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Critical Reception: Sony/Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo 5 Prologue

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines the plethora of online reaction to Sony's racer sim Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, which critics describe as "a consistently pleasurable experience" - multiple perspectives within.

Danny Cowan, Blogger

April 16, 2008

7 Min Read

This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Sony's racer sim preview Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, which critics describe as "a consistently pleasurable experience." In an effort to bridge the gap of time between the release of 2005's critically lauded PS2 racing sim Gran Turismo 4 and the upcoming Gran Turismo 5, Sony is set to release a preview edition, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, in stores this week in North America. Prologue earned top sales upon its release in Japan in December, and currently leads the UK's weekly multiplatform bestseller charts at Amazon.co.uk. Though few question that Prologue will become just as big of a sales success in North America upon its release this week, many have expressed reservations about paying an asking price of $39.99 for what amounts to a robust demo disc. Critics for the most part feel that the title is a worthwhile investment for racing fans, however, scoring Prologue at an average of 81 out of 100. Jon Wilcox at Total Video Games rates Prologue at 9 out of 10. "The second GT title to make itself known on Sony's latest powerhouse, following the veritable sniff that was GTHD Concept, Gran Turismo 5: Prologue continues in a similar vein to GT4: Prologue," he begins. Wilcox explains: "A limited selection of tracks and cars, together with a smattering of modes (and the fulfillment of that near-Holy Grail of the GT franchise, online multiplayer) at the outset looks like Yamouchi-san and his Polyphony team may seem a tad restricted in depth...but it's so very far from that." Wilcox assures that Prologue's level of detail will meet the expectations of series fans. "First off, and exactly as you'd expect, the vehicles are superlatively stunning," he notes. "Purely striking in a way that GT's rivals can only look on with envy at, the level of detail is incredible, from the tiniest LCD on a dashboard to the texture grain on the inside of the new cockpit view." Prologue's six selectable tracks are not all on the same level of quality, however. "The tracks themselves are in varying states of polish and presentation," Wilcox finds. "Whilst some, such as the mountainous Eiger Nordwandtrack (which made an appearance in 2007's GTHD Concept), feel particularly slick, others (most notably the Daytona Raceway) are less so." "Likely placeholder material in anticipation of the full version of Gran Turismo 5 next year," Wilcox continues, "the presentation of the tracks may not be fully decked out at the moment, but with the extra year (or more) that the release of Prologue will afford Polyphony, expect the likes of the Fuji Speedway and the London tracks to pull out all the stops." Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell contributes a Prologue review scored at 8 out of 10. "The average car in Gran Turismo 4 was made up of over 4,000 polygons. The figure for GT5 Prologue is meant to be higher than 200,000," he writes. However: "GT4 had 721 cars. GT5 Prologue launches in Europe with 71. We may be 11 million polygons ahead, but we're 650 cars behind." "Fortunately, Prologue does a lot with the means at its disposal," Bramwell continues. "30 race events are split evenly across three classes. Initially you're hauling cheap Suzukis and Hondas to the front of 8 to 12-car packs for two or three laps, reinvesting the prize purse in faster cars. As the field thickens with Skylines, Imprezas, Mustangs and Ford GTs, you're asked to go further, the AI pushing you harder." Bramwell explains that Prologue contains more gameplay hours than one might expect. "Even if you coast through A-Class, S-Class will force you to regroup and work out what all the dials do," he notes. "To get that far takes over a dozen hours, and you probably have fewer cars than that in your garage when you do." Bramwell also makes mention of Prologue's online component, which he claims is "easily the weakest part of the game in its current state." Bramwell describes Prologue's online presence: "With no in-game XMB (summer, hopefully) and no bespoke friends lists or proper matchmaking options, you just pick one of the server-set tasks and wait for the game to link you up with other players. Pre-release, these were placeholder tasks like a single-lap, all-comers race around a particular circuit, and an online time trial with its own leaderboard." "Next to the vast array of options and brilliant Xbox Live integration in games like Forza Motorsport 2 and Project Gotham Racing 4 on 360, it's incredibly basic," Bramwell criticizes, "although Polyphony plans to add more functionality later. As long as the range of tasks is refreshed regularly, it should offer a lot of gameplay, and performance was solid in our tests, but keeping the specifications out of your hands is completely at odds with the rest of the game." Regardless of its weaknesses, Bramwell feels that Prologue's ample content justifies a purchase. "Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is cluttered with minor imperfections and imbalances," he concludes. "As a result it's not quite brilliant, and we particularly mourn the apparently stillborn online racing, but there's more than enough here to justify the asking price, and exploring it all is a consistently pleasurable experience, which should have considerable appeal for GT's ardent supporters and satisfy the curiosity of the rapidly-growing PS3 installed base at the same time." Harry Neary at Boomtown questions Prologue's longevity, scoring it at 6 out of 10. "Gran Turismo 5 Prologue looks bloody brilliant in the adverts doesn't it?" he asks. "But the truth is Prologue seems pretty much designed to look fantastic in adverts rather than something you can use with much pleasure in the long term." "Take that GT5P London circuit for example," Neary continues. "The level of detail in the buildings and lighting is beautiful. Yet at its heart is a particularly rubbish racing ribbon, a stretch of road that offers zero interest for the meagre few seconds it actually takes to get around it." Neary feels that the rest of Prologue is better from a gameplay standpoint, but is lacking in other areas. "Thankfully not all of the six (perhaps seven - depends how you count) circuits in the game are that poor, but none are as pretty," he asserts. "No one lights a racer like Polyphony Digital and the beauty in the quality of light hides how sparse many of these circuits are. You only have to do a lap of Suzuka in Forza Motorsport 2 to see that the GT5 Prologue lacks an awful lot." "There's a stalemate though," Neary continues, with an in-depth comparison. "Forza 2 is smoother and doesn't feature the occasional frame rate jitters and tearing seen in GT5P. The textures are more detailed in Forza 2. Yet the car models in Turn 10's game look really quite awful compared to those created by Polyphony Digital and while the track lighting in FM2 is good, on the cars it's rubbish." Neary also expresses disappointment in Prologue's lack of damage modeling and physics. "There's no excuse for the lack of damage now. Far too many of the races in GT5P can be won by wall riding rather than playing fair," he says. "Online the lack of damage encourages cheating to the nth degree. The strange force-field like collisions between the player and AI are deeply unsatisfying." A few improvements and innovations like adjustable brake balance while driving are noted, however, and Neary acknowledges that their presence hints at the quality of the full version of Gran Turismo 5. "Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is a system selling game," he admits. "But it marks a failure of evolution in a series that was once groundbreaking and is now becoming a little stale." Gran Turismo's former dominance in the racing simulation genre has recently been challenged by titles like Forza Motorsport 2, and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue can be expected to offer a limited experience in comparison. Critics find that Prologue hints at good things to come for Sony's racing series, however, and many feel that Prologue offers gamers a satisfying experience for its price.

About the Author(s)

Danny Cowan


Danny Cowan is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist for Gamasutra and its subsites. Previously, he has written reviews and feature articles for gaming publications including 1UP.com, GamePro, and Hardcore Gamer Magazine.

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