PS3 Preview

Gran Turismo 5

The Time Trial and beyond

It's hard to believe but Gran Turismo 5 was actually officially announced way back in 2006. Almost four years and one stop gap release in the form of GT5 Prologue later and we're finally closing in on the release of Kazunori Yamauchi's much anticipated racer. With a development team that was reportedly over one hundred and twenty people strong at one point and a rumoured budget of approximately 60 million USD there's a certain amount of pressure on the good people of Polyphony Digital to deliver a Gran Turismo not only worthy of the name but of the wait.

On the face of it GT fans, and indeed racing game fans, have a lot to be excited about. GT5 is set to feature roughly one thousand cars including models from Lamborghini and Bugatti fresh from their debut in the recent GT PSP. Other cars sure to get petrol heads mouths watering include the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG and Ferrari's new 458 Italia. Those keen to monitor even their virtual carbon footprint will be pleased to see the inclusion of the latest hybrid and electric cars too, the exciting Tesla Roadster the pick of the bunch. With all those cars to play with you'll be wanting plenty of road to drive them down and once again Polyphony Digital are going all out to please with seventy circuits based on over twenty tracks due to be included on the disk. These will include real world offerings like Daytona International Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Nurburgring Nordschleife alongside the famous BBC Top Gear test track at Dunsfold Park, which should please a lot of people.

Along with the impressive sounding content, as always, it's the driving experience itself that's key to the success of any GT game. The sense of realism when you're behind the wheel and the ability to fiddle with a myriad of car settings are as much part of GT as the cars and tracks themselves. Thankfully GT5 promises to deliver here too with an overhauled driving model that takes full advantage of the PS3 to simulate each and every car in more detail than ever before while offering more setup options than most people will ever need or understand.

It's not all just more of the same but bigger and better though, there's new stuff promised too. The inclusion of World Rally Championship, NASCAR and Super GT licenses is a big plus for those of us keen on more combinative racing and there's a whole new online mode with support for up to sixteen players in there as well.

Possibly the most interesting new feature to look out for in GT5 though is the inclusion, at last, of damage modelling for all the cars. Early reports indicate it's perhaps not as visually spectacular as other games, for a start production cars will exhibit less damage than their racing counterparts for some reason. However, this being GT, the effect of bumps, scrapes and full on crashes on your car's handling and performance promises to be far more realistic. Track side details like tire walls also join in the fun with particularly nasty accidents producing realistic damage to these as well.

Of course those salivating at the prospect of getting their mitts on GT5 can now get a sneak peak of the finished thing thanks to the recently released downloadable time trial competition. While there's not really a lot of actual content inside, this glimpse into what Polyphony Digital have been up to is a welcome tease none the less.

Inside the roughly 250meg download you get the opportunity to drive a single lap of a single track (the Indianapolis GP circuit) in a choice of two cars (race tuned and non race tuned versions of the Nissan 370Z) to try and post the fastest lap time to the online leaderboards. It's not exactly overly generous as demos go admittedly but who's going to turn down the chance to get some hands on time with a GT5 build to see how its looking? The problem is that while the restrictions imposed upon the player for the purposes of this competition (no driving aids, in car view only, no other cars on the track and always only a single lap at a time) do a fine job of providing the hardcore with a sim heavy test of skill it does make it tough to get any kind of a feel for the finished game.

What we can tell you is that it even in this limited form it 'feels' right, the two iterations of the Nissan 370Z are suitably different to drive and there's no denying that with all the driving aids off the game is going to present a real challenge for anyone used to more arcadey racers. It's hard to be too enthusiastic about the graphics or the engine's performance simply because without other vehicles jostling for position on the track and one of probably the least visually interesting tracks being used it's hard to feel genuinely excited about how the games looks. Sure, it's nice enough, everything looks realistic and there's certainly no slowdown or graphical glitches to moan about, its just not that exciting seen like this.

As a taster GT5 Time Trial is a nice little aperitif, as an advert it is less satisfying and its hard to imagine many outside the dedicated hardcore feeling any more eager about GT5 after playing it than they were before. However, this is still GT and everything else we've heard from Polyphony Digital has sounded much more impressive. Assuming the ball isn't dropped the end of March can't come quick enough.

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