Gran Turismo. These two words are enough to light the gaming community on fire. The popular racing series has been a staple for both hardcore and casual racing fans alike for over ten years. While the series has always managed to impress gamers in all areas such as graphics, realism, and computer AI, the series has been long overdue for a next generation sequel to match the pace of modern racing titles. Thankfully, we won’t have to wait for much longer.
Most appropriately titled Gran Turismo 5: Prologue, Polyphony’s latest game may appear at first to have a deceiving title. However, further playtime quickly proved to solidify the game’s release as more than a trivial tech demonstration.
The game is a mix of next generation and time-tested features that have made the series so popular. Some of the newer changes include the title screen. Gone are the days where you were given the option of arcade and simulation mode of previous titles, or even the newer single-player, multi-player and option dialogues to grace modern racers.
Instead, gamers will find themselves graced with a 3D representation of their car in front of a vividly animated backdrop of a city of their choice from a list of locations. A clock and temperature read-out shows the current time and temperature reading of the location you set. A calendar also displays upcoming racing events.
Below all of these visuals are seven distinct icons, including icons titled drive, garage, TV, photo, and profile. While many of these are self explanatory, some require a small explanation. TV will offer various video clips that may include tips for improving times and personally submitted videos. Photo will function in the same way, except in picture format of course. Finally, the profile icon will offer a social networking-esque interface that will allow racers to share information with one another.
By now you must be wondering about the actual game-play rather than all of these nice extras. The great news is that the game-play has evolved as much if not even more than that of the extras Polyphony has added to GT5 Prologue. Driving in the game feels natural and maintains the series philosophy on realism, so don’t expect your car to make a tight u-turn at 80 mph. Likewise, if you drive on the grass, expect a huge delay getting back onto the track. Just like its predecessors and in reality, your tires are going to lose a lot of traction while in that sand pit.
You’ll also be able to tell if you have any mods installed in your car by simply listening. That super charger you just installed sounds just like its real life counterpart. Still, many fans will be disappointed to learn that damage modelling has yet to be implemented, and it is currently unknown whether or not the final build will contain this element.
Moving on, the control scheme is just the same as ever for any Gran Turismo title. Triangle will reverse your car out of a wall. Square and circle are your emergency and normal brakes, and finally, X is used to accelerate. Master the last three, and it is easy to leave the computer-controlled cars eating your dust.
The game will run in full 1080p at 60 fps, an impressive feat considering how few titles can make this claim. The amount of cars to race has also been increased to an impressive 16, including the human player of course. In addition to the standard camera modes, a first-person view has been included. The amount of details inside the each car was deeply emphasized in this mode. The time spent recreating each nuance of every car is both appreciated and a welcome addition.
The old physics based system that served the previous four games well has been removed and replaced with a much more detailed and accurate system. The entire graphics system has also received a much-needed overhaul. Yamauchi, one of the creators of the series, has claimed that the new engine is so powerful, a professional drifter was able to perform manoeuvres inside the game similar to the one’s he performed during races.
Besides the updates in the physics department of the game, the graphics portion has also received an equally impressive upgrade. Cars in Gran Turismo 4 were composed of an average of 4000 polygons. In GT5: Prologue, cars will be composed of an average of 200,000 polygons. The 50-fold increase in resolution shows, as cars in GT5: Prologue appear to have the best models of a car game to date. Polyphony also spent a considerable amount of time ensuring each car was exactly as the manufacture wanted them to be recreated, right down the to pit crew’s uniforms. This may seem a petty detail, but it helps serve to even further immense gamers into the races.
The game’s AI has also received significant improvements in order to keep racers on their toes. However, as the series has had a reputation of being difficult, the game will include two difficulties, standard and professional. Both are designed to make the game challenging, but standard should allow beginners to the series some breathing space.
Albeit not the final incarnation of Gran Turismo 5, Prologue should serve as a welcome and fine addition to the Gran Turismo line of games. On the heels of the announcement of the Dual Shock 3 controller, the racer will also support full rumble to help feel gamers like they are in the cockpit themselves. The game is currently set to release on December 13 in Japan, with no definite US or EU release. However, the popularity of the series should hopefully help carry the game from Japanese shores.