Sony TV in it, connected to a PS3 Slim, which in turn had a PlayStation Eye attached. I wasn’t sure why at first, but that soon became apparent. I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of 3D and I certainly won’t be dropping a grand or more on a new telly based on GT5’s graphical experience. As with the Killzone 3, Super Stardust 3D and MotorStorm 2 demos I’ve played before, my first impressions were of a display that is much darker than normal and the 3D effect just made it harder to concentrate on the game itself behind the illsuion of depth. But that wasn’t my biggest concern.

Above: Seeing this in 3D is neat, but it doesn't add that much to the experience


It doesn't feel like 60fps in 3D 

Gran Turismo has been a 60fps game ever since GT3 on PS2. I don’t care what the machine and TV are technically throwing out. If the 120fps screen update and 60fps for each eye were in fact running at full whack, it didn’t look like it to me. I'd swear the game I was playing was running at 30fps. Like Gran Turismo 1.

You may say ‘how on earth can you tell?’ but, as I explained on TalkRadar UK recently, years of justifying my Sega Saturn’s finest games to PlayStation owners has given me the knack for telling how fast a game is running - and this is 30fps (I've contacted Sony for clarification, and will update the story with the response). I’m sure in 2D mode the game will hurtle along at 60 frames, but not here.

The reason for the PlayStation Eye's presence became clear when I pulled my chair forward to get a better sense of the 3D graphics. Being that much closer to the camera, the movements of my head must've been more pronounced and I realised to my absolute delight that the camera was tracking my head and translating that into 3D space in the game. Very cool. To be honest, you don’t notice it at high speed, but at low speed or stationary, the effect is very pronounced and works a treat. Of course, the new in-car view is the best place to see this.

Above: Move your head in real life and your in-car self does the same. The effect looks lovely in 3D

The bonnet (hood if you're American) and AI cars in front of you look genuinely solid, although I did seem to have double vision on the gear number on the dash behind the steering wheel. Whether or not that was a deliberate graphical effect to convince me it was way closer than the action I was focusing on is debatable, but I couldn’t get my eyes to see one solid number, no matter how hard I tried.

While the in-car view was good-looking, I found the 3D effect worked best in bonnet cam. Suddenly, the game came to life. At chicanes, I could judge how much distance there was between the protruding lengths of Armco on both sides, and finally I felt like I could ‘see’ the racing action. Like I said, I’m not a fan of 3D gaming, but this worked. And despite my reservations, there was a real ‘wow’ moment as sparks kicked up from the car in front as it grazed the wall and bounced right out at me. Very nice.

One odd effect was the gaps between the leaves of trees in the middle-distance. Maybe it's just easier for the 3D effect to display a simple chequerboard mesh instead of trying to calculate which gaps each eye should be able to see, but that's exactly what it was - a set pattern of alternate pixels that stayed like this until the trees were close enough to see the detail in the branches. Neccessity or no, it didn't look great.


Last-gen traits remain

But enough about the 3D – how does the game play? The answer is… pretty much identically to GT4. And, sadly, that  has two meanings. The first is that the simulation of driving is as excellent as ever under normal conditions. Cars have a tangible level of grip, which is different for all the cars I tried. Just as with its PSP Gran Turismo iteration, the Ferrari Enzo in GT5 is extremely powerful, which translates to plenty of powersliding and oversteer if you’re not conservative with the throttle.

There are assists, of course, the list of which appeared to be identical to the PSP game. The traction control is set at 5/10 by default, which offers a good compromise between controllability and fun. I was playing on professional, of course, but even I considered ramping it up a bit when things got too hairy.

Above: Ferraris are so hot to handle, you'll often find yourself losing the back end on the exit of a corner

The flip-side of the familiar handling is that things go a bit dodgy when you’re not pointing the right way...

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  • Lemurian - October 14, 2010 12:03 a.m.

    ive always been a project gotham fan this will be the first gt game ive bought personally i hope the handling isnt too different but i always knew pgr wasnt a proper driving sim compared to forza and gran turismo
  • OriginalJonty - July 30, 2010 10:31 p.m.

    Interesting article...However GT5 will have to compete with F1 2010 for my attention and so far F1 2010 is winning.
  • Elemental - July 30, 2010 8:31 p.m.

    I wouldn't be surprised if the GT runs at half the framerate in 3d. I would expect 30fps to be the norm for 3d games. It's actually very easy to see the difference, particularly when panning the camera. At 30fps there is noticeable stuttering (which is why artists use motion blur). Those screenshots look too good to be true! I'm guessing they're from the replay camera, or the photo mode.
  • BillyBrush - July 30, 2010 9:32 a.m.

    I think both GT and Forza benefit hugely from being single plat, Crumbdunky for example is buying it, no preview/review needed...and that's what exclusivity does for these two. If you lumped all the platform specific and not racing games into one set...I honestly think PGR would come out as this generations best, not forza, not gt....and PGR3 to boot (2005?).
  • TheWebSwinger - July 30, 2010 5:40 a.m.

    WOW the interior driver's view screenshots are beautiful. No wonder they took so long in development, they painnnfully recreated it.
  • usmovers_02 - July 30, 2010 5:07 a.m.

    Here why Forza is better than GT for me: The controller. I haven't found any wheel that feels like a real wheel for either system so I prefer a controller. And I hate the playstations controller.
  • eNdo602 - July 30, 2010 1:03 a.m.

    When this comes out, I may have to buy (my third) PS3. I'm a fool for racing games.
  • XSgtShootemupX - July 30, 2010 12:31 a.m.

