Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is a demo. A big one, yes, but a demo it remains, one that gives us but a taste of what we can expect from the full, final Gran Turismo 5 when it ships on the PS3 sometime next year. Serious fans of the series will no doubt already know what they're getting themselves into with this whole "Prologue" business, then, and won't give a monkey's brass balls what I say from here on in.
But if you're still on the fence over whether it's worth shelling out 60% of the full game's asking price for what's probably less than 10% of its content, read on, dear readers, read on.
• Graphics - Still a little sterile as far as the tracks are concerned (London excepted), but gorgeous nonetheless. Between the cars, in-car view and HDR lighting tricks this is the game you'll want to use if you're the type who has friends over just to show off how important your PS3 is to you and your home entertainment setup.
• Difficulty Curve - GT5P's got a new, improved assist mode for beginners, and it's the best I've seen in a racing game. Not only do you get an indicator for where the racing line is and when you need to brake, it actually tells you how fast you need to be going when you hit the braking-point. Very handy.
• Car Handling - No surprises here, it's the series' strength. Cars feel reasonably real, there's a marked difference between cars, blah blah blah. It's GT, you know the score, and even feels a little more forgiving than GT4, especially in some of the shittier cars. Oh, unless you turn off the assists. Then it's brutal as hell.
• Collision Modelling - The prettier and more realistic this game gets, the more its poor collision modelling stands out. I don't need to see scratches and broken glass on my car. What I do need - and what I expect of a series that's striving so hard for realism - is that when I hit a wall or another car, I feel like I've hit a wall or car. Not a stack of fluffy pillows stuffed with marshmallows.
• Six Tracks? - There's only six tracks, and even then, you spend most of the singleplayer events on only three of them (you race on the beautiful London track once). Those are slim pickings.
• The GRIND - The game's short on singleplayer content (I finished every event in just over a day), so it resorts to grinding to pad things out. Example: many races force you to buy a specific vehicle. So you have to repeatedly complete earlier races to get the cash for it, then usually only use the thing once. Next time you run into a car-specific race, you'll need to grind out the cash all over again. In a full GT game, this is fine, as there's a wealth of races to enter to spread things out and give you a little variety. With only a handful of tracks here, though, the grind is noticeable, and it's boring as hell.
• Online Play - I entered 30 online races, and not a single one was without serious issues. Cars blinked in and out of existence, and poor net code resulted in opponents that zoomed off into the distance at lightspeed, only to then reappear right in front of you. Makes racing, especially on packed circuits, really, really hard.
Look, as a demo, it's a good one. What's already on offer looks great, and feels great, so GT fans should have little doubt that when the full game's released - with hundreds of cars and dozens of tracks - Gran Turismo 5 will be everything they want it to be. But now, as a retail product? With a limited singleplayer experience and unstable online play, I just don't think it's worth $40. Not until they add more content or fix the online multiplayer, anyways.
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue was developed by Polyphony Digital, published by Sony Computer Entertainment and is due to be released in the US on April 17. Retails for $US 39.99. Available on PlayStation 3. Played singleplayer events to completion, completed 30 online races.