Gran Turismo 5 – Best Driving Game Ever. Worst Racing Game Ever

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So I am finally back from vacation and during that time I managed to really get stuck into one of the most anticipated releases of all time, Gran Turismo 5.

While I have already reviewed Gran Turismo 5 after spending hours and hours with it, the true magical qualities or issues with a game like this only arise after some serious extended play. I waited a really long time to play Gran Turismo 5, just like many other fans out there and maybe it’s just because of that reason that I felt the need to give more of my thoughts on my experiences with the game, the kind of thoughts that sometimes don’t make it into a review.

I wanted to focus more on the pure driving experience rather than other elements such as the campaign modes, menus, graphics and so on.

So here I go.

Gran Turismo 5 really is, without a doubt, the best, most visceral and most realistic driving experience that I have had to date. I have even spent some decent time on the simulators used to train the Team Forza (no relation to the Xbox game) Ferrari drivers on the Kyalami circuit and it’s honestly as good if not better as well as being wrapped around in a video game.

I, like some of you, have also attended an advanced high speed driving course that trained me in the art of lapping racing circuits in road cars and this sits as just about the best benchmark when comparing simulators like GT5 to the real experience.

When it comes to the core driving experience of: You in a car – rubber on the floor – going around a circuit — it’s truly about as good as it gets. Real petrolheads and motorsport enthusiasts get a serious kick out of that real feeling of making a car dance within its limits and getting it to hit the edge of its capabilities without falling off. This is also the reason that a lot of more casual gamers will always jump straight for the Ferraris and Lamborghinis, whereas a real enthusiast can truly enjoy the magic of Lancia Delta Integrale in third gear hitting a perfect line and the right clipping point through an opening sweep.

So then… is Gran Turismo 5 keeping up to its bold claim of being the “real driving simulator”? It sure is and there is nothing out there right now that can keep up with it (the rally still needs some serious work though).

So then, why the title? Why have I taken a stab at the racing side of things? Well, it’s simple. I took a stab at the racing in GT5, because it’s just downright terrible.

In all of my time spent with GT5, I can’t tell you how much of it has been filled with nothing but frustration, anger and disappointment thanks to a very shoddy racing system, some atrocious A.I and some very very stupid decisions from Polyphony Digital.

I was often given only two laps to overtake a dozen cars on a tight circuit when starting from the back of the grid. If any driver, in any motorsport, was capable of pulling off such a feat without causing massive accidents or getting his ass disqualified for cheating, he would be crowned the king of racing and would have little Michael Schumachers worship his feet all day long.

Why then, was I given this ridiculous task so many times over? When you take that many cars, on a race circuit and are asked to come out on top, you are not asking me to race, you are asking me to shove, cheat and wangle my way into the top spot. Racing is about patience, consistency and skill, not outbreaking 6 cars and slamming into another to slow down… that’s just stupid.

Add to this the fact that GT5 still lacks any sort of racing rules and regulations and it just gets worse. Having issues catching up? No problem, instead of breaking for that next big chicane, just aim for the other side of it and blast through. You can easily make up 5-6 seconds on a lap without any sort of penalty.

The source of most of my anger however, came from the mind-numbingly stupid artificial intelligence. Gran Turismo 5’s A.I could very well have been a huge secret ploy from Sony to sell more PS3 controllers, because I wanted to throw mine across the room on more than one occasion.

The issues really stood out when I was doing my license tests. Often, you will be asked to overtake as many cars as possible over the span of a lap or two in order to finish a test. In these tests you are disqualified if you leave the track at any point, or more importantly, have a decent enough collision with another vehicle.

At one point, I think I came scarily close to actually signing myself into an asylum, because GT5 had made me bat-shit-crazy. Trying to overtake cars over 2 laps became a nightmare when I was force to do the test over and over and over and over again due to issues with the AI.

I had A.I cars slam brakes in front of me for no reason, causing me to hit them and get disqualified as well as having A.I actually ram into me from behind through a corner and have the game disqualify me for the fender bender. I mean, are you kidding me? The list of stupid and annoying things I have seen come from A.I drivers is mind boggling. I also had to redo a Ferrari-specific race around Monza over and over again because – would you believe it – every time I got onto a straight, A.I near me would actually drive up alongside me and then push me off the track, or spin my rear-end out.

Overall, the actual racing experience in Gran Turismo 5 is laughable. It’s quite sad really when you realise that as a pure driving experience, the game is nearly perfection itself.

On one side, you could give me Gran Turismo 5 and I will keep myself happy all day doing hot laps around tracks, trying to drift a hunk of metal around a windy road or just plain messing around with those lovely machines.

On the other side, as an actual racing game, GT5 seems to fail miserably. There are barely any actual racing rules, you are often required to perform miracles that require terrible driving and lots of collisions and to make it all worse, the A.I don’t really seem to even know they are a part of the whole gig either.

Of all the things Gran Turismo 5 needs in an update, I say that Polyphony Digital need to work the hardest on taking this phenomenal driving experience, and giving us a proper arena in which to play with it. Gran Turismo 5 is a sublime driving experience that I just can’t get enough of, but whenever racing and A.I gets involved, it all just seems to turn to pot.

I’ve given my two cents, and I’d really like to hear the opinions of not only the other hardcore gear-heads, but the everyday gamers as well. What do you guys think so far, and how have your experiences been with Gran Turismo 5 now that you have had it for a while?

Hit us up with your comments below.

Last Updated: January 12, 2011

Nick De Bruyne

Video games writer, editor and critic since '08. Living and breathing video games, movies and cars since the 80s. Follow me on Twitter if you love tons of gaming talk, and @pennyworthrevs for fun stuff and links.

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