Gran Turismo 5 – The PS3 Attitude Review (part 2)
It was pretty early in the planning stages of the review when we realized it was going to take more than a single article to go over everything Gran Turismo 5 has to offer. We brought you part one earlier this week and now we’re ready to bring you part two.
The majority of people that buy Gran Turismo do so for the same reason they’ve been buying each installment up to now; the single player career experience. While that portion of the game may very well be the strongest, Gran Turismo 5 has much more to offer. None of these modes and extra features amount to much by themselves, but they collectively create something so big and expansive that we were questioning the need for a part 3.
B-Spec Mode returns for Gran Turismo 5 and it basically gives you the ability to step in to the shoes of a race driver’s manager and crew chief. You build the character from the ground up, starting with a name. You then you have several preset options on what kind of driver you want this person to be.
Once that’s all done, you’re ready to race. One of the pros of B-Spec mode is that this driver can use all of your cars from the traditional A-Spec mode, so you don’t have to deal with the hassle of building two different garages. However, B-Spec does have its own ranking system that does not share any ties with A-Spec.
Once you’ve designated your driver a name, starting attributes and a ride, he’s ready to hit the pavement. As the manager/crew-chief of this driver, you basically get to tell him how to drive for the entirety of the race. If you sense the driver is slacking off a bit, you can tell him to speed up. If he’s pushing it too hard, you can tell him to slow down. Or if he’s doing things just right, you can simply tell him to stay the course.
You also have the ability to tell him when to pass, which is where things really get interesting. Drivers will pass on their own if there’s a blatant opportunity but sometimes they’ll remain tentative until you give them the go-ahead. Timing your pass command properly is a big key to success. If you keep commanding your driver to pass when he’s not in a position to do so, he’ll get frustrated and start driving erratically. Sometimes, a driver can get so discouraged with not being able to do what he’s told, that he’ll end up crashing or driving off the road entirely. Once a driver gets to this point, it’s very difficult to calm him down, especially when you consider how short a lot of the races are.
Aside from proper timing of your commands, you’ll also have the driver’s physical and mental strength to concern yourself with. His mental strength will drop when he’s doing poorly or if he’s stuck in a tense battle for long periods of time. His physical strength will drop if you’re commanding him to push it harder than he’s trained for.
At the end of each race, the results of the contest will affect his overall skill set. If he finished the race with a cool head, then his ability to remain cool in future races will rise. Same with his strength, ability to corner properly, pass properly, etc..
The fact that you get to keep the cash your driver wins is a very nice bonus, but this game type wore thin after a while. Your driver requires just enough attention so that you can’t walk away from the T.V. but not enough to keep you busy for 100% of the race. There gets to be some dull moments in some of the longer competitions. Overall, we enjoyed B-Spec mode but it wasn’t something we chose to do over A-Spec on a regular basis.
On-Line Racing/Community Features
One of the biggest surprises of Gran Turismo 5 is the amount of on-line and community features there are. There’s a kind of Facebook type of social area in Gran Turismo 5 that is a very welcome addition. On each member’s profile, you can leave messages on a public wall for them and everyone else to see, you can send private messages to your friends and there’s even an activity wall that shows what your friend’s most recent accomplishments are.
You can also send gifts and items back and forth between your friends as well, such as cars, paint schemes and other small miscellaneous things. Some of these features have been hit or miss while Polyphony figures out how to smooth out the on-line play of GT5, but what we got to see of them were very impressive.
Once you get passed those cool additions, you may want to head over the actual on-line racing portion of the network. Here, you can start lobbies, join pre-existing lobbies and set the rules and regulations of each race. While the ability to race against other people over the PlayStation Network is a very nice feature, there are a lot of things missing at the moment. A shortcut command to easily invite your friends is absent, as was true matchmaking and a lot of the race restrictions we were hoping for.
Polyphony swears these much requested features are coming (potentially as soon as December) so we’ll hold off on giving a final verdict until after a few more patches, and after we have some more time with this portion.
The one thing that is worth noting, however, is how smooth the actual racing was. We very rarely ever ran in to lag of any kind and the majority of the races we took part in were silky smooth. This left a very good taste in our mouth because everything we’d like to see that’s not currently there can be patched in. Fixing a broken multiplayer component seems like a tougher challenge, so we’re thankful the racing already works so well.
It just so happens that a couple of us here at PS3 Attitude have already been lucky enough to acquire 3D T.V.’s so we’ll be able to talk about that as well. The end result after hours of wearing those massive shutter glasses are mixed, but interesting, none-the-less.
The idea of 3D is to give you extra depth and the 3D in Gran Turismo 5 certainly does that. It’s easier to see the apex of each corner and how far off a corner is, which does make for slightly better driving habits. This extra depth comes at a cost, however.
Both the performance and graphical dexterity take a hit when using 3D. The screen looks just a touch darker, textures in the distance appear very jagged, pop-up is a more prevalent problem and the already inconsistent frame rate takes an additional punch.
We’re probably making it out to be worse than it is but at some point when thinking of 3D, you’re going to have to make a choice about what’s more important to you. Better graphics and smoother performance, or an additional level of depth.
Even with all the mentioned issues above, the game certainly doesn’t look bad when using 3D, it’s just not nearly as pretty with the glasses on.
