Gran Turismo 5


Written by Chris Price
06 Monday 06th December 2010

As someone who lives and works in central London, I’m one of those smug bastards who declares at every available opportunity that 'I don’t need a car' and relishes rubbing in the fact I’m spending what car owners do on insurance and tax, on piddly crap that I don’t really need
(like video games - Ed). I can’t drive, I have no desire to learn, and any major automobile related activity is watching Clarkson and co. blow them up in Top Gear repeats. So how would a neophyte like me deal with playing the daddy of racing sims – self proclaimed ‘THE Driving Simulator”?

Gran Turismo has always been sold to me as a cautionary fairy tale. A taste you learn to appreciate in time, like European lager or smoking a pipe – “one day son, you’ll be ready to play GT”. Once Emporer of all it surveyed, the likes of Forza, Project Gotham, Burnout and F1 have seriously upped the ante over the last few years. And with GT5 having languished in development limbo for 6 years, Kazunori Yamauchi’s great white hope of the PS3 was on the verge of becoming a great white elephant.

The Gran Turismo franchise is very much the cerebral automotive engineer – a man who lives under the bonnet and breathes exhaust fumes – hands covered in oil, an ever meticulous tinker in search of tuned perfection. But therefore ultimately unsociable and cold, and destined to die alone in a garage, surrounded by copies of Auto Trader.

In Gran Turismo 5, the car’s the star. Or rather the cast. A frankly ridiculous roster of 1031 cars available, split into premium and standard variants - each complete with liner notes, stats, swatches – and around 170 with full interior rendering. It’s car porn on a brutal scale, with each vehicle lovingly rendered in over 200,000 polygons (compared to the 4000 or so last time round).

GT Mode is the RPG-esque heart of the game – from here you pick races, level up through a plethora of different series of races at
– racing against the elements, the clock, the computer or the internet. Much has been made of the menu system, being labeled both old-fashioned and unintuitive and along with the protracted loading times, it can prove slightly irritating.

Every single vehicle differs in handling and behaviour, with the advanced ability to tweak the minute aspects of the cars workings (weight ratios, aerodynamics, ride heights, camber angles, torque balance, gear ratios). In fact, an obscene level of tuning can be applied to each car – taking a busted up second hand Toyota and turning it into a fearsome piece of automotive win.

As a simulation of the real-life driving experience – I have no frame of reference. But the more fiery, intangible exhilaration of the driving experience I do. The feeling of power, speed and weight is definitely here, with a surprisingly arcade-esque handling feel. The inclusion of the handbrake (and drift races) nicely balances power and control, but the retrofit collision mechanic of cars bouncing and bumping off each other makes the tactic of knuckling into opponents on corners far too effective.

GT5’s payoff comes from perfection; the perfect lap, the perfect corner is where the game rewards the driver. With access to more powerful cars, the breaking zones (marked out on the ‘perfect race’ line on the track) are where you can show your skill and shave seconds off your lap times. Ironically, I had more fun nailing the basic roadcars than the concepts. It’s initial sedentary pace
encourages you to learn each track intimately for precision navigation.

The intro sequence sums up GT5 nicely – a photorealistic rendering of the production process, complete with a grainy wash to represent stock footage. It’s as engineered as its content, from its component raw materials to the finished production piece. It’s deceptively realistic – sometimes frighteningly so, but drops a clanger every now and then to remind you it’s still a game. In this respect, the odd chips on the finish evoke a degree of humanity. And perhaps that’s why I found it so enjoyable - It’s not perfect no matter how hard it strives to be – but for me, it’s as close as I’d want it to be. It’s hard not to be swept up with so much detail on offer. As far as judging its success? It got a bitter old arcade gamer like me interested in more subtle ‘art’ of driving. I think that has to be an enviable feat

Or maybe I’ve just reached that age where I can appreciate it.

Gran Turismo 5 is out now on PS3 exclusively.

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