Gran Turismo 5: Prologue Demo Impressions - 06/11/2007

For those of you that haven't got a Japanese PlayStation Store account, the Gran Turismo 5 Prologue demo has been released quite a while before the game is due out on our shores, and we've given it a complete playtest.

To summarise it in short before I go into detail, GT5 Prologue has amazing graphics, great handling, and a sense of weight, great presentation, and all of this in a highly respectable 736mb. The real driving simulator is back!

Gran Turismo has been Sony's representative for the racing genre since the dawn of time. Its unrivalled car models, and prior to next-gen, the complete lack of competitors who take themselves seriously, has sprung GT to the top of the pile. Then along came Forza, the Gran Turismo of Xbox, with its great graphics, ace online mode, and brilliant car customization features. Now it's time for GT to reclaim it's thrown. In the early days, Polyphonic kept rushing GT onto shelves to meet tight deadlines. Often hindering the series growth. This time round though, Polyphonic have decided on taking their time - tweaking the game to perfection. GT5, the proper version, has been pushed back, not delayed, but pushed back time and time again to meet everyone's high standards. To almost whet our appetite, they've decided to release a prologue version of the game. But this isn't to be confused with a shoddy game where all you do is collect needless licenses. Ala GT4 Prologue.

According to recent reports, it will feature over 40 meticulously detailed cars - including fully licensed vehicles by Ferrari (for the first time in the series), Lotus and Nissan - for users to race on five beautifully rendered tracks from around the globe. Also, online will make its GT debut, with 16 player races, and online leaderboards to quench your thirst for being the best. Sony's heavily touted 1080p goodness will be an option in the game too. Excited yet?

The graphics on this demo are awesome. No buts. The lighting effects are amazing, with light reflecting off the cars, and depending on the time of day, you can actually see the cars behind you on your rear end. That's the end of the car, not your driver. And in replays you can see that the rear view mirror is fully functioning, in that you can see everything that the mirror is reflecting, depending on the angle you're viewing it from. The models are perfect too, not one gripe. They are immense.

Another thing that's immense, is how the cars feel different to each other. You can feel the weight of the cars when you're driving. When you get the demo, or when you get the disc version, try this:

Race a few races with the default car on the demo, the Nissan GT-R Black Mask, and then quickly switch over and use the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Can you feel it? Not only do they handle completely differently, but this isn't down to stats like Handling 9 and Brake 5. This is down to weight, weight distribution, torque, how strong the brakes are...etc. It's a boy racers dream, that's what it is.

The only track previously shown for GT5 was the Eiger track on GT: HD, but alas that has gone, and a more familiar 'grass-and-sand' circuit has been introduced. It's one of those tracks where some corners you can cut straight though without losing much speed, which basically sums up one of the very last bends, and some corners you have to take professionally, or you go bobbling and spinning over the sand at the edge of the track. The punishment is there, but if you drive wisely, you can do some real cheeky stuff. For example, instead of using your old-fashioned 'brakes', you can choose to risk it and plough at 150mph+ into the car in front. With the desired effect sending you onto the right line, and sending them into the wall.

It is fairly easy though, as I've come first place in every race I've played, minus my very first one where I pressed R2 to accelerate instead of X. And, speaking of buttons. I figured out how to map the controls to how you like it, although it takes some Japanese memorization skills. If you go into options, and scroll through until you get a picture of a SIXAXIS controller, then you can pick and choose, one button at a time, what you want them to do. But it's all in Japanese. So, the trick is to look at what 'X' says it does, memorise it, then click R2 and choose the same symbols. Do the same for square, and brake, and voila. Finito.

There are a few bad points though. When you're racing you never really get a sense of speed, like you would do in Burnout, or Need for Speed, for example. It's all well and good having 176mph on the speedometer, but if you can't actually sense how fast you are going, it takes away from the overall state of mind. But stick some 'driving music' on, the latest Foo Fighters album, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, in my case, and that soon leaves your mind. Plus, there's no damage, but we all knew that, didn't we?

And that's about it, not much to say about a series that everyone who's anyone has played.

This shows great promise for GT5 Prologue, and Polyphonic have said that they would love to release a damage download on the store. So, if that's possible, then just think of what GT5'll be like. If they sort out the sense of speed issues: perfection.

- Tyler Roberts



Sony CE
Polyphony Digital