Summary: Our resident car enthusiast, Alan Dang, got his hands on Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. Does it live up to the hype?
The paradox of all of this is that Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is a technology demo. It isn’t even the full version of the game. You don’t have hundreds of cars, or dozens of tracks, or even performance modifications. Even so, this is the best $50 I have spent in a long time.
You can’t bring up Gran Turismo without hearing complaints about the lack of car damage and how “unrealistic” the physics are in comparison to something such as Konami’s Enthusia Professional Racing. Gran Turismo 5 attempts to fix all of these complaints, and with GT5: Prologue we have a chance to preview one of these issues.
SIDEBAR: NCSX has been our preferred import videogame retailer for years.
Gran Turismo 3 has already been used by professional drivers for practice and simulation. With GT4, the physics engine was improved, and with GT5, a new “Professional” physics engine has been introduced as an option, promising even more realism. In our GT5 Prologue Demo Preview (Tokyo Motor Show Edition), I commented that the new Professional simulation mode offered a better overall feel of driving dynamics between different cars. While I still couldn’t do the donuts, use the clutch to drift, or generate the outrageous drift angles that are possible with Enthusia Professional Racing, the responsiveness of the cars on the track under “normal” racing conditions seemed very natural. Unfortunately, having never driven an Evo X, IS-F, BMW 135i, or WRX STI, it was impossible for me to comment on the physics realism.
With Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, the impossible is now possible. GT5: Prologue allows you to drive cars that exist in the retail market, and I’m happy to say that the realism of the driving simulation is better than any previous Gran Turismo iteration. With a force feedback steering wheel, the cars handle realistically. Grip with “sport tires” mirror the performance of real-life. More importantly, the audio in GT5: Prologue has been upgraded tremendously allowing you to rely on the sound of screeching tires in conjunction with the force feedback to get a feel for the grip of the car on the road. Engine audio is also significantly improved from the previous iterations of GT4, though my audio system isn’t equipped with a big enough subwoofer to figure out if Polyphony Digital captured the full tonality of a real engine. One thing I do know is that while the game supports Dolby Digital, it is also possible to enjoy a native 7.1 PCM mix over HDMI.
It’s easy to hand wave about “realistic physics.” After all, every reviewer can claim to be a car expert on the Internet and every iteration is “near perfect.” As “near perfect” as GT4 was, when Edmunds.com and IGN compared Gran Turismo 4 to real-life lap times at Laguna Seca, they consistently found that the game offered faster lap times. They attributed this to the fact that “you can’t die in Gran Turismo, so you’re prone to take greater risks.” It’s also easy to say that Enthusia Professional Racing is the most realistic game because it’s one of the few games where you can do donuts or huge drifts. In my experience, the more time I spent with Enthusia, the faster I was with Gran Turismo, so they were doing something right even if it was just penalizing the gamer for being any imperfection.
It is worth noting that when we interviewed Bob Earl a few years ago (a championship driver with 24 career victories including 24 hours at Daytona and 12 hours of Sebring and the Macau Grand Prix), he found the time differences between Laguna Seca in GT3 and Laguna Seca in real-life to be less than one second. In fact, he was also able to identify the exact turn of Laguna Seca which deviated from real-life. Bob Earl was a fan of GT3 as a simulator… he drove for the Nissan Performance GTP team and was the lead development driver on the Nissan P35 V12 Group C car.
Edmunds.com saw huge differences between lap times in a Ford GT, Dodge Neon SRT-4, Mazda RX-8, and EVO 9RS. No Nissans. Bob Earl and I think Gran Turismo is realistic, and we’re Nissan drivers. Is there a common theme here? Actually, there’s one more piece of the puzzle. Nissan factory drivers have been the primary consultants to the Polyphony Digital Team for the Gran Turismo series. They’re the ones who are giving the software developers the most accurate feedback on how “realistic” a car feels in the game. The connection between PD and Nissan is so close that NISMO worked with Polyphony Digital to design a 350Z aero kit, and the electronic gauges in the new GT-R were designed by Polyphony Digital. Perhaps by providence, the cars I happen to drive in real-life are the cars that are more accurately portrayed in the game.