PlayStation Eye Support
Yet another Gran Turismo 5 feature is head tracking with the PlayStation Eye camera. Basically, you can set the eye camera up to look directly at your face, and then when you move your head slightly from side to side, the perspective of the camera moves with it.
Like 3D, we were a bit mixed on this one. For some of us, it worked extremely well and added another level of immersion. For others, it didn’t work properly, even after adjusting the many settings at your disposal. The camera seems to be very sensitive to light, when can be an issue depending on your set up.
Regardless of the function, the implementation is definitely flawed. Currently, the head tracking feature only works in Arcade mode, which isn’t where we spent that vast majority of our time. It seems like adding it to GT Life should be very easy – although comments have been made some kind of a memory restriction – but we’re not sure if we’ll ever see that changed. Until then, it’s cool when it works, but its use is certainly limited.
If you decide that you’re so in love with your cars that you just have to take pictures, Gran Turismo 5 allows you to do so. The amount of options and features for this mode is staggering. There is a truck-load of post-shot effects you can choose from, as well as a number of camera modifications you can make.
Despite having so many options, it can also be as simple as picking a setting (you start with only a few but unlock more as you win events) and taking the shot. Once you take it, you can either post it to your profile for all your friends to see, or you can even use it as your profile picture in GT Life.
In the grand scheme of things, this is only a very tiny piece of the Gran Turismo puzzle, but it’s certainly a neat addition and something we still go back to from to time.
One of the more talked about features of Gran Turismo 5 is the course creator. Coming in, we had hopes that this would be a full-fledged creation tool that could potentially provide endless replay value. Come to find out, it’s not quite as feature-packed as we would have liked.
Basically, the course creator allows you to create your own track from presets already within the game. The problem is that it holds your hand the entire way. You can’t specifically draw out where you want the track to go. You can only choose the setting, how many sections the track includes, the complexity of the sections and the width of the sections.
One of the more disappointing facts about the creator is that it can alter a section you already have in place when choosing the section that comes after it. You may have an exact hairpin just like you want it, but the game will change it to wide looping turn depending on the choices you make later on.
Even more disappointing is that you can’t currently race these tracks on-line against your friends. You can create them and send them to anyone you want, but it’s currently impossible to specify a created track when racing against human opponents on-line.
But, even with these drawbacks, the course creator we have in Gran Turismo 5 is still better than no course creator at all. If we’re to look at the glass as half full, we could say that the simplicity of this tool will allow anyone and everyone to create their own design… it’s just a shame we can’t race them together.
Gran Turismo T.V.
Our final feature to review is Gran Turismo T.V.. GT-TV is its own media library that you can access from the main menu. Once there, you can select from many different race/car-related videos to download or stream off the disc. Once you have them downloaded, you can even transfer them to a PSP.
There are a ton of these videos available for free (many in HD) and there are also a handful of actual race events that come for a small price. These events are currently only available in standard definition and run right around $2.99 USD for about a 30-45 minute clip. When purchasing these videos, the game accesses your PlayStation Network account and uses your most current form of payment.
Gran Turismo T.V. is really only going to appeal to the most hardcore racing fans but it’s very well put together and extremely usable for anyone that happens to check it out.
Patch 1.02 and the future
Before we could even finish this review there was already a patch available for download that answered some of our requests. 1.02 dropped on Saturday for both North American and Europe, and with it came a more stable on-line network and a few additional multiplayer features. You can now restrict the power-output and weight of your cars in multiplayer, which should make for some closer matches.
Polyphony themselves has said that there are many new things that will come to Gran Turismo 5 via patches, but below is a list of a few things we’d like to see.
- P.D. has already confirmed that matchmaking is coming but they haven’t specified how it will work. We’d love to see skill-based matchmaking as well as the traditional player matches.
- Currently, there is no XP system when racing on-line like there is in both A and B-Spec modes. We would enjoy having an on-line leveling system that shows our progression as we complete races.
- As we stated before, we would be thrilled if we could take those created courses and race them together on-line with our friends. Seems like it should be a simple addition.
- The ability to send invites to our friends, regardless of what kind of race or lobby we’re in.
- We would love to see a video editor added to the replay theater. Say you make an incredible 4 car-pass in just one corner; it would be great to edit and keep only small clips instead of an entire replay. The ability to string clips together and make them in to one big video would also be awesome.
- P.D. has also said that leaderboards are coming, but we’d like to see them take that one step further. How about, when you pass a friend on one of the leaderboards, it gives you the option to send an in-game message letting them know you’ve bested them. With all the work they’ve done on social integration and the in-game message system, this seems like a natural fit.
- Last, we were planning on requesting endurance races, but it seems they’re already there and we just can’t see them yet due to our rank. Check out this video to see for yourself.
Overall, the bulk of what you’re probably interested in came in part 1, but if nothing else, hopefully part 2 gives you an idea of just how massive this game actually is. Core mechanics aside, Gran Turismo 5 offers a plate of racing that’s absolutely stuffed from end to end, and the best part is that pretty much everything works exactly as it should. As with every game, we have things we’d like to see change, but the bottom line is that Gran Turismo 5 offers the best and most complete racing experience we’ve ever seen.