Gran Turismo 5 Prologue
Demo or Prologue? You Decide!
Preview by James Cunningham (Email)
April 6th 2008
Prestige isn't an easy trait to acquire, but Gran Turismo has managed to become the gold standard for pure console racing. Real cars, realistic physics, and incredible attention to detail have been the hallmarks of every edition, but the downside is that they take longer and longer to create. The initial year and a half gap between each of the first three became a four-year wait for GT4, and GT5 isn't coming together any quicker. In order to help pass the time, and remind us who's the real king of the racing hill, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is ready to give us a taste of the full game to come.
GT5 Prologue will have slightly under one tenth of the cars in the full version, a "mere" 70 to either buy or win, and each one is incredibly detailed. Not only do they look amazing both inside and out, but the sound and handling is meticulously modeled as well. Engines growl, purr, or roar depending on the vehicle, and the sound of the wind only lessens when you lose speed (bad) or draft the guy ahead of you (good!). Getting a more accurate sensation of driving would require sitting behind the wheel of the real vehicle and flooring it.
While GT5 Prologue is generous with the cars, it doesn't fare so well with the tracks. There are a total of six to choose from, although there are multiple configurations for several, including being raced in reverse. A helpful racing line feature lets you learn them quickly, complete with braking indicators and even optimal speed for certain turns, and then it's time to take your expertise online and see how you fare against the rest of the world. The online features weren't available in the preview version Sony kindly supplied, so I can only speculate on the potential awesomeness of a 16 player race. Assuming half the racers don't drop when they find themselves trapped at the back of the pack, of course.
The big reveal from my hands-on time with GT5 Prologue is that it will live or die on the strength of its online component. The AI isn't that hard to dominate and the biggest challenge came from time trials. Real people are going to be needed to provide a reason to come back, because grinding a high-paying race in order to earn enough cash for another car is only fun for so long. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is gorgeous, packed with modes and features, and even has a video download service called Gran Turismo TV, but the real hook is going to be in its online community. If Sony can keep people racing online in a civil manner then this is going to be a blast for fans of realistic racers. If not, there's always the full version of Gran Turismo 5 to look forward to next year.