Gran Turismo 5 Prologue may have an established brand and a huge fanbase behind it, but the game isn’t perfect no matter what they all say.
Take the cars, for example. While the physics models are top notch, the damage models are non-existent and you won’t be denting your bonnet or scratching your paintwork – something which makes the game feel a little staid and basic. While I can understand the manufacturers not wanting to see their babies all crashed up, full damage is already available on games such as Forza, so there's really no reason why it shouldn't appear in GT5 Prologue.
The real problem with lack of damage modelling though isn’t based on comparing similar games but on the fact that crashing into an opponent doesn't affect your car in the slightest, which takes away any incentive to drive safely. Expect the cars to handle realistically, but don’t be afraid to spend laps ramming the bumper of the Ferrari in pole position. If you can handle the car under those conditions then there’s no reason not to play dirty.
Unfortunately, for those that like to tweak their cars, you can't do that until you've completed all of the Class A races and that’s going to take several hours of racing. Though, once you've done Class A, you'll be able to tweak your cars to your heart's content and when you're happy with your tweaking, you can then race them in further Class S races against other similarly tweaked opponents.
Multiplayer play in GT5 Prologue is probably the weakest part of the game. It simply consists of a variety of races around different tracks using different classes of car – there are no new modes or anything. For some strange reason, games are not hosted on PSN either, but by players actually racing. This means that if the player hosting the game is on a slow connection, updates of other cars can be jerky and it becomes awkward to predict where cars will be when you want to pass them. Add the lack of a damage model, and online races tend to be a somewhat chaotic and unfulfilling affair.
This isn't much different to racing against the computer though, since the AI-controlled cars have a tendency to stick rigidly to the racing line – and when they deviate, they tend to deviate with drastic consequences. At the risk of stating the obvious, get in front of the AI cars as quickly as you can, otherwise they'll take you with them if they make a mistake.
At times, GT5 Prologue feels more like a tech demo than a proper game. There are a few glitches and frame-rate drops. Messages in the news section apologising because online rankings were accidentally deleted don't help with this impression.
The lack of a damage model seriously affects the realism of the game and there's no real difficulty curve to speak of until you get to the Class S races. Anything up to that point is just a case of bigger and faster.
The game is undeniably beautiful to look are but the car models are probably on a par with Forza 2 and PGR4, not really surpassing them as you might hope. There are also a few occasions where the jaggies creep in which, given the alleged complexity of the models, you'd expect not to see.
So, is GT5 Prologue worth your money? That depends. Yes, it's half the price of other games, and yes it's the only serious racer available on the PS3 for the foreseeable future. But on the downside it doesn’t ever feel really complete. The lack of progressive difficulty and the limited number of tracks means races can get a little monotonous.
If you only have a PS3, then I'd recommend you get this game to tide you over until the full release comes along sometime next year. On the other hand, if you've got an Xbox 360 as well, I'd recommend that you stick with Forza and PGR as they'll give you more satisfaction in the meantime.
As a demo, it's a great way to show us what's to come. The only problem is, it leaves you feeling unsatisfied with what you've got and impatient to wait for the final release. Should we really be paying for a demo in the first place?