Gran Turismo 5: Prologue - 25/04/2008

The Gran Turismo series has been the PlayStation's leading, racing franchise. With every iteration being as successful and more detailed than the last, will this latest instalment follow the trend, or be identical to its predecessors, but just more shiny?

Gran Turismo 5 Prologue has taken the same path as '4, by giving gamers the opportunity to play an early build of the latest title. Some could argue that it's just a cheap way to squeeze more cash out of us, but it's certainly working, and at only £17.99 in some online retailers, it's up high in the charts. The Gran Turismo games are not as arcadey as some of the other racers out in the gaming world at the moment, such as Need for Speed and Burnout to some extent. This can sway potential buyers in a different direction, but the simulation and likeness of race courses and cars is phenomenal.

Unfortunately there are no customisable options in the game (other than colours), which is a real shame, as there's nothing to differentiate your specific vehicle. The only thing to do is to save up for a certain car to race in. To purchase vehicles you need to obtain credits to spend; at the start of the game you will be given 32,000 credits to spend on any car which you can afford. There is a range of manufacturers to choose from, each containing several cars making Prologue's total over 60! The most interesting car would have to be the F1 Ferrari, which can reach speeds of well over 200mph and is the most realistically simulated.

There are many new features to the Gran Turismo series introduced in GT5 Prologue which include GT News, GT Online (more on this later) and GT TV. Both of these new additions are online orientated with GT TV allowing you to download video clips of the Polyphony team hard at work on the race track and in the office. In the full retail version of GT5, shows such as Top Gear and many Japanese car programmes will be downloadable straight off for a small price. GT News gives you access to articles on the game and car manufacturers, focusing on giving information on updates as well. These features are another excellent add-on to further improve the series and push the games in a new, unique and user friendly way.

The cars really are photo-realistic in game.

The main aim of this game is to race, earn credits to buy other cars, and race some more. It may not sound exciting, but when you throw in online multiplayer, event and arcade style races, you're in for a real treat! The event races should be much more welcomed than GT4's as they contain no driving licences to acquire to enter specific races. There are 3 classes of races: C for beginners, B for the intermediates and finally A; for the experts. The first few races can be very challenging (especially if you've been used to drifting sideways around tight corners in other racing games!), but after you get used to the controls and other aspects of the game you'll be whizzing through races before you can say 'vroom'. The controls are similar to the previous instalments with X as accelerate, square as brake, O as handbrake, L1 to look behind and select to change views. These work wonders if you're a long-time fan of this popular series, but most next-gen games are using R2 or a trigger button to accelerate and this can take a while to get used to. The new views really show off the game's graphical quality and the PS3's potential. With a brand new game engine to execute photo realistic graphics on the vehicles and scenery, it really is stunning to watch.

The game has many good qualities but unfortunately, many bad as well. One of the major issues with Prologue is that it has a lack of modes and tracks. Sure, it's not the full version but why do they need to release this, unless it's great? The 6 races that you can zoom around in are the Daytona Speedway, The Fuji Speedway (available in GT and F1 variations), the High Speed Ring, Eiger Nordway (first seen in GT HD) and the Suzuka Japanese circuit. All are very detailed and contain some tricky hair-pins or tight turns (except the Daytona Oval) to master and learn throughout the course of the game (no pun intended).

Another flaw in this otherwise great game is the feel of the cars. When you overtake 5 cars in a single loop in the Daytona Oval by using the latest Ferrari, it should feel fast at least, but the when you are going at 180mph, it only looks like about 60! There are no effects like blurring on the screen or loud engine noises, just the gentle humming of the throttle. It doesn't seem natural and ruins some of the impact that the game could have on racing fans. It isn't all bad as the F1 car sounds and handles like the real thing, it's just some of the other cars like the Jaguars who sound like babies and seem to move as slow as a 3D Sonic the Hedgehog compared to the snarl of the Ferrari F2007!

The lack of tracks and variety in them is disappointing.

The AI is another fault for the game as it sticks to the driving line at all times, unless they are overtaking. This can prove to make the game less challenging as you can just stick to the very inside of the race courses without being bumped and gain lots of slipstream. It also makes the game feel very on-rails for most of the time.

The presentation of the game is marvellous, from shimmering bonnets, to loud engine growls, this game looks great compared to most of Sony's efforts and fits right up there with Uncharted. The sound may be a little lacklustre and contain old tunes like the Klaxon's very own Golden Skans. The menus are slick and fluent with some relaxing piano music in the background, and temperature and times for the displayed city or town in the foreground in which your selected car is randomly parked.

You'll soon find a favourite track and car.

Gran Turismo 5 Prologue adds online multiplayer into the mix for the first time to let you challenge racers from all around the world. In short it's just exactly like the single player, only you're playing against real people (obviously!) with the same tracks and vehicles that you can use, only with lots of lag for certain competitors. These are very common, found in most races and are easy to spot. If you see a person fly off in one direction at extremely high speeds (sometimes in the air!) and turn in a strange fashion, they'll be experiencing lag. If you just so happen to touch their vehicle you'll also be hurled into a weird vortex of crashes and chaos. It may be fun, but can also be annoying if you bump into one on your last lap when you are in the lead!

Overall though, this game is worthy of the GT franchise. It's not bad, but it's not as good as it could be. Whether it's down to being a prologue or just the lack of new features for the series, we will find out for sure where the next-gen GT series is heading in early 2009 when Gran Turismo 5 is finally released.

Sam Foster



Sony CE
Polyphony Digital