What is it?
Gran Turismo 5: Prologue is, despite its name, the eighth incarnation of Polyphony Digital’s iconic racing series for Sony’s various PlayStations. Given that GT4 Mobile, the long-awaited version for the portable PSP handheld console, has seemingly been scrapped, GT5: Prologue is effectively the first new product in four years from Polyphony and its lead producer, Kazunori Yamauchi.It’s the first GT game to have been designed from scratch for the PlayStation 3, and is an appetiser for GT5 proper, which arrives sometime in 2009. So don’t expect GT4-esque variety and garages full of hundreds of cars here; you get 71 cars and six circuits. Oh, and it’s released next week (27 March) via Sony’s online store.
What’s it like?
Visually gorgeous, for starters. The PS3 can throw around fully high-definition graphics (1080p, if you have a good enough telly) at 60 frames per second, so the action is smooth and stunning to behold. The in-game menus are slick to the point of Hollywood movies, and the cars themselves are so beautifully rendered that we wasted half an hour alone just cycling through the ‘dealership’ section where you buy machinery. You can spend entire evenings just watching replays.That attention to detail – Gran Turismo’s hallmark, really – is carried over to the racing. We chose a bright orange Ford Focus ST, then switched to the new in-car view and marvelled at the sight of the turbo boost gauge flicking to the left on upshifts. It’s that accurate.Other improvements over GT4? You can have up to 16 cars per race now, you can take on your mates in online battles and time trials, and there are plenty of new cars including, at last, some Ferraris (previously exclusive to the Xbox’s Gotham Racing series). The tiresome licence process has been abandoned, too; instead you build up your experience through racing and challenges.Frustrations? There’s still no car damage (yawn), there are still no Porsches (argh) and the online racing does need development to match the Xbox’s slick Internet experience. But given the frequency of updates on the PS3 itself, Polyphony is likely to address at least the last of those gripes in the months ahead.
Should I buy it?
Yes. If you shop around you can pick up GT5: Prologue on BluRay disc for under £20, and it has more than enough gameplay to justify that outlay (you’ll need a PS3 and TV capable of doing the graphics justice too, of course.) But you do sense that the game is just a taster for what lies ahead; the full game will need super-slick online racing, a full damage mode, hundreds of cars and dozens of tracks if it’s to really take the series to a new level.
Release date: 27 March (via PSN), 28 March (on Blu-ray disc)