We’ve seen the video of the car flipping over in GT5, which is a first for the series. While I didn't actually get to see my car flip over, I did lean heavily into a car on my left going down a straightaway in Rome and the result was a trifle unrealistic. The car rotated serenely in front of me, as though the wheels were more like those on a shopping trolley, then allowed me to push it down the track, skating-rink style. Not amazing.
Also, while there are some destructible barriers that break apart nicely when you collide with them, the flimsy tape barriers on the Toscana rally stage still act like they’re made of reinforced steel. Even mediocre PS2 rally games had tape barriers that came down as you slid through them, so PSone-style invincibility is hard to forgive here.
Above: Those flimsy-looking fences are stronger than Hulk, Superman and Chuck Norris combined
As if to apologise for the faux pas, this Toscana track is the setting for one of the smoothest day to night transitions in gaming. It’s sunny when you start the stage, with sunlight glinting off the tape on one side of the track as the angle catches its rays. But, after a few corners, you realise you can see stars in the sky. They’re faint at first, but become clearer as you progress. Suddenly, you realise you’re staring at a gorgeously-hued sunset, with high quality flaring effects. Eventually, you’re racing in total darkness, with only your headlights and the AI car to pick out the track. It looks… well, superlative.
Above: Watching night fall in the space of 60 seconds is breathtaking in Gran Turismo 5
I also raced around Tokyo’s R246 and the Curso Del Sol tracks, leaving only the Nurburgring’s Nordschleife unplayed from the list of tracks on offer in the demo. Unfortunately, time was short, so I'm sure you'll appreciate I had to go with tracks that didn’t take half an hour to go round. However, the four tracks I did play all had their charms. Even that Toscana rally track, which is highly reminiscent of GT4’s rally stages (which I didn’t like) was enjoyable. That said, I do long for a return to the more succinct and personable rally stages of GT3. Oh, Smokey Mountain, how I miss you.
Despite its relative shortcomings, I would not say I was disappointed with my time with GT5. I wish there had been time to try all of the above in 2D mode, but that will have to wait until we get our hands on finished code. The AI seems better, bumping against me in close battles and the driving itself was sound, as you’d expect. The series’ idiosyncrasies are all out in force for better or for worse, and the 3D effect and head tracking is an impressive novelty. I don’t think the 3D necessarily adds anything to the game itself – just the head tracking would have been enough for me - and the apparent stutter in frame rate caused by the 3D is highly unwelcome to my robot eyes.
Above: Looks great in 2D pictures, doesn't it? Forget 3D - this might well be the best way to experience GT5
But while GT5 is not the massive leap forward I hoped it would be, it still has something special about it. I would much rather play this demo again than start up the full version of Forza 3. As a neutral in the fanboy console wars I say that with no baiting intentions. GT5 is clearly a class act – I’m just hoping like everyone else that the full version has one big surprise left up its sleeve. All that development time must have gone on something, although if there is to be as much of a leap as the series usually delivers, they're leaving it pretty damn late to show it.
29 Jul, 2010