Having had it for just over a week, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts on my experiences of Gran Turismo 5, a game I have actually been looking forward to for quite a few years, about 12 in fact. Way back in 1999 I enjoyed playing GT2, I remember that I bought a second hand Toyota as my first car, and tricked it out pretty much as far as it would go. I don’t remember any other cars, but that one stays with me. The PlayStation I used went off to a new home in early 2000 and that was that. I bought an original X-Box (for the sole purpose of modifying it to run as a media player) and then got into Project Gotham Racing 2 (PGR2) which was fun, but lacked something on GT2. Anyway, since I acquired my PS3 a couple of years ago as a Blu-Ray and Media player, I’ve been waiting for the next installment of GT. A friend did lend me GT Prologue for a bit, and I felt that wasn’t quite the same. And now GT5 is here and I’ve had a chance to explore it some.

The first thing to note is that with GT5, all the old magic is back – you can buy a second hand car, tweak it here, trim the weight there, upgrade a part, and paint it blue if you so wish. In fact as a broad overview, game play wise it all seems very familiar. I know they’ve added a B-spec mode and the only attraction of that as far as I can see is to make money without actually having to drive all the time. I haven’t ventured into the online world mainly because I’m not much of an online gamer, so that’s of variable interest for me. In other respects it all seems so so familiar. Of course there is only so much you can do with a racing sim after all its errr racing, but I thought that 12 years on might have brought something more.

Licenses

As with GT2 of old, there are several licenses you can complete, and if you don’t, I assume you don’t get to take part in some races or drive some cars. I say assume because as yet I haven’t, to my knowledge, hit a restriction based on licenses. So far I’ve qualified for 4 of the 6, each of which has 10 ‘tests’. The format tends to be that the first 9 tests are specific manouvres you have to get right within a certain time, with gold, silver and bronze standards, and the last one being a race with your finishing place determining your ranking.

To be honest, I’m not sure that there is any point to the license system, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the level required to get a bronze pass is, in most tests, so low my mother could probably do it. Most of them I was able to do at the first or second attempt, with a couple of notable exceptions – and this means that for the most part getting a license is easy, which makes it a bit of a box ticking exercise.

The second reason I don’t like the license system is that ‘for the most part’  part of the last sentence. While most of the tests are pretty straightforward, there are a few which are frankly ridiculous. A great example of this is being able to get a Silver award for every test in one license, and then finding the last race needed to complete the license next to impossible. Today I completed all of the International-A license (the 5th of the 6) bar the last one in about an hour or so. I have yet to finish the last test after about an hours frustrated game time on that alone. The balance is just completely wrong – spending an hour doing the same thing over and over again is simply not fun. This inconsistency between some tests being quite easy and one or two being insanely hard is immensely frustrating since you have to pass the hard ones to progress.

This is made worse by the design of the tests such that if you come off the track, or bump something too hard (or another car bumps you), you have to immediately stop and restart the test. Oh and each test is done in a different car whic hyou might be completely unfamiliar with, and there is no ‘practice mode’ that allows you to make mistakes but carry on to get experience. For the short tests this is tolerable, but for the end of license races it is a real pain – if you over shoot one corner you get to start all over again.

In my case today, I got to spend an hour or so trying to drive a high power Lambourghini from 16th to 7th in 2 laps. I had to stop after an hour because I was in danger of throwing my controller at the screen. Having never driven the Lambourghini it was a completely new car to me, very high powered and surprisingly skittish under heavy braking, and a real pain for me to master, especially since I had to keep restarting every time I misjudged how the car would behave.

So despite getting roughly 2 Gold, 35 silver and 12 Bronze passes so far, that last stupidly tricky race is stopping me progressing. I’m sure I’ll get there eventually but it won’t be for fun. It’s not fun endless repeating the same part of the game.

The final main reason I don’t like the licenses is down to the AI in those tests which feature other cars, but that’s a general problem I’ll cover next.

AI

The most important factor in a race, other than yourself, is then opposition. If you don’t have any opposition you don’t have a race. So how does the opposition stack up in GT5. The answer is not so well, at least in the races I’ve driven in so far. The main problem is that the AI cars seem too tightly scripted – they don’t respond to how you are driving or what you are doing. Drive the same race several times and watch how the cars move when the race starts – it’s predictable, way too predictable. I’ve got to ‘professional level’, level 14 races and so far although the general speed of the AI cars round the track is better, the basic premise remains the same, in that the AI isn’t really that intelligent. This means they don’t fight to defend position, and you can’t pressure or force them into moves – you just have to learn how that drive that specific race.

The sad thing is I seem to remember the same thing with GT2, which was understandable given the consoles of the time. It’s not so understandable some 12 years later. Frankly the AI lets the game down more than anything else, in my opinion.

The Interface