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Gran Turismo 5 Prologue

Title: Gran Turismo 5 Prologue
Genre: Racing
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Release Date: April 15, 2008
ESRB: E
Rating: 8 out of 10

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If it seems like a year is too long to wait for Gran Turismo 5, then Sony will satisfy your love of the road with this abridged and early version. I sort of think that $39.99 is a lot for a teaser, but now that I’ve played it non-stop for days I think it is worth it.

It’s sort of weird how the game starts and you have nothing. You have to buy your first car, and then the collecting starts. Part of the game is about collecting new cars and they’re all different so it is always cool. There are only 60 cars. This is more than enough for me, but still it would be better if there were more. They are sorted by brand such as Ferrari, Acura, Honda, Ford, Mitsubishi, Dodge, etc. There’s plenty of variety in terms of learning how each car handles and accelerates. I’m psyched that I can race using my car, and Acura Integra. There’s not much tuning, but then again, that’s not what GT is for.

The graphics and audio are amazing and enveloping once properly configured. Watching a full 1080p on my 65” HDTV and listening to 7.1 multi-channel sound makes me feel as much of a race car driver as I’ve ever felt if not more so. If anything, GT5 Prologue shows us that GT5 will look stellar. The details are all there. Shadows sweep across the track, water ripples on infield lakes, the steering wheels are leather wrapped. The only disappointment is that the crowd looks like some cardboard cutouts – Sony would have been better off leaving the crowd out completely rather than doing a half-assed job.

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The graphics really shine when you start to change camera perspectives while driving. One view involves you sitting behind the wheel, steering left and right, shifting, and tilting your head from side to side. You’ve got side view and rear view mirrors. The details are noteworthy. I’ve never seen another racing game like this. Of course, I find that view hard to use for racing and opt to use one that is almost first person. I think, and I would for someone from Sony to give me a pixel count, that there are more pixels in the rear view mirror of GT5P than there were in the whole screen in my beloved GT on PSX.

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So, I’ve lauded graphics, sound, car selection, but what’s missing? I’ll tell you what is missing – tracks. There are only six tracks in GT5P which means that you can learn them quickly and then get a little bored. Apparently it takes more time to make a track than to make a car, which makes sense. There is variety in the choice of tracks, from the straightaways of Daytona to the twisty mountain roads of Eiger. There’s an assist line, but it is more fun to pick your own line. My personal favorite typically involves passing on the grass.

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The AI is good, definitely improved. Opponents now jockey for position and cut your off when you try to pass. But still, the AI isn’t that challenging. The game really shines online. After suffering through the required 3 system updates I was able to go online and compete against actual humans. Matching takes place very quickly and the races have close to no lag time. The only funkiness that I noticed was that in crowded races (up to 16 total cars), if there are collisions in the pack then the graphics drop down which sort of makes sense because 4 cars colliding at 125 mph is a lot of info to push all over the world.

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Overall, GT5P is great, but short. It is, after all, a teaser of what is to come. And what a tease. Life should have more teases like this. I still think it should cost less, or maybe Sony should have released a version with less cars and less tracks that was completely free. It’s sort of like paying to be teased (I could of course talk about other things that are like paying to be teased but I’m trying to keep this clean). My guess is that I’m going to play the hell out of this for a week or two, then play once in a while, and finally stop playing it entirely when GT5 ships.

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