Gran Turismo 5 Spec II
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Platform: PlayStation 3
Mode(s): Single-player, muliplayer, online multiplayer
Gran Turismo is a series that has, until now, edged past me with a hand in front of its face muttering ‘Don’t notice me’. I don’t get involved in racing games much – I never even bothered to get a driving license. “But GT is a racing game and games are all about unrealistic, ridiculous fantasy,” I told myself. Gran Turismo Spec II‘s response was to shake it’s head slowly at my naivety.
The menu system in Gran Turismo 5 Spec II was both stylish and cool. It basically said, ‘You will take me seriously, no hijinks here thank-you-very-much’. However, a series of jargon-based menu options made it very difficult and complicated to navigate – I don’t know what A-Spec and B-Spec means in any context. It dawned on me that this game was meant for serious drivers who expected to use their genuine skill and knowledge of intricate car mechanics to play. I don’t even know which peddle in a car to push to go.
Eventually, I managed to navigate my way onto a race circuit – so confusing was this process that I contemplated laying breadcrumbs to find my way back. After doing so, I finally got my first good impression of the game, and it made up for everything thus far. The visuals were immense and the details on some of the cars could only be beaten if God showed you the convertible collection from his midlife crisis. The race circuits were very well designed, with surprisingly detailed city maps. I got a bit giddy when I recognised Trafalgar Square in London.
The driving itself was very technical and challenging. Gran Turismo 5 is far from being a childish racing game; it’s a driving simulator and a well thought out one at that. I started with the Beginner course and immediately came in first for three races. My technique was to drive very, very fast until I reached a corner, then plow head first into another car to level myself with the road. This worked very well at first, but I couldn’t help thinking, “This s**t won’t fly in harder races.” It didn’t.
As soon as I advanced to ‘Beginner Level 2′, things got real. Skill and technique were essential, making the game both challenging and rewarding. The only issues I had with the game were a poor computer AI and damage system – slamming into a wall at 90mph would result in an anti-climatic ‘thud’, like a toddler just kicked a football at the door. My technique of driving into opponents was surprisingly effective, because in Gran Turismo 5, smashing into other cars is about as damaging as being softly massaged by a newborn puppy.
Players also have the option of playing a manager who gives the driver instructions, which might appeal to those who love backseat driving. The multiplayer is very well thought out with its own little online community – but also tiresomely long to set up. You earn credits if you win (or don’t – I earned 2000 credits for coming in last), which you can use to buy upgrades and new cars. The sheer amount of cars available is staggering. Literally – if I wasn’t sitting down, I would have staggered. I bought the cheapest Toyota I could find and added a spoiler for no better reason than it made me feel awesome.
I have neither any idea what the upgrades did for my car, nor a clue as to which cars were better than the others. But I can see that, from the right point of view, this game is impressive. Driving in a personalised car vamped up with super engines through some amazing scenery holds appeal to everyone. If you can get yourself to understand it, you’ll be so pleased you won’t see the point in owning a real car.