Gran Turismo 5 Academy Edition Review:
The definitive version of the most comprehensive driving game ever created. Please be advised this is a long review and will be split into categories as appropriate. I will not be reviewing the multiplayer portion as my preference is in Gran Turismo world offline (the main game). In the graphics section I will talk about what equipment and settings I viewed the game on and give advice for the best performance. Please skip to where you feel appropriate or kick back and enjoy the whole dang thing. At the bottom of Academy Edition content you will find instructions on how to access the content itself.
The review will be detailed as follows.
1. Brief history of Gran Turismo.
2. Content of Gran Turismo 5 Academy Edition
3. Gran Turismo World-core gameplay and objectives
6. Physics, gameplay controls
7. End Summary with conclusion of pros and cons
(1.) Brief history of Gran Turismo.
Today in most of the world, Gran Turismo is very much a house hold name. However it was not always this way. It all started back in 1998 when a young ambitious developer, Polyphony Digital aided by Sony, set out to change driving games. Their goal was simple-to create the most realistic and in depth driving game ever. Utilising the power of the then CD based PlayStation allowed them to have an incredible CG introduction video, real recorded audio effects and cd quality sound tracks. Cars and tracks were modelled very accurately for the time and the option to race for cash, buy and tune up a hundread or so real world vehicles was thrilling. The complex physics engine cemented Gran Turismo as "The real driving simulator". It was not until late 2005 with Forza Motorsport on the original Xbox that any other driving game came close to offering an alternative comprehensive experience. Today with the advent of the Forza series evolution GT is not the undisputed crowning jewel it once was, it is still pretty damned good and essential for any driving and racing enthusiast.
(2.) Content of Gran Turismo 5 Academy Edition.
To enjoy the full benefits you need to buy a brand new sealed copy of Academy Edition. This is because a lot of prepaid content is included as well as one of the latest major builds of the GT5 game itself. It will save you a lot of time and hassle and is highly recommended. To get the most out of the game you do need a PSN account and internet access for seasonal events and updates, PlayStation Network/PSN is free to use.
Academy Edition boasts these additional extras as standard:
Complete Pack. Red Bull X2011 Prototype, 11 other cars and three karts of the Racing Car Pack. SPA Francorchamps circuit and two karting tracks of the Course Pack.
Range of famous helmets and race suits from the Racing Gear Pack. 100 colours found in the Special Paint Pack.
Car Pack 2. 2010 Golf VI R and the 2010 Scirocco R, 2011 MINI COOPER S, 2012 Nissan R35 GT-R.
Car Pack 3. Aston Martin V12 Vantage, Jaguar XJR-9 LM Race car and Lamborghini Aventador. 1966 Volkswagen 1200, Mini Cooper S, electric Nissan Leaf.
Nissan GT-R N24 Schulze Motorsports. This is the car driven by Gran Turismo 5 creator Kazunori Yamauchi in the 2012 Nürburgring 24-hour race.
Accessing the content: This process was somewhat convoluted. Firstly you log in to the PSN store and enter your code in the "redeem code" area. Then you download them all. Then from the GT5 title menu you access the content power button and download them all again. Then you have them.
(3.) Gran Turismo World-main game
This ladies and gents is where the magic happens. The game is accessed via a series a series of elaborate menus and picture maps. Different areas exist for browsing/buying cars, upgrading, servicing, racing, special events and driving schools. The game is tied together by a mind meltingly complex physics engine that can monitor engine wear, body damage and even if the car needs an oil change or engine rebuild-more on that later in the physics section. The best thing about Gran Turismo 5 is you do what you want too. Want to buy a car or view cars and learn their history? Then do it, want to brush up on advanced driving skills? Go for it. Want to take pictures of cars in scenic locations? Be my guest. The game is one gigantic automotive playground. Initially your driver level will restrict certain parts of the game. You level up by racing. The unlock system is intuitive and you are always rewarded for effort, better places equals better prizes but nothing is ever done in vain. You learn so much because the game is so detailed. It is incredible really. The objective is to have fun in whatever way you see fit. No two people will ever play the game the same way. That is a huge credit to the developer, many aspects can be customised and this is encouraged through tutorials when first playing. Tweaking cars performance and finding cars for specific races never gets old, people often play GT games for years off and on. I was recently playing GT2 myself before I bought the PS3. Replay value is almost unlimited. The sheer joy of driving and combinations of car configuration are in the millions.
