Posts Tagged ‘Gran Turismo’

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Gran Turismo PSP Review

October 6, 2009

GT PSP Screen1

At a Glance: Gran Turismo PSP is a game that gets the fundamentals down but drops the ball in its execution.

Originally announced as one of the flagship titles of the then yet to be released PSP, Gran Turismo Mobile quickly dropped off of the radar into vaporware territory. Well, imagine everyone’s surprise when, at E3 2009, Sony and Polyphony Digital confirmed that Gran Turismo PSP was not only in active development but that it was also going to be released this year. After all this time, you’d think the PSP iteration of the long running and obscenely popular Gran Turismo series would measure up quite nicely with its console predecessors. Regrettably, if you thought that, you’d be mistaken.

While this title boasts a very impressive 800+ car roster and a fairly large selection of tracks, many of which can be driven in reverse, and a realistic handling model lifted from Gran Turismo 5: Prologue, it can’t compete with its console brethren due to one very large and disappointing omission. The career mode of Gran Turismo games past is missing in action in Gran Turismo PSP.

In lieu of any kind of career mode, you have the option to run a time trial, single race or drift trial and only the latter two will earn you the valuable credits you’ll need to build a vast collection of automobiles, both classic and modern. In addition to this, there are a large number of “Driving Challenges” to test your skills. These challenges are almost identical to the dreaded license tests in Gran Turismo games past, the primary differences being that they (thankfully) aren’t mandatory completions in order to enter certain races and reward you with credits for completion in the bronze, silver and gold tiers.

Starting out, you are given 100,000 credits and presented with four of the game’s many dealerships from which to buy your first car. Every two in game days, there will be a random selection of four dealers to choose from and none of them will offer you more than ten vehicles to choose from on any given day. There’s no option to bypass this system, so if you’re looking to buy a particular car from a particular dealer, you have to participate in a couple of events to advance the game forward a couple of days and hope the dice roll in your favor.

This was particularly annoying when I spotted one of the cars I’d been dreaming of (the ’09 Corvette ZR1) and tried to buy it, only to realize I didn’t have enough credits. I was forced to cope with the frustrating realization that I couldn’t possibly earn enough credits before a new selection of dealers and cars appeared the next day. On one hand, this is an interesting way to introduce players to cars they might otherwise have overlooked but to leave everything to the luck of the draw seems asinine.

Before this turns into a giant hate fest, allow me to say that there are a number of things that Gran Turismo PSP does right. The visuals on display here are among the best the PSP has to offer, running at a liquid smooth 60 frames per second, the car models are surprisingly well detailed, given the limitations of the platform. Control wise, everything is completely customizable, which is a great inclusion. Handling physics are another high point, but this is no surprise, as the Gran Turismo series has always delivered fairly realistic physics. This also seems to be the easiest Gran Turismo to get into and it’s very easy to pick up and play from the very beginning, especially with the much less strict and inviting Driving Challenges.

With no career mode structure and everything unlocked from the very beginning, there’s a prevailing feeling of pointlessness in your actions. With everything unlocked from the start, there’s no brass ring to reach for and no sense of accomplishment to be gained. Eventually, the endless grind of racing for credits to buy new cars gets stale and combined with the lack of online multiplayer, the long term appeal is limited quite a bit. Ultimately, Gran Turismo PSP is a good game that’s buried underneath a series of poor design decisions. The gameplay, visuals, car roster and track selection are rock solid but without any sort of direction to guide players through the game, I can’t imagine this will appeal to any but the most hardcore of Gran Turismo fans.

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Thoughts on Gran Turismo 5: Prologue

April 24, 2008

Against my better judgment, yesterday, I purchased a copy of Gran Turismo 5: Prologue. Ever since I saw the limited amount of content to be included in this “game” for such a steep price ($40 USD), I couldn’t shake the feeling that Polyphony Digital was merely delivering a glorified demo to milk hardcore Gran Turismo fans out of a quick buck before the real thing comes out, which some speculate won’t be until some time after 2009. Well, having played it for a few days prior, I’ve changed my tune…for the most part.

I guess before I truly begin to discuss my impressions of the game, I should explain how I define a “lack of content”. First off, Gran Turismo 5: Prologue features around 70 cars, from over a dozen manufacturers, including series newcomer, Ferrari. What’s surprising about this is the fact that GT5: Prologue includes more cars out of the box than many full games, including the likes of the recently released Need for Speed: Pro Street. Clearly, the number of cars couldn’t be the issue, could it? No. While 70 cars is only one tenth of the 700 featured in Gran Turismo 4 and an even smaller fraction of the rumored 900 cars set to be included in the full release of Gran Turismo 5, there’s still a nice variety of cars to choose from.

So, what could be the thing that troubles me most? Well that’s simple. While there is an abundance of cars available to the player, the track selection is meager at best, limited to six tracks and twelve layouts. No, not twelve layouts per track, just twelve layouts in total. This is where GT5: Prologue stumbles and falls to the ground. Before long, the track selection can grow stale and repetitive, seeing the same environments over and over again as you race around the same track for the umpteenth time during the career mode. This is where the sting comes in and your wallet begins to curse you for making this purchase.

But…(There’s always a “but”)

For the most part, what GT5: Prologue lacks in content, it makes up for in presentation and gameplay. Polyphony Digital knows how to draw the player in with an attractive set of front end menus and, most importantly, how to make cars look sexy. As you navigate the elegantly presented menu screen, the car you’re currently “in” sits behind it, amidst one of several eye-catching and gorgeous backdrops relevant to the location you most recently drove in. The camera slowly pans around the car, allowing you to see the entirety of is svelte figure and wonderfully proportioned lines.

To merely say this game looks good would be the understatement of the year. Gran Turismo 5 truly puts other racers to shame with its incredibly detailed and well lit car models (it’s amazing what good lighting can do to make a car look stunning), and detailed environments. While I’ve been a staunch supporter of the impressive graphics delivered in Project Gotham Racing 4, I can’t say it looks better than GT5: Prologue in any way other than the convincing weather effects. The in car view is also mighty impressive and my current favorite way to view the race, despite the loss of visual real estate.

All the great looking cars and environments wouldn’t save the game if the gameplay was lacking and I can happily say GT5: Prologue isn’t lacking in that respect. The numerous cars in the game have their own sort of “feel” to them in their handling and overall performance and all drive with an impressive realism about them, which feels great. A new feature, borrowed from the Forza series is the dynamic racing line, which changes color from blue to red to indicate you’re going too fast. Of course, for a most realistic and suitably challenging experience, this, as well as the other driving aids (variable traction/stability control) can be turned off prior to a race.

Overall, GT5: Prologue isn’t a bad game. I’m almost willing to say I overreacted a tiny bit. Almost. Once I came to grips with the fact that my only real issue was with what I perceived to be a high price tag (if the game was $20, I’d have no problem at all buying it), I was mostly fine with the lack of content because the gameplay made up for it. For me, a new fan of Gran Turismo 4 as of late, this is a pretty fun stopgap between the two full games that should, alongside its PS2 brother and my reigning favorite racing game, Forza 2, keep my simulation racing needs satisfied until Gran Turismo 5 finally decides to come out.

That or Forza 3, of course.

It goes without saying that diehard fans of the Gran Turismo series are going to add this to their ever growing collection regardless of what I say about it. For the rest of you who happen to be on the fence, take these words with a grain of salt. If you can, like I have, get over the initial shock over the lack of content, there’s a good game to be had here.