Gran Turismo 5 review – better late than never?

Sony’s long-in-the-tooth roadster finally reaches the tarmac. VGD investigates.

By Rupert Higham, November 24, 2010

When does the weight of expectation exceed a game’s accomplishment? Were it not for a certain atomic monarch taking Forever to hit the shelves, Gran Turismo 5 would be the highest profile delayed game of all time. Helmed by car enthusiast producer Kazunori Yamauchi (a man so passionate about his life’s work he actually bleeds petrol), Polyphony Digital has spent five years, 20 gigabytes of Blu-ray disc space and truly outrageous quantities of cash to bring PS3 owners what was supposed to be the perfect racing game.

Perfection is of course something to aspire to rather than achieve, but the margin by which they have fallen short may come as a surprise to devotees of the series. Now, before you all turn the keys in your Abarth 500s to hunt me down and reverse over my head, this is no exercise in sensationalist trolling. Before we get on to the negative, here’s the teaspoon of sugar. Gran Turismo 5 is obviously a breathtaking experience. The series’ reputation for delivering an unrivalled breadth of vehicles, courses and tuning options is intact, its forays into new driving genres add immeasurably to the variety of the mechanics, and GTTV is everything a car enthusiast could desire.

The track selection hasn't had the same bump in content as the cars. The Dunsfold Park and NASCAR circuits play perfectly but look a little underwhelming.

Yet for all of PD’s hard work, Gran Turismo 5 simply doesn’t feel finished. If you thought Yamauchi offering 1031 drivable cars sounded like the over-reaching ambition of a madman, you were right. In a book-balancing compromise, only 200 or so cars are premium with the remaining 800 or so listed as standard range. Premium cars are near-flawlessly rendered, meticulously detailed from bumper to spoiler, including gloriously realised cockpits with not a stitch out of place.

The remaining 800 cars, however, are GT4 hand-me-downs, and noticeably lower quality despite an HD respray. Sporting a generic bonnet cam in place of unique interiors, they come equipped with low-res textures and simplistic shading. Even the developers must have felt pangs of embarrassment, as the Photo Travel mode that allows you to snap your car in picturesque locations is confined to the premium suite, lest the standard models fall under uncomfortable scrutiny.

Responding to the inroads Forza has made with a robust damage model was high on the expectation list with GT5, whipped to fever pitch by stunning screens of concertinaed bonnets and spoilers hanging precariously from boots. You could however easily be forgiven for thinking that they completely forgot to include it after extensive time in competitive races. Having run a 418 BHP Lancer Evolution VI head-on into a wall, we can confirm that the feature does exist, but once again the premium models see the greatest benefit – and it’s definitely skewed slightly to the wrong side of realism, with the amount of effort it takes to put a dent in some of the cars.

Up to 16 cars can race at once (over double the previous amount) making for busy races and some stunning views.

Since the first game in series Gran Turismo led the pack visually – from its translating the exhilaration and atmosphere of motor-sports into the environments to those cleverly post-processed replays that, given a squint and the wail of Clarkson, could have been lifted straight from an episode of Top Gear. GT5 maintains this impeccable standard for the most part, but when it falls short it stands out like a key scratch on a new Lamborghini. The game engine seems ill-equipped to deal with shadows, shady little gremlins ruining the photo-realism that the stunning premium models work so hard to achieve. The effect is compounded when racing in low-light conditions, or when the tyres are kicking up clouds of dust or snow, creating some hugely pixellated messes of badly behaved low-res textures.

So why spend so much time pouring over the bad in GT5 when all these criticisms are superficial and so obviously outweighed by the good? Well, this is Gran Turismo, and expectations couldn’t be higher. PD has taken such pains on some fronts that its failings on others are doubly conspicuous. The new game boasts a frightening number of cars, but consistency is lost when such favouritism is shown to a lucky 200. Polish, luxury and comprehensive detail have long been the hallmarks of GT’s success, and when they take a dent, so does the overall experience.

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50 Responses to “Gran Turismo 5 review – better late than never?”

  1. Dirk says:

    Since I can’t sleep I guess I’m first to comment? If what you say is accurate then you’re right to give the game the score you did. There is so much hype that people are going to buy it anyway.

