Playing Gran Turismo 5 for the first time is a daunting experience. The sheer wealth of cars, events, and game modes on offer is quite staggering and for the first hour or so you’ll find your head in a spin as you get to grips with the sheer scale of it all. An even more daunting prospect is that GT5’s producer and designer, Kazunori Yamauchi, clearly isn’t done with the constant tinkering and fine tuning which has seen the release date of his grand opus pushed back time and again because, (if the continued updates are anything to go on), there’s still a lot more to come. If you’re the kind of gamer who usually bulks at the idea of forking out top dollar for a game that is still in the workshop undergoing further tuning via a series of updates and patches then may I be the first to welcome you to the world of the PC gamer. But don’t let that put you off because, and lets make no mistake about this, Gran Turismo 5 is a stunning racing game, one that will eat away at hours of you’re social life and with each new update it only continues to pull your further into its world of virtual Matchbox racing.
Most of your time with GT5 will be spent in A-Spec mode where you’ll race across snow capped mountain tops, through the glare of a thousands lights in night time cities and all of the series signature courses; however in typical Gran Tursimo form there are several other modes that demand your attention. B-Spec invites you to systematically ‘train’ a team of drivers by using a collection of simple commands designed to improve their overall driving ability. The better you manage your drivers, the quicker they’ll level-up allowing them to enter races using more powerful cars and garner higher levels of experience for your overall progression. Essentially, B-Spec is a game of trial and error and one that will infuriate during the early stages as low level drivers will often make for some spectacular cock ups as GT5’s erratic AI tries to keep up. But given time the AI does improve and with a little perseverance on your part you’ll soon have a reasonably competent team to bash out those long endurance races. Special Events include Rally, Karting and a step-by-step guide to NASCAR racing along with the chance to hammer a VW camper van around the Top Gear test track. You can also get to grips with the Nürburgring piece by piece before taking on the world famous course in its entirety, and for rally enthusiasts there’s tips and tricks courtesy of seven times WRC Champion, Sebastian Loeb. Arcade mode makes a return along with split-screen multi-player and a satisfying Drift Trial option. You can take snaps of your favourite cars in exotic locations with HD Photo Travel, and there’s also a course maker which is a fun tool to play around with even if it does lack a little depth.
Since the games launch back in November of last year there has already been several updates to GT5’s online mode, greatly improving on what was originally a horrible, bug ridden mess. The setting up of and getting into races now runs that much smoother than previously, with each race being fully customisable with numerous options to suit any race for any style of play. You can gift cars to friends, follow each others progress via message boards or just hang out in the [much improved] lobby and have a good old natter whilst deciding on what race to put together. A more recent update also means that racing with other players in ‘My Lobby’ dishes out both credits and experience adding to your overall level in GT Life.
Whether or not you’ll enjoy in GT5 ultimately boils down to how much time you invest in it. If you’ve never been a fan of the series and the thought of ploughing hours into a video game to get the best from it makes your toes curl then there’s very little here that will change your mind. If, however, you have an unerring passion for cars, or have simply thrilled at the convoluted delights Gran Turismo has served up since its original outing back in 1998, then Gran Turismo 5 is an essential purchase.