Consoles have always had their own exclusive racing franchises: Xbox has Project Gotham Racing and Forza, Sony has Gran Turismo and Nintendo has Mario Kart.
With the fourth edition of the Gran Turismo series, Sony and Polyphony Digital, developers of Gran Turismo, decided to release an interim game, cunningly entitled GT4 Prologue. There was much debate on the interwebs as to whether or not this was a good thing. Some said it was a good way of practicing before the full title came out; others said it was just Sony wanting to get more money out of gamers and that developers shouldn’t need to practice – that’s what testing is for!
Whichever story you believe, the GT4 Prologue model must have worked, since Sony is now repeating the exercise with Gran Turismo 5.
So, is GT5 Prologue worth the money, or is it really just a tech demo for things to come? In true Top Gear style, the only way to find out is to take the cars out for a run around the track. Now it's the time to find out whether I'm Captain Slow or The Stig…
Jeremy Clarkson or Kelly Clarkson?
After waiting what seems like forever to install the game and updates, the first thing to do is choose your starting car.
The first impulse would be to buy the best car that you can afford with your starting cash, but you'll find yourself unable to take part in some of the first races if you do. Instead, buy something small and simple such as the Suzuki Cappuccino for the first couple of races, and then upgrade as and when money allows.
Trust me. I offer this piece of advice for free, and speak from experience – there’s nothing worse than having the best car but nothing to do with it.
There are plenty of cars for you to upgrade to – over forty in total, from over twenty manufacturers – ranging from the aforementioned Cappuccino all the way to the Ferrari F430, with the odd Mustang and Lotus thrown in for good measure.
The cars are all as accurate as you can make them in a game – not that I know what it's like to drive an F430 – and this physics model has been beefed up for this iteration of Gran Turismo. This means that this is probably the closest you'll get to racing round the streets of London at high speed without getting arrested.
There are six tracks available in the game, from the long, lazy curves of Daytona to the tight, ninety-degree turns of London and the impossible hairpins of Suzuka. It's in the non-racetrack courses that you see the full power of the graphics engine. The streets of London are modelled in minute detail and the views of the mountains over Eiger Nordwand are simply jaw dropping. Not that you'll have much of a chance to look at the scenery as you race past.
Unfortunately though, while the game has oodles of realistic details and an established, refined game model for customising cars and progressing through races – enter a race, win money, upgrade your car, rinse, repeat – there are also some annoying flaws...