  2. G says:

    Im not a car enthusist, but I love GT more than any other racing series. A quick look at the underwhelming final tracklist and killing a HUGE chunk of the game for dualshock racers (i needed cockpit to immerse me) I knew this game would feel somewhat lifeless. The cure for this game would have been 400 premiums (no more than 2 skylines) and more new tracks. Like 20 more. Oh well. I am still happy I preordered. THIS WILL EITHER GO DOWN AS THE DEMISE OR SPEED BUMP IN THE SERIES

  3. gt5 EPIC FAIL says:

    Forza3 OWNS gt5 !!!

    After all that hype… all the crap being spewed by sonyfanboys about the perfect 10 out of 10 scores that gt5 was going to get, after 5+ years in development… and it’s ONLY scoring 8 out of 10′s : (

    Current Metacritic score is 86 out 100 for gt5… shockingly poor when you consider the hype we’ve had to put up with over the years.

    Again Forza3 (Metacritic score of 92 out of 100) WINS THE DAY!

    Mop up the tears sonyfanboys… you lose.

    • anonomous says:

      I like Forza more than the GT series as well, but no need for the hate. to each their own.

    • MS Fan Boys says:

      “Forza3 OWNS gt5 !!!
      After all that hype… all the crap being spewed by sonyfanboys about the perfect 10 out of 10 scores that gt5 was going to get, after 5+ years in development… and it’s ONLY scoring 8 out of 10′s : (
      Current Metacritic score is 86 out 100 for gt5… shockingly poor when you consider the hype we’ve had to put up with over the years.
      Again Forza3 (Metacritic score of 92 out of 100) WINS THE DAY!
      Mop up the tears sonyfanboys… you lose.”

      Right…. because this doesn’t sound like Johnny Come Lately MS Fan Boy garbage…

    • chrnochime says:

      …..and the 360 fanboy waltz right in and start gloating about the Forza3. Big deal the meta score’s higher. That didn’t mean squat with Halo 1/2/3 , when all three played just like any other half-decent FPS on PCs, and it doesn’t mean squat here either.

    • objectiveresponder says:

      Your post comes off as pitifully desperate. I know you love Forza 3 and I’m sure no one thinks less of you for it…but c’mon.

      You have to realize scores aren’t everything, and the marginal difference between a collective score of 87 and 91 is pretty insignificant. As well, Forza 3 did not have the 6 years of expectation heaped on it that GT5 has.

      GT5 may not be a perfect game, but perhaps you should try playing it before crowning Forza 3 you’re undisputed champion.

    • muff says:

      relax – GT5 still is a better driving experience than forza

  4. alt24 says:

    I’m enjoying the game so far.. it hasn’t amazed me but hasn’t really let me down either.

    It’s missing a lot of the features we come to expect now days but the overall experience it offers is enough to be worthy of a buy.

    As a PC sim fanatic (iracing/rfactor) I must say that the handling physics isn’t the best but are good for console standards.

  5. I just can’t relate to sim-style racers. Not enough of a car nut. Sounds like it ticks most of the boxes if that’s your bag, though.

  6. Eighteen says:

    Cancelled my pre-order after all I’ve read. This game -as was already the case with the PSP version- simply isn’t up to today’s standards anymore…at all…

  7. Benny44 says:

    Forza fans are rejoicing. Having owned both games at one time or another, I am a diehard GT fan. From every review I’ve read (and this may be the most critical) GT5 has a fair amount of minor flaws like menus and online. But it has it where it counts, and that’s in the driving, something in my opinion Forza never had. And I’m not hating on Forza, I just didn’t find it had the replay value, and since I don’t care what color my car is and some other fluff options, I’ve always loved GT. Many reviewers are saying its the most accurate simulation of driving ever, despite what alt24 says. I’d be interested in getting the opinion of a pro race car driver, one who has experience in multiple disciplines, to see just how accurate GT5 is.

  8. lans says:

    Forza fans? why don’t you forza fans support your games and leave gt alone theres less than 100 people online per night pathetic

  9. Rune says:

    Well… It can’t be called a simulator if real world physics are left out. If you hit a brick wall at 120mph you die, no other car games let you do that. In that case no car simulator has ever been made! On the other hand deformation of the cars has been on the forza series for ages, and gt shows some minor bending and stuff, but it’s still not realistic. Imagine a flight simulator with no crashes….

