Gran Turismo 5: The Real Driving Simulator?

Gran Turismo 5Anyone even remotely connected to the world of video games will have heard of the name Gran Turismo. The series has become synonymous with sheer virtual motoring pleasure and perfection.

The latest in the series is Gran Turismo 5 for the Playstation 3. Now why, you may wonder is an examination and review of a video game appearing on a site dedicated to the automobile? Well firstly as an avid video gamer and car nut I’m very much qualified to provide recommendation and comparison between the two and secondly its way more relevant than say, perusing the opinions of a pretty girl who doesn’t have a drivers license.

So let’s take a brief look at GT5’s creation. It’s been six years in the making, so long ago in fact I can only vaguely remember the announcement back during the beginnings of my varsity career. Gran Turismo 5’s creator, one Kazunori Yamauchi is well documented for his love of motoring; in fact he has even gone on record as saying “When we released Gran Turismo® back in 1998, we started a journey that was to become a life’s work”. And he has certainly kept himself busy over the past few years, with this, the latest installment in the GT series sporting just over a whopping 1000 cars. Being the perfectionist he is coupled with his passion for motorsport, it’s no wonder his goal was to “make the most realistic and entertaining racing experience possible”.

However, presumably as a fellow car enthusiast, you have of course read this far to find out how Gran Turismo 5 stacks up and not wade through the life ethos of a man whom you’ve no doubt never heard of. Luckily there is good news, car lovers. Just as in the world of motoring, there is much to love and much to hate about GT5. We all want to own a classic car, muscle car or even supercar. Maybe we desire to be the proud, but frustrated owner of an Alfa Romeo, even while on the side of the road, hidden from site by the cloud of steam billowing forth from the bonnet. My point is that the joy of motoring is in the ups and downs, something only a true enthusiast would understand.

The downs in this case are some fundamentals of the game. Long load times, clunky menu systems and impractical online interfaces and lobby are all things GT5 has been slammed for by reviewers across the world. And yet for all its imperfections, I have been hooked on GT5 now for well over a month.

Gran Turismo 5Why you ask? Well it’s simple. This is far and away the best video game simulation of tarmac driving I have ever come across. Not  driving I’m afraid, that title has to go to Richard Burns Rally, a game portraying the whole experience and feel of rallying.

No, what GT5 does with sublime perfection is handling and control. This is a game that rewards players who have knowledge of racing lines, breaking zones, and can discuss at length the importance of entry and exit speeds. For those who can master throttle control, perfect the art of overtaking and learn the skills of driving in a multitude of motorsport disciplines, GT5 opens up a whole new world of motoring heaven.

Replays of your performance are an absolute joy to watch, if just to witness how the car rides over bumps, shifts weight through cornering and reacting to jumping on the brake pedal with all the exuberance of an exceptionally excitable puppy. Every one of the thousand plus cars handles with its own unique character, whether it be the tail happy, but highly entertaining Lotus Elise 111R or the hugely fast, but insanely scary Pagani Zonda R requiring your full attention at all times just to keep something resembling a straight line, every petrol head is bound to find they just cannot get enough.

Personally the Lotus Elise 111R is by far my favourite and just a joy to drive. Stick it on racing slicks and you’ll have a car underneath you that grips like there is no tomorrow, turning in sharply and flying through the bends. Back on comfort tires however and boy does it become a different animal, back end stepping out round every bend, creating achingly beautiful power slides, perfectly controllable and hugely fun, the like of which cannot help but put the biggest smile on even the saddest of clowns.

Ok I’ll try rein in my enthusiasm just a bit and wrap this up. There are plenty of excellent racing games out there, so why exactly should this one take the crown of king of the racing game simulations? What exactly makes this one so special? Well if you have no true passion for cars and your idea of a racing game is Need For Speed, well then this definitely is not for you and should be avoided at all costs. However for those of us who do and get a primeval thrill from driving, then to you GT5 will be master of all, for any flaws in the game’s design are far out shadowed by the genius that shines through.

Gran Turismo 5 is a beauty that hath much strangeness to its proportion.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Nick Hodgson

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