Plenty of bang for buck, but still not for all.

User Rating: 8 | Gran Turismo 5 Prologue PS3
The first thing to keep in mind here, is many people say 5:Prologue is just an expensive demo, quite frankly, this is no demo, it has more cars then many full games (MCLA anyone?) and 6 tracks with some variants as well although small is more then any normal demo. So what is GT5P? I'd say it should be treated more like a budget title, it was priced at around half the RRP (recommended retail price) of most full titles and can be picked up extremely cheaply now for probably less then £5 here (or less then $10 USD). On to the review then.

Graphics as always are the first port of call, and GT5P is a stunner from the outset. The first intro video is not pre-rendered, that's very likely in game stuff right there folks, and the game itself looks just as good. There are a few jaggys to be spotted if you look hard enough and on certain cars, but overall GT5P is one of the best look games around even now 2 years after release. The lighting is fantastic, models both exterior and interior are of the highest detail as you watch the shadows of the pillars drizzle the cockpit. Some the important gauges are full functional, although sometimes the gauges are a little dark and can't be seen in some situations, but the game provides a standard HUD to back it up as well. That said, the level of detail is just outrageous, almost more then you need but really helps the immersion. Tracks themselves look good to and we have a range of locations to look at, the twisty mountains of Eiger Nordwand, the city streets of London to the clean race tracks of Daytona, all rendered wonderfully although a little stale at times as theres no interaction with the environment (ie tyre walls are rock solid etc.). The sound is good but not great, most cars sounds good enough but you can only hear the engine and tyre noise, there's very little in the way of blow off valves or other mechanical noises (although some cars blow off can be heard when you look behind, that's no good).

The gameplay itself (note: I have only ever played on professional physics with no driving aids except ABS) is solid. The driving feels realistic, cars understeer correctly, oversteer when they should and it's one of the best games if not the in terms of the core driving physics themselves available on console (in the sim genre). There are plenty of options to help newer players such as a more forgiving physics model, driving aids and a visual racing line but all are optional and players using standard physics can't mix with those using pro. The racing itself is, well it's mixed. The first thing you'll want to do is head through the single player stuff to unlock a few nice goodies and get some practice (most notably unlock tuning and the ability to race pro events online). The mixed part comes from the differences between racing offline and on which I'll explain now.

Offline racing is fun enough, the AI is generally quite competitive (keep in mind I use pro) but they are flawed. They tend to hesitate far to much when overtaking, sometimes they'll just not register if you brake early and won't move from their line and they struggle to run in a group and often brake far to soon leaving you nowhere but to plough into them. It's much better then 4, they will move away from the racing line, but it's still not up to the standards of other games out there. Now would be a good time to mention there is no damage in this game at all, but damage is over-rated people. Those who complain the most about the lack of it, clearly are crashing to much if it's a problem for them not having damage. Damage is good in some ways but not in others and the ideal way to have it is optional to balance things out, it's not needed but it can help immersion and discourage bad driving (or sometimes encouraged ramming if they get to see you crumple and die online, but we'll get on to that soon enough). Overall offline play is good if you like just driving, the time trials, drift trials, tuning options (although limited by sim standards are good enough) and general offline racing is fun, but if you want a really competitive race there's only one way to go.

Online, and this is where many of the problems of offline racing disapear, and out come a whole new load of problems. First of all there's only one way to join games, through a lengthy matchmaking process, and to play with friends you have to hit join at the same time and hope the matchmaker puts you together. For this reason, as all rooms are public, there are performance limits you have on your car, in the form of points which are related to the car itself, then the power, weight, tyres and downforce you add or remove from your car. It's good enough for actually racing, but for people looking for the chance to play around, drift or similar, it becomes difficult and time consuming. Then we have the damage thing again, you'll be glad the damage isn't online as some people just aren't good enough to not hit things in a close race, or are so set on winning they are prepared to give you a love tap or two to win. That said, pro races are generally of a reasonable standard and accidents are usually exactly that, accidents, but one person can easily destroy a whole race. Standard physics modes should be avoided, ramming is the norm there and it's just not worth playing. Lag is usually minimal for the most part but if it happens the race is as good as useless as you simply can't overtake anyone cleanly. All that said, get a good race with clean drivers and you're in for one hell of a ride, it's provided some of the single best racing moments and most memorable gaming moments for me and it's just excellent when it all comes together well. Even if you don't win, a close race is thrilling and just damn good fun. Sometimes there is one or two cars which shine out as over-powered, but it's unlikely that everyone will be using them so there's still a race to be had even if it's not for the lead (there are no statistics, you earn money based on your finish and nothing else).

Overall, GT5P is certainly not the perfect game but it is good especially at the price you could pick it up these days. The driving feel, particularly on a good wheel, is simply the best on console, and it's not exactly shabby on controller for fans of the series or other sims. The AI problems and basic online set up drag the score down most, if they had private customisable rooms this would be a winner, but it doesn't and we'll have to wait until GT5 for that. A solid budget title nonetheless and a pretty good sim.