    I was interested until I saw that the gameplay was reminisent of GT4. I majorly facepalmed. GT - a series which, compared to proper sims and moreso (ofcourse) real drviing - just isn't realistic, it's not a driving or a racing 'sim' the cars always look damn pretty, as do the tracks. But the driving is always so lack lustre. I just don't feel there compared to other games. Give me one car and one track on rFactor and it'll take me longer to get bored then it would with GT's entire catalogue. Purely because of the driving. Whether it's the pinball wizard style collisions or the handling which feels like its been directly picked out of a 90s arcade game (seriously, if initial d's cars weren't always sideways, they'd be hard to differentiate.) i've always found it amusing that many people consider GT a sim. I'll probably still get it permitting it has Cossies, other RS fords, BMW models; E28,32,34,38,39 and the like. But if it seriously does have the handling of GT4. I'll still laugh at all claims it's realistic.
  • TJP75 - July 29, 2010 11:11 p.m.

    What is a straightaway? Justin, you must mean a straight unless you've become a Yank! Please avoid using these dullard Americanisms, I fear next you'll be using "loose" and "tight" to describe oversteer and understeer. Other than than, a very good preview, much like the one for the upcoming F1 game from Codemasters. Cheers.
  • baldy666 - July 29, 2010 9:01 p.m.

    I'm glad I know this now instead of getting excited two months before release. After playing Dirt 2 and seeing how the vehicles react to any slight bump in the road I can't go back to simple accelerate, brake, turn gameplay. This will probably still oversell due to the vast number of cars but I don't expect it to get rave reviews.
  • rezapoc - July 29, 2010 7:14 p.m.

    I just want it for the Top Gear test track! I just wish it was more like Grid when it comes to track side objects such as tyre walls which were devastating when hit.
  • Kieran712 - July 29, 2010 6:54 p.m.

    This is probably gonna sound dumb but is head tracking only for 3D or is it for all formats?
  • BodyDamage - July 29, 2010 6:44 p.m.

    framerate differences are a huge thing for me too. nothing looks like 60fps, i wish more games ran that way (although i do fully understand the limitations that cause the need for 30). however, since i got a 120hz TV, the refresh rate upgrades games running in 30fps to 60fps and it REALLY looks good. (ff13 gains a fluidity that is just unmatched). @R3DRUN: If you are looking for an actual racing sim, a game that is all about really opening up racing for what it is; get a car, tune it in one of a billion ways, take it to a track and either race others or simply just get on a track alone and start shaving off the seconds, there is nothing that can compete with GT5. this isn't arcadey-D1-dorifto fair.(which theres nothing wrong with in its own respect) This is the true spirit of racing. to say gran turismo is dull is to basically claim that real world track racing would be boring. (only sort of though, obviously there are plenty of things that make real life fun that GT can't replicate) i can't even count the number of laps/hours(days) i've logged with even just 1 car (FD) on 1 track (deep forest) going around and around just looking for another half second. what an addiction. also very frustrating lol
  • JohnnyMaverik - July 29, 2010 6:40 p.m.

    @ Justin G3D is good with me, I'll issue a press release now. Also just to confirm, when I said the games are too realistic for their own good, I meant realistic in really un-fun ways, e.g. anything that isn't a hot hatchback or 4 wheel drive WILL spin out unless you actually know how to handle them, which is fairly realistic, but you'll rarely flip the cars even when it really feels like they should have flipped rather than span, flipping cars is cool, spinning out makes me rage quit.
  • Forrest22x - July 29, 2010 6:25 p.m.

    The only reason I can;t really get into the GT series, is the fucking controls. They're too awkward for me. Also, for the xbox side, the 360 has the triggers, which make racing much easier.
  • HereComesTheHypeTrainCHOOCHOO - July 29, 2010 6 p.m.

    Looking forward to getting this game November. Are there no drivers when watching replays because from the looks of those gorgeous shots in this article it looks like a bunch of Herbie cars driving around without people in them. I would hope this gen would have the option to chose what your driver looked like when watching replays. I know, it is a little thing but Gran Turismo excels at getting the little things right so hopefully there are actual drivers when the game ships.
  • shpongled - July 29, 2010 5:56 p.m.

    I work in the AV industry, and like most people I know couldn't give a flying f*ck about 3d. I just want a decent driving game with excellent visuals / audio / physics. The whole 3d thing is a gimmicky load of shite, despite what marketing is shoved down our throats to the contrary. I'd rather the review hadn't focused on this quite frankly f*cking pointless aspect of what will be a great game. I agree about the crash physics though, it's a part of racing and always bugged me the way the cars handle so realistically until you have an incident, where it all goes a little wonky-donkey to say the least..... And the SOUND, what do the cars sound like, good bad?
  • SweatyCrease - July 29, 2010 5:48 p.m.

    sigh....I was really hoping they could pull of something special. I wonder how much development time has gone into the 3D aspect?
  • Tommykrem - July 29, 2010 5:32 p.m.

    I don't mind if the barriers provides some questionable physics. I'm not planning on crashing in them ;) But seriously though, I'm glad they didn't include a rewind feature like in GRiD, DiRT and Forza 3. That feature was perhaps what kept me from getting drawn into DiRT 2. There's no risk anymore. Sure it fits games like GRiD and DiRT well. And it would have fit Motorstorm and Blur as well! It's a fun feature, but I don't want to see it in GT5, nor did I want to see it in Forza 3. D
  • croatianmaniac232 - July 29, 2010 5:24 p.m.

    i dont give a shit man i am going to buy this game the moment it comes out and yes holy shit the graphics are fucking insane