Gran Turismo 5: Prologue
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Publisher: SCEE
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-2, 2-16 system link & online racing
Words By:

10 Years. That’s a long time, isn’t it? Think of it in terms of videogames and it’s a goddamn eternity. 10 years’ worth of massive hardware leaps, equally massive software and middleware progression.

So why is it, then that 10 years after Gran Turismo first appeared on the PlayStation (1997 in Japan) and we’re up to the 5th iteration, it feels like nothing’s moved on barring the resolution and polygon counts?

The GT games ALWAYS had the best lighting effects and car models, and that’s almost still the case here, but with games like the Project Gotham and Forza series moving everything forward in terms of their looks (as well as other stuff, which we’ll get to in a bit), the advantage that GT had in terms of aesthetics is somewhat diminished.

Okay, let’s get real for a minute: nobody’s saying that GT5: Prologue is anything more than a glorified demo of what’s to come in the full-fat GT5, but at around £25.00 RRP, it’s not exactly a freebie demo, so can’t be judged with the same level of latitude afforded to a free demo or work in progress, and that’s why this review isn’t going to be making Polyphony Digital sing from the rooftops.

The “career” progression is obviously stunted in comparison with a full game, but, unfortunately it’s also as dumb as a bag of hammers; if you (like me) didn’t take the time to look at which cars HAVE to be used in some of the early races and plump for a car that you just like in real life instead of the car(s) that would let you zoom through the whole of Class C with the bare minimum or purchases, then you’re gonna end up with not much cash in the bank for the stuff you’re going to need in Classes B, A and S. The prize money awarded is so low that you’re going to be wanting to buy the absolute bare minimum of cars in order to progress, or else have to race the same low-speed races over and over and over again in order to build up your funds; a pretty stupid idea in a game that’s always been about the car collecting rather than customisation.

Now, back to that whole “10 years of progress” thing. Here we are in 2008, with beauties like Forza 2, PGR 4 and DiRT all offering stunningly lit and constructed car models…but also with rather lovely (if mostly aesthetic only) damage modelling, or, in the case of Burnout Paradise (admittedly, not real world cars, but pretty nonetheless) astonishingly intricate crash physics, and then GT5: Prologue comes along with not even rudimentary damage modelling. No matter what anybody says, crashing into a wall or another car on a Next Gen console quite simply has to have some kind of visual degradation to the car model(s). The excuse that Polyphony used years ago (the car manufacturers wouldn’t allow it) has since proved to be complete bunkum – so where’s the damage? Is it likely to appear in the full GT5? Honestly, I doubt it, but would love to be proved wrong, and if it is, what would be the point of releasing a taster without this key feature in it?

Then we move on to 10 years’ worth of AI routine progression…or not. The AI in GT5: Prologue is the best of any GT game, but it’s still not fabulous; start a race, watch where the AI cars go, restart the race and watch as they do exactly the same thing all over again. You will seldom see them overtaking each other, and they will only fight you for position in as much as they’ll try and stay on their (predetermined) racing line – hardly aggressive or intelligent, is it? Admittedly, once you get to the “S” Class races, things DO tend to get tougher, but it just feels like the volume’s been turned up on the existing AI, rather than more “Intelligence” being applied.

The visuals of the cars are certainly lovely, but the backgrounds are, for some reason, and even with crowds milling around and reacting, fairly sterile. Also, the much vaunted “16 cars on track” boast isn’t without its drawback – most noticeably, some rather horrible slowdown on the most powerful console in the Universe.

GT5P's online mode is a painfully slow affair, and once you get there it doesn’t get any better; lag abounds with cars either skipping randomly all over the track or just plain driving right through you – not what I’d expect after however many years of playing the PGR games online on the Xbox and 360.

I could talk about genuine innovations to the series like the Quick Tune option or GTTV, but what’s the point when the very basics are so sadly lacking behind EVERY other major driving franchise out there? With GRID on the horizon as well, unless the full version of GT5 pulls some major rabbits out of the hat, I’m afraid that the GT series will still be living in the late '90s rather than the 21st Century. I’m not blind to the fact that there’s a lot of people out there who almost treat the GT games as a kind of interactive showroom, and, for those people this is going to satisfy their needs, but for those of us who like our racing games to be thrilling as well as pretty, we’ll be getting our thrills elsewhere.

Please note that if this was a free demo (like GT HD Concept), or even a demo with an RRP of £4.99 rather than £24.99 it may well have scored an extra point simply for value for money, but as a standalone game at nearly full price it deserves the score it gets.

Best Bits

- Looks nice
- Quick Tune
Worst Bits

- No damage modelling
- Predictable AI
- Dumb career progression
- Feels sterile

by: Juz

Copyright © Gamecell 2008