Review: Gran Turismo 5 Prologue

GT5 Pro_PS3_pkg front.jpg Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is just a demo. I’ve heard that criticism so much it makes me ill. Let me set the record straight right now, dammit! GT5P is NOT a demo, and to characterize it as such is a grave undervaluing of what the game has to offer. Sure, it’s not the full-blown Gran Turismo 5 experience that’s still to come – hence Sony’s addition of Prologue to the title and reduced asking price – but with 70 cars, six tracks (each with either a mirrored or alternate layout), 16-player online, a host of offline modes and some other cool features like GT-TV (an online portal delivering various behind-the-scenes video content), it’s far from being just a flimsy demo.

To further illustrate my point, take a look at Gran Turismo HD Concept. Do you remember it? It had like one track, 10 cars and a barebones mode lineup. Now that was a demo, folks. See the difference?

Okay, now that I’ve got that little rant out of my system (sorry, I’ve just grown so tired of hearing everyone rip the game for being a “demo”), let’s move on to the game itself. Overall, GT5P is typical Gran Turismo through and through. If you’ve played HD Concept in particular, you’ll notice numerous similarities in the interface design and some of the modes.

GT5P offers quite a bit of material to take in. Modes include Arcade, which houses Single Race, Time Trial and Drift Trial modes, 2P Battle for head-to-head split-screen racing, and the two headliners: online play and the Events mode. The online mode is without question the main draw here considering this is the first game in the franchise to feature such functionality, and for the most part it doesn’t disappoint.

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While the online model is pretty basic – there are no lobbies, you simply log on, choose an event type and you’re automatically matched up – it performs very well and finally gives GT nuts a chance to prove their automotive skills against real competition. After a rocky start around launch time, the online performance has proven to be rock-steady. I’ve been racing online almost daily the past couple of weeks and haven’t seen even a blip of lag or been disconnected a single time. I think that’s an impressive feat given the game’s astounding graphical fidelity and support for simultaneous 16-player races. What’s more, racing online rewards credits for use in purchasing new cars while offline, which is an extra bit of incentive I personally appreciate. I hate online games that offer no reward for your time investment. I have to be earning something to make it worthwhile, and thankfully GT5P fulfills this demand.

Offline, the main play mode is Events, a tier-based career mode of sorts taking you through four progressively difficult tiers. Each tier consists of 10 events, and by earning bronze, silver or gold trophies in each event the next tier of events becomes unlocked. Completing every event is a challenge (the AI is clearly a step up from past games) and takes many hours behind the wheel to do, and that’s all you can really ask for.

The actual racing in GT5P is, as expected, truly sublime. The physics and controls are unmatched, and the level of immersion provided by the new cockpit camera perspective is downright awe-inspiring – the game would be completely forgettable without it, frankly speaking. Teamed up with a nice HD display, surround-sound, and the new Driving Force GT wheel from Logitech (read my impressions here), GT5P is the most realistic, immersive console racing experience money can buy. Seeing the amount of care and authenticity Polyphony Digital put into recreating each and every car’s dashboard and body design shows an attention to detail you just don’t find any many other games.

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That said, one glaring flaw that has always been a banana in the franchise’s tailpipe is now more prevalent as a weakness than it’s ever been. I’m referring to the lack of damage modeling, of course. When you’ve got such realistic physics and incredible graphical quality, not having damage modeling becomes dramatically pronounced, especially when every other racer this generation has it in comparison. Because there’s no fear of denting up your ride, barreling full speed into a tight corner crowded with other racers actually turns into this sort of bumper-car tactic that can be utilized to get an advantage.

Another element that’s missing from Prologue is a car part upgrade system. After completing the third tier in the Events mode, a new Quick Tune feature becomes available for you to adjust various performance settings before a race, but it just doesn’t deliver the same satisfaction of customizing your cars with actual parts.

But other than these shortcomings, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is a masterful production. It’s got plenty of content and value to justify the $40 price and is just plain superior to any other racing sim this generation, even if it is “just a demo” like so many critics keep saying.

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Pros:
+ Though basic, the 16-player online is good fun and runs smoothly
+ Benchmark-setting graphics and audio
+ New cockpit camera is unbelievably immersive
+ Still the best simulation racing physics and controls in the business

Cons:
– Lack of damage modeling more noticeable than ever
– No parts upgrading and customization

Game Info:
Platform: PS3 (in both Blu-ray and PSN downloadable forms)
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Release Date: 4/15/08 on Blu-ray, 4/17/08 on PSN
Genre: Racing
Players: 1-16

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!