  10. RaceSimFan says:

    Forza has many great qualities but it’s hardly realistic in the damage department. Your tailights will break at the slightest tap of the rear bumper, but aside from breaking lights and knocking mirrors off, it’s extremely difficult to deform the cars. You mostly get surface scratches of varying severity. In my experience, crashes and damage are much more severe and/or realistic in Dirt 2, NFS Shift and the Burnout series. (Based only on playing the demo, NFS Hot Pursuit as well, thanks Criterion!) What I love most about Forza though, is it’s ability to differentiate the weight and handling feel of different cars, even with just the standard controller. If GT5 can top Forza 3 in that aspect, I’m sold in theory. I’m bummed cause I’ve got a PS compatible Driving Force Pro, but no PS3, and a 360 w/no compatible wheel. (And not enough spare $$ to rectify either situation!)

  11. Tom says:

    Love the GT4 style career mode. The graphics are insane. The damage isnt nearly as great as it was cracked up to be, but hey, its the same old Gran Turismo, just better. The experience levels are also a nice new feature.

  12. tommervel says:

    Oh boy, i cannot belive it, the cars in GT5 still sound like rolling vacuum cleaners. If KY is such a big petrolhead how could this happen again? Playing GT5 yesterday after months of intense Forza driving felt like a bad joke. PD should stop polishing the surface, it is time to rebuild the basics. And the number of cars… quantity is nothing without quality.

  13. Benny44 says:

    @rune: what flight sim are you talking about? The one that shows the plane crumpling and deforming as it hits the ground and moves just like a real plane when it crashes? I’m pretty sure that game doesn’t exist yet. Those games are focused on actually flying the plane, not crashing. Similarly, GT5 is focused on driving the car, not crashing.
    @tommervel: I think you have it backwards, PD worked on the basics, like the driving physics, and didn’t put any polish on it, like the clunky menus. I think they have the basis for the greatest driving game of all time, they just need to tweak, tweak and tweak some more for GT6.

  14. matt says:

    u have to wait 4 at least 50 more reviews then u can compare it to forza 3 i think forza 3 is better and frame rate and sense of speed has always been there in forza as well as AI i think its because the power pc the wii/360 use is just better at keeping frame rates high even with detail on screen

  15. Linarde says:

    I’m a huge GT and Forza fan, and I just bought my GT5 copy (online, waiting for it to be delivered), and because I’m a bit of a petrol-head, I know I’ll like this game, but it still feels like a bit of a let-down. I knew the standard models would be weaker, but from what I’ve seen and heard, they really look a bit on the rubbish side. My honest opinion, I prefer the Forza system with all cars being good looking, instead of 20% perfect looking, and 80% almost ugly. I just hope the gameplay can keep up, specially in the sense of speed department. No one seems to comment on this aspect, and it’s one of the most important aspects for me. Too bad for the dumb-as-hell A.I… again…

  16. Benny44 says:

    @Linarde: As a gt fan, I can honestly say the sense of speed is not great, but slightly better than past GT games. I found the AI to be much improved, however. Especially as you get along in the game, they are much more aggresive and I have been blocked from passing on more than one occasion. It’s not perfect, but it is significantly better. Myself, I just drive with bumper cam, that way I don’t notice the difference in my car and you can’t tell the difference in other cars when you race.

  17. Afrim says:

    I looked at a video earlier where someone was driving in a snow track – I was not impressed man. It seems the project was just too big.
    In retrospective, wouldn’t it have been better to release the game earlier, maybe even years earlier- and then gradually support it with dlc up until now. So what if it had half the cars. Some racers that come out have a poor amount of cars when compared to the old GT’s even, but that doesn’t hurt them too much.

    I don’t have a PS3 so I won’t be getting this, but neither did I get Forza 3 despite having 2. Racing games, despite the online play, just get old a little too quick for me and often competing online can simply be unfair. Now if I had a massive screen and an expensive wheel to go with a racing seat, that’s a different story.

  18. brandar says:

    X2 on the sound…I really like the game, but the sound coming out of some of these cars (especially the American muscle cars) is HORRENDOUS! I OWN a supercharged 08 Challenger, and let me tell you…it doesn’t sound like a food processor. So why does the game sound so poor? I understand that getting customized sound bytes for each and every car would be next to impossible, but at least give a generic V8 rumble to the V8 cars…End of rant.

  19. batman says:

    This game rocks..

    Miles better than Forza franchise, and i love forza!!

    Yes, it has a few teething probs as does forza, but man this is great fun..

    Should deserve a higher score…

    Only reason its so low is with the wait, you expected to much.. Its still a game FFS.. And a very good one at that..

