The upcoming incarnation of the "Real Driving Simulator” has had a development cycle so protracted that it threatened to become the next Duke Nukem Forever. Polyphony Digital CEO Kazunori Yamauchi contends that some $US60 million ($NZ80.7 million) has been pumped into Gran Turismo 5, which has been in development since 2004. First revealed to the world at E3 all the way back in 2006, the highly anticipated racer has encountered delay after delay. In an industry that now seems to be pushing for the annualisation of its most popular franchises, Polyphony Digital’s steadfast "it’s ready when it’s ready” attitude is encouraging. But for fans starved of a fully fledged current-gen iteration of the most comprehensive racing-simulator franchise in gaming, it’s also rather agonising.
But this is not a dream. If you are reading this right now and Gran Turismo 5 is not either on store shelves or in your PlayStation 3’s disc drive, it will be but days away. One of the esteemed Game Console writers will likely be hard at work on our full and considered review of this racing juggernaut. In the meantime, I got my hands on the E3 demo code.
Unfortunately, it was a far-from-complete and rather-limited build: five tracks were available, the races were capped at two minutes, and there was no damage modeling to speak of.
Again, though, I’m rather encouraged because Polyphony Digital has gone into major crunch mode in the months following E3, and despite the limitations, what I saw was already damn impressive. I’m confident that the visuals, for instance, are on track to be the best this generation of consoles has seen to date – hands down. Watching the replays after a racing session (and believe me, you’ll want to more than ever before), hapless bystanders could be absolutely forgiven for thinking they’d walked in on a televised motorsports event. Rome really does look like Rome, ditto with the Nürburgring, and the fictional Curso Del Sol (which reportedly took Polyphony Digital some two years to create) looks just how I’d imagine a race track in Madrid to look. And that’s not to mention the cars – there are over 1000 of them, they’re all true to life, highly customisable, and they react exactly how you’d expect to the incredibly realistic lighting and weather conditions (which now includes night-time racing). A detailed, physics-based damage modeling engine has been added since the build I played, so I can’t wait to see how ploughing headlong into a roadside barrier (which I did a lot during my hands-on time) will affect the aesthetics of my car.
Gran Turismo 5 also promises the most comprehensive racing experience so far delivered to a home console. On top of the usual high-powered street racing, Gran Turismo 5 will now include NASCAR, World Rally Championship, Super GT and go-kart racing.
So, the build I played may have been limited, but it’s already a tonne of fun, and I’m told it’s but a drop in the ocean of what gamers can expect in the full version. That’s reason enough to get particularly excited about this game. With over 1000 real-world vehicles (not to mention the X1 Prototype, a virtual car designed purely to simulate the world’s hypothetical fastest racing car on land) and a variety of racing licences, Gran Turismo 5 will be a car enthusiast’s wet dream. While it hasn’t incorporated PlayStation Move, it does utilise the EyeToy peripheral in a unique way that tracks the player’s head (adjusting the player’s virtual cockpit view depending on where they look when they race).
For those left wanting more after my time with an earlier build, Hadyn Green was lucky enough to play the most recent build in full 3D at the Tokyo Game Show! He’s filed a comprehensive report for www.gameconsole.co.nz based on his experience, so be sure to head along and check it out!