Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 04/15/08 | Genre: Driving
Since the original Gran Turismo was released on the PlayStation, gamers around the world have been given a license to drive one of the most realistic driving simulations. As new console cycles were released, the team at Polyphony Digital worked hard at using their resources in creating a visually more stunning and more refined driving simulation experience. Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments with the PlayStation 3 launch was the lack of a Gran Turismo title. Despite a free HD Concept demo released last holiday season, the team has delayed the retail release of Gran Turismo 5 until an undisclosed date in the future. As a sign of goodwill to the community, Polyphony Digital has released a version of GT5 to tie us over until the final product ships. Even with a reduced price point, is there enough content to justify a purchase?
With the release of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, this is the first time that the North American audience has seen one of the Prologue versions released. Polyphony Digital has always been one to take a long time in developing their GT titles and the Prologue versions were seen as a way for them to give the players a taste of what the final experience should be like. And with just a taste of the experience, the retail price is also significantly less. Players can find Gran Turismo 5 Prologue available on a retail Blu-ray disk or as a direct download on the PlayStation Network. Regardless of which option the player chooses, both versions run an identical $39.99. The difference is that with the disk version, you get some additional content.
At first glance, it is easy to see that the team over at Polyphony Digital have been hard at work in creating one of the most beautiful games ever seen on the PlayStation 3. Even when playing in a split-screen two player session, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue does not slow down at all. Players have a variety of different camera angles to choose from but I prefer staying in the default. You really get a sense of driving at high speeds and the feeling of what it is like to race.
But before you can look at these amazing visuals and begin to appreciate the gameplay, players must first select a car. This is where the first big issue in GT5P shows up. The menus are very outdated and slow. Moving between each menu option requires a slight load time. Since the PlayStation 3 has a hard drive and the game is available for download, I do not understand how there could be any delays in loading up menus. Despite this, players start off with 35,000 in credits to select a car. Once the menu loads you can go and select the car of your choice from the dealer if it is 35,000 or less. This will leave you with only a few options. However, after winning a few races, you will be back for another car.
Another issue with Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is the lack of direction once completing a race. Even if you are not a hardcore simulation racer, you probably will place in the top three during your first few races. Upon completion of this, I was given a trophy and expected the game to give me a button to go to the next race or return me to the race selection screen. However, the only options given are to watch the replay, save your replay, start, or exit. Clicking start will cause you to race the same race again--while exit returns you to the main menu.
I may not be an expert in game design but this is a completely broken system because players have to go three different menus, waiting for each of them to load, before getting into another race. Also, some races require specific vehicles to participate in. You cannot change your vehicle one the race selection screen but only from the Garage option of the main menu.
These are all really minor gripes but really take away from the beauty of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. When the final product ships, I hope and pray that the developers will take the same time and care they did with the visuals and apply that same touch to the interface.
Players expecting to see a lineup of 700+ vehicles to choose from may also be slightly disappointed in the 70+ cars found in GT5P. While this could be added to via downloadable content in the future, such add-on packs would probably cost an additional amount of money and only include a few cars. We fully expect to see a large lineup of vehicles for the final release of Gran Turismo 5.
In addition to the upgraded visuals, another added bonus of GT5P is the AI. While still not perfect, the computer controlled vehicles will attempt to get around you--even avoiding the preferred line to do so. You won't, however, find many AI controlled vehicles driving offensively. This can work in your favor--especially on races where you need to drive aggressively to win a race. I am hopeful that there will be more variety in the AI for the final release of GT5.
Even with a lower number of vehicles to choose from, it will take players a little bit of time to unlock all of them. However, the tracks will not take very long to unlock. Despite the low number of courses and smaller number of vehicles, I really have enjoyed my time in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. In fact, I found that have less options and features actually benefited me because I have never been a really hardcore simulation driver. Despite my love for arcade-style racing (or just call me a Mario Kart fanboy), I found that this is the most approachable version of GT that I have ever played. For the first time, I really felt like I was accomplishing something in this hardcore simulation.
There is an online mode in GT5P. However, it can be a laggy experience. There is also no real way to play against friends with any sort of matchmaking system. Sadly it appears as if Microsoft and American/European developers are the only ones in the industry who truly understand how to make an online experience. This is largely due to the fact that we have had PC gaming performing these types of online modes for many years. While it is a bit up in the air if Polyphony Digital will integrate a better online experience for the final release of Gran Turismo 5, we can only assume the rest of the world will ultimately catch up to the western developers in terms of online play sometime this console generation.
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is probably about ten dollars overpriced. However, I feel this way about the majority of console games this generation. That said, if you are looking for a solid racing simulation for your PlayStation 3, you should definitely pick up a copy of GT5P. However, if you are a casual fan or don't want to replay races, this game would probably better serve you as a rental. For me, I feel it is worth a purchase and a spot in your library until the final version of Gran Turismo 5 arrives.