    Hardcore Xbox fags can shut the **** up, and just grow up….

  20. Timdog says:

    Its funny seeing all the GT5 fans in damage control mode. All that dev time and Forza 2 and Forza 3 both released and both have a higher metacritic score than GT5. Imagine what Forza would of done with 5 plus years of Dev time, excuses are not wanted either, GT5 is looking like a great game, but is a definite letdown from all the hype it was getting. Fanboy or not, if you are going to compare them fairly you use Metacritic, and AAA franchise Turn 10 will most like have a game that BLOWS away GT5 in 2011 Forza 4. SO please stop with the damage control.

  21. Benny44 says:

    No damage control needed – it is a better driving sim than Forza, and that is all I care about. A popularity contest is not really a fair comparison, either. I realize most will prefer arcade type racers, but for the simulation fans, GT kills Forza

  22. Dazza76 says:

    Do I buy ir not? Dont play my PS3 much but I have PWTS wheel with clubsport pedals which I can use with Forza 3 F1 2010 (both 360) and now GT5. Think I’ll get it but I’d be surprised if the actual driving is so much more realistic than Forza 3 with all the aids off! Maybe I should just buy a new PC and play GTR and GTL again, man I loved GTL!

    Have read many reviews and I have to be honest Toms one seems to be one of the most considered with a fair score to match. After 5+ years there is no getting away from the feeling that most people expected to be blown away by GT5 and that does not appear to be the case. Sony definately need to copy MS and xbox live, the difference is night and day, and now the biggest reason I still get cross platform on 360. Is the online on GT5 patchable to those that have played it? Has anyone tried the PWTS with it?

  23. Dazza76 says:

    Also from the videos online the sound is truly appalling, for those that have the game what are your thoughts? thanks

  24. Rickera says:

    Well, forza is better. Nough said.

  25. James says:

    The problem is that they withheld release of this game for so long, that expectations are rightfully on the moon. You can’t “develop” for six years and have graphics issues as glaring as the ones in this game. Especially for the latest and greatest version of your game console.

  26. Zak says:

    I have been playing since the release and I think this is a very fair review. Some of the design decisions are mind boggling. I truly hope that some hefty patches come in the future. One of my little complaints: Why create a perfectly detailed car and not allow us to do a 360 view when driving. Get with the times. This has been standard for a long time. A left and right view of the side of the road is stupid. And the dealer menu is totally under powered. No search? Filters, what were they thinking. I like the game and have been enjoying it, but I’m also annoyed by these omissions. The menu system is obtuse and actually has a mouse pointer. Ridiculous. If my only option when returning to the previous screen is one button press why take me to another icon to click again. There are too many prompts to get something done. The menu system and the dealer menu are my biggest gripes, I really hope they make some change there.

  27. brandar says:

    @Zak…You really nailed it on the head with your input. X2 on everything you just said.

  28. Benny44 says:

    I agree too, Zac. I am a diehard GT fan, as you can tell if you read my earlier posts. It’s the little things that need fixed. Thankfully, the core gameplay is there and that is the important thing. They don’t even need to wait for GT6, they could probably fix most of their problems in a few patches. You did the hard part already, PD (physics), now you just have to fix a few minor problems. A lot of people are saying this is the end of GT, but, and Kaz already said this after the game was released, this is a new start for GT.

  29. Tweaky Tuned says:

    I love racing games, its the only genre I play. Believe me I wanted GT5 to be the best game to date, but its more like a GT4 PS2 port to the PS3. the sound is an embarrasment to motorsports and car manufacturers.

    there is no real personality to the cars, or GT5. If you love racers then for sure grab this title, but its very dissapointing.

    Ive put in 8-12 hours a day on racing games for the past 3 years hardly ever missing a day. And while Forza 3 failed in some areas that should have just been brought over from FM2, the overall experience bodyslams the GT5 title.

    What gets me is the terrifyingly horrible engine and exhaust notes in GT5. Who on earth would get any sort of rush of flying around the track in any number of cars that sound like computer jibberish.

    Ive got the CE of GT5 so im going to keep it, but each day i have owned it I have thought about getting a refund. Its just depressing, this is some sort of GT4 port and its a shame!

    very unhappy with GT5

  30. david says:

    you got caught not actually playing far enough into this game to be qualified to review it

  31. DR Jam says:

    Lol, people do care about reviews that much? Just play what you like. Thereis no reason whatsoever why you wouldn’t be able to buy FM3 and GT5.
    FM3 is brobably at a budget price by now. They are both exclusives, so just get either game if you own the respective console, even if you own both consoles, they are both great games, and arguably at the very top of their categories.
    Stop the hate. Let’s make love not war.

