by Al Warwick
previewed on PS3
The Gran Turismo franchise can confidently count itself as a ‘game changer’ for the racing sim. The 1998 original title simply blew away the competition and although rivaled by Ridge Racer 4 and Colin McRae 2 never bettered until the second installment. Everything was tuned to perfection and all for a medium which isn’t the friendliest for perfection hunting developers, the original Playstation. The following PS2 outings somehow managed not only to maintain the undisputed ‘benchmark’ level of quality for the franchise but consistently improved on every facet of the game that preceded it.
However, in the six years since the fourth edition in 2004 there has been no ‘official’ Gran Turismo release. More than enough time for racing rivals to up their game and start producing some serious titles of their own. From the old masters – think Need for Speed, Test Drive and to an extent Ridge Racer – to the new pretenders ushered in during the latter half of the last generation such as Burnout and Forza the competition is much stronger. With number 5 ready at last to enter the fray the now overcrowded bench of all-stars needs to once again be realigned.
Make or break
I mentioned the original title above because I feel this installment holds as much significance. Yes there exist a glut of ‘secondary releases’ or ‘b-side’ release titles previewing the final product over the years – namely the Prologue’s and HD titles but Gran Turismo 5 is still something of a make or break.
The anticipation is unimaginable and matched only by the pressure to deliver the same excellence as each proper installment before. Several things need to be absolutely nailed for fans to stay loyal or indeed return to the series that once had them at hello. The aforementioned franchises are also unleashing new titles with enviable looks, licenses and vehicles and what looks to be the gameplay and interactive quality expected of the current generation.
Visuals, options, customization and depth should be delivered effortlessly by the Gran Turismo boys, but it is with a competent online mode that the game needs to arrive to succeed; fully operational and better than anything that has come before. The memories of the last online attempts still stain many a living room racer’s memory.
While details are thin on the ground still despite the game’s imminent November release date, it is confirmed that there will be online play within the Playstation Network for up to 16 players which sounds sufficient enough even by today’s tough online standards.
Importantly, this is not the only ‘first’ for the franchise and arguably neither is it the most vital for long term fans. One of the few criticisms of the original masterpiece and subsequent offerings was the lack of any car damage engine.