My set up: Ben-Q native 1080p 24inch Widescreen TFT, 2millisecond response time, dynamic contrast ratio 10,000,000-1. Playing at 720p, Gold shielded HMDI cable version 1.3. Deep colour RGB output via PS3 display settings. Do not play the game at 1080p, it pushes the PS3 too hard and you will see more screen tearing and jagged edges than usual. I have not played the game using 3D set up and so cannot comment here.
The visuals are in a single word-staggering. The game is beautiful in both a technical and artistic way, not perfect but superb. You have to deal with any niggles and appreciate what good there is, of which there is plenty.
The best way to appreciate the graphics is to let a few rolling demos play from the title menu. Weather and a host of other special effects really bring the game to life. Everything looks pristine with slick high definition sheen, lighting, shadowing and reflections are jaw dropping. Gleaming sunshine, heat haze, heavy rain, snow and brake dust are showstoppers. All of this beauty does however come at the cost of visual car damage. It is minimal and not really modelled at all. The truth is you don't want to smash up your baby anyway so it doesn't really detract from the experience. Watching a nigh time replay in the rain has to be seen to be believed.
The game runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second for the very large majority of the time. Occasionally you will see some screen tearing when things heat up. The astronomical calculations for physics being processed no doubt influence this occurrence. Colours are rich and vibrant and the level of care that has gone into every single aspect of the racing tracks and environments as a whole is humbling. Every time I play the game I feel like I am visiting or want to visit the locations, it's a kind of virtual tourism and the game shows the places in the best possible light.
The controversy of Premium cars vs. standard was really a storm in a teacup. Both are modelled expertly and on the track sit in the environments as they should. In game you cannot tell the difference, at worst the standard cars have less detail in the interior view but it is still playable. Using the exterior view and in replays I was hard pressed to tell any discernible difference what so ever. Nobody makes a game with over 1000 vehicles and has every one of them look like a premium model, that could add years to development time not to mention cost and is quite frankly unrealistic. Nothing in life is perfect including this game.
Sometimes you will see jagged edges, pop in objects (very small items-lamp posts) light flickering and a hint of slowdown but generally everything is remarkably smooth and has real depth. Texture mapping is great you can almost taste the asphalt; things look as they should and are believable. The immersion factor is very high; on rally tracks the game gives the Dirt series a run for its money.
The game is not the undisputed graphical showcase Gran Turismo 4 once was, times have changed and the truth is games like Dirt 2-3 and Forza 4/Horizon meet or exceed the game visually at times. The pendulum swings back and forth with all games having extremely high production values and outstanding graphics. Gran Turismo 5 is one of the best looking driving games to date, it's really that simple.
(5.) Audio-effects and music
At any time you can select the music you want to hear and in what parts of the game from the GT World map offline. You can also select your own music from the PS3 hard drive. I personally feel the default sound tracks are excellent. There is an eclectic collection of soulful jazz, mellow dance, upbeat rock and a host of great alternative sounds and remixes of popular songs. I found that when I edited the playlist I kept the large majority of music. Somehow when playing the game the right music seemed to come on at the right time, it often put a smile on my face.
The sound effects themselves are rich and full of bass when they should be. A 600bhp race car has a deep throaty warble at idle and roars under acceleration. You can sense the power and resistance trying to guide it through tight turns. If the tyres screech under duress or slip on the grass your ears become alive to the impending loss of traction and possible crash ahead. Conversely, bolting on turbo chargers and fitting a full titanium exhaust system to a naturally aspirated vehicle will change the tone considerably. It is a real treat to hear the changes to your vehicle with every enhancement. Read more ›