The title that the PS3 has been waiting for or a glorified demo that is a shameless cash in on a game starved community? Depending on how much time you give the game you could easily walk away with either impression.
Playing GT5 Prologue brings back a lot of memories. Lovely menu’s, soft jazz elevator music playing in the background and some slow cars to get you into the game. It’s always wrong to judge Gran Turismo titles on initial play as it usually has real depth that unveils as you play more. However in single player, playing though the first three classes is fairly dull. I don’t think I played a challenge more than twice to complete it until I hit A class. Even then the only reason was to get money to buy cars to complete challenges. What a grind. This was supposed to be a racing game, not a grind game. It took a long time of repetitive gaming to get enough money to buy cars to complete A class.
However completing A class open’s up a far more interesting game. S class is unlocked and also car tuning. Suddenly the tweaking that is the heart of getting fast times and better handling out of cars is available throughout the game. I can’t understand why the dev’s would want to lock this out until now. The earlier modes aren’t that challenging and quite a few people will never even get to see this part of the game due to boredom of having to grind.
S class is excellent though. Fast cars and some great challenges. Also excellent are the car models and the variety. For a cut down game there’s more than enough to keep you occupied including a 2007 F1 Ferrari. It only costs £2,000,000 though so it’s something I’ll never probably see. Graphically the car models are stunning – far more impressive than Forza 2. Not so impressive are the tracks. They range from good (as in almost as good as Forza) to poor. Some graphical glitches and vsync issues mar some tracks. There are also only six tracks so not much variety. Remember though that this is prologue only though.
One of the big claims from Polyphony is around the online modes. In fact there have been claims that this is the best online console racer. Ever. With races of up to 16 players it sounded good on paper but in practice it’s pretty ugly. Firstly there are no private rooms, no friends lists and a real lack of community. This will be fixed in a patch. Allegedly. Online works by offering events that you can take part in. Early events use slower cars. People taking shortcuts or barging into others aren’t penalised. There’s also the issue of no car damage and also the fact that on many courses, not slowing into corners and using the barriers to keep you on the track is the fastest route. Cue online gaming at it’s worst. If there is a collision the two cars go invisible to limit damage. I was amazed as someone raced into the back of me, us going transparent and him keeping most of his speed (don’t think he touched his brakes at all) and continuing to drive through me. Unbelievable. Damage is also promised later in the year.
S class events offered some hope in that people taking to grass and barriers are punished by slowing their car for 4-5 seconds. Except that people shunted off track by idiots are the ones punished…not the real cheaters. Hopefully Polyphony will fix this before the proper game. They’ve allegedly got a year.
Something they don’t need to address though is the car handling which is superb. Each car handles and feels differently but feels…right. However it doesn’t feel any better than Forza 2. Computer AI is abysmal though. Awful in fact. AI cars will continue on their path no matter what’s in there way. Polyphony also added events like AI cars spinning out during a race. This is spoiled though when you realise that offline events are scripted. Every race is the same. A car putting a wheel on the dirt and kicking up dirt does it on the same track at the same corner at the same time each and every race. Really takes away from the atmosphere.
So it’s really a mixed bag. Give up before S class and your left with a pretty bad taste. Grind out some money though and there’s a really enjoyable racer hidden away. Just don’t expect much online. Also, don’t buy via download which costs £24.99 while the Blu-Ray disk costs around £18 online. So much for digital distribution reducing costs. More like increasing profits. One final thought. This isn’t a console seller. If you’ve already got a 360 then Forza 2 is a far better game. Next year when the full GT5 is launched could be a different story.