  32. brandar says:

    Si I’ve logged over 1200 miles so far….Physics are great, the tracks are fun, but the poor sound coming from some of these cars…Sheesh….

  33. Indigo Doe says:

    Gt5 does not dissapoint. If you’ve played the series, it’s everything you’ve always loved but with HD graphics and better physics. If you’ve never played the series then you are missing out and should pick up this title immediately. I believe this will (should) be the only itteration on the ps3 do to the fact that with dlc they can keep adding more tracks and cars. And for you forza fans out there, don’t hate, just accept the fact the the real driving simulator is on the ps3.

    • usurper says:

      You’ve got np idea bud…. Disapoint?! fuck, lets start with the delays in release, that was a fucking disapointment. I have played all previous iterations of GT, I have memory cards etc to prove it. and while GT5 may look pretty at times if you are a fan of the earlier versions you’d know the main thing is driving sim, and it fails.

      It will be the only version on the ps3 because they have destroyed thier fan base. and as for forza, I have never played it mate, but look forward to giving it a go when I sell my ps3 and get an xbox….

  34. Steve says:

    I’m was always a fan of GT, but i think GT5 feels abit unfinshed. Any one noticed the white lines round the wheel arches and door panels in the replays. Also why can’t you upgrade the brakes anymore?

  35. tommy says:

    no quater mile run, no nurburgring track in free run, no brake upgrades, very annoying

    • usurper says:

      and no, you can’t have a turbo or supercharger on that car. and no, you can not give that car a racing skin….. where the fuck is thier imaginary rule book telling me which cars I can and can’t upgrade.

    • Indigo Doe says:

      You get nurburgring in arcade when you beat the intermediate AMG special series.

  36. Neilo says:

    I own both 360 and PS3 – I knew GT5 would have to go a long way to beat forza … And it’s not even close… Graphics are shoddy on GT5 in all honesty – standard and premium??? WTF xbox doesn’t even have the large capacity blu ray discs and still manages perfect visuals on ALL cars… In terms of car choice: why (taking audi as an example) do I want an audi TT from 03 when they blatantly refuse to put on the S5, RS5, A1, RS6 saloon etc – same for mercedes yet include a million Daihatsus??? Come on this is ridiculous…

    • usurper says:

      agree man… even so, GT used to be a fun sim to drive, not only have they made a a mess of the game, but somehow they have wrecked what was great about the older version, the drving sim… I wanna burn my ps3.

  37. usurper says:

    This game is just another in the stinking turd in a line that sony/playstation has bought out, trying to recapture thier glory days. I have played and clocked gt5 and I can tell you that the car dynamics and overal handling leave A LOT to be desired. I thought that maybe it was my equipment leting it down and spent $400 on a wheel/pedal setup and it just felt worse. I can not express how disapointed I am after waiting so long for it to be so far off the mark. Graphic glitchs and the overall “unpolished” feel. I go sideways for 5 seconds before smoke or blackies give any idea that the car is running anything other than straight. there is no feel.
    I realy can’t express ho disapointed I am. Fuck you sony

  38. Pierre says:

    I thought I was a die hard GT fan, but with the complaints in most reviews and forums, I won’t take a bullet by betting my hard earned cash on a racing experience that, by the sound of things, PROMISES to be a disappointment in at least a few areas. Sure, you can’t satisfy every one every time, but disappointing every one on a bunch of the same aspects, will be a developer’s demise.

    So I will rather wait a few months and buy the game secondhand. If only to feel content with 800+ cars that look like secondhand PS2 ports.

  39. philip stevens says:

    Im an adoring racing game fan, and the first thought when i waited ONE BLOODY HOUR for it to install? sh*t…… just pure disappointment. GT4 with a nip/tuck right? I couldnt wait to buy my favorite car a silver megane sport. If you must know it sounds amazing, drives brilliantly. The GT5 version sounds like my toothbrush, in the next room and handles like a boat on ice. I thought PD sent guys to test these cars like previous GTs. And £50 for it…… sickening. ill stick to NFS SHIFT one and two please.

  40. philip stevens says:

    another point worth mentioning, even some cars handle better in Grand Theft Auto 4 than GT5. oh dear.


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