The driving dynamics of the Nissan’s in GT5 is superb, but are the lap times spot on? I haven’t driven any of the tracks featured in GT5: Prologue, so I can’t talk about lap times.
Like every Gran Turismo before it, Gran Turismo 5 raises the bar for visual realism. While the Xbox 360 has had games with better quality than the PS3 up until recently, there is no doubt in my mind that the cars in GT5:P are the most realistic cars of any game. Yes there’s aliasing, and no, the environments may not have all of the wonderful eye candy that other games may have, but the quality of the lighting and pearlescence of each car.
Interiors are now fully modeled, although the GT-R seems to be the only car where the accessory gauges are also active. Unfortunately, the text resolutions of the interior seem disproportionately low. While the exterior shots can be mistaken for reality (especially when the image is downsized, removing any aliasing), the same cannot be said about the interior.
Daytona International Speedway (+Road Course)
Car List (Initial)
Acura NSX ‘91
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue only has 5 tracks. This is one less than Gran Turismo Concept and the same as Gran Turismo 4 Prologue. One difference is that GT4 Prologue had a full license test mode and almost twice as many cars. From this perspective, GT5 Prologue seems to offer “less” value than the previous two “Prologue” editions. If the physics engine wasn’t that good, I’d have some reservations recommending GT5: Prologue.
Patrick “B2” Li was once the #2 ranked Quake player in the world (second only to Thresh). Now that he’s left the world of competitive gaming for the world of competitive software engineering, he’s got one of these. The TT is a car that a lot of us would actually buy. You might only take your car out to the track a few times a year, but with the Audi TT, you can enjoy the upscale interior, the magnetically damped ride, DSG transmission, and Quattro grip on a daily basis.
BMW M3 Coupe
Compared to the 335i, the M3 has a carbon fiber roof, better brakes, the V8 engine, and a limited slip differential. Gran Turismo 5: Prologue does not have the twin-turboed 335i, but we would be very surprised if it wasn’t included in the final release of the game. GT5:P does feature the 135i, and so the comparisons between the M3’s V8 and 3.5 twin turbo straight six in the 135i and 335i are sure to be popular. In real life, I’d take the 335i over the M3 any day. Add a Vishnu PROcede and a Quaife LSD, and you’ve got M3 performance with the stealth of a ubiquitous 3-series coupe.
Chevrolet Corvette Z06
The best car coming out of America, hands down. People can talk about the use of balsa wood, leaf springs, or the need for 7 liters of displacement, but at the end of the day, the Z06 handles well, looks great, and is proof that American cars aren’t simply designed for straight-line performance.
My dream car. It’s fast, it’s gorgeous, and it’s actually a driveable car. The cheapest way to experience the F430 engine is to buy a used Maserati Coupe. The Maserati has a similar engine although the engine, chassis, and transmission have all been tuned for luxury grand touring as opposed to the supercar performance of the F430. That said, a used Maserati Coupe can be found for $40-50k. Keep in mind that the dry sump oil system means $150 oil changes and the clutch on the Cambiocorsa needs to be replaced every 1 to 2 years at a cost of ~$3500.
The IS-F has gotten great reviews from car magazines. The IS-F is a great car coming out of Lexus, although it lacks the purpose of the original NSX or the cache that a AMG 6.3L or BMW M3 offers. Still, as Lexus’s first entry in the high-performance luxury sport sedan, Lexus has done a great job. The best thing to come out of Lexus’s “F” program are the aftermarket upgrades such as ceramic brakes which can be installed on standard IS350’s. The Mark Levinson factory audio system in Lexus vehicles is still a benchmark for factory-installed audio systems. You may be able to do better with custom aftermarket setups, but the ML system is a great choice as a factory installed setup. I’m definitely interested in listening to the new B&W setup in the Jaguar XF and the new B&O setup in the new Aston Martin’s (replacing the previous Linn designs!). The regular IS350 is a bit small and the steering a bit too soft for my liking, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Toyota’s 306 hp engine making Ward’s Top Ten Engines for many years to come.
Nissan Skyline GT-R R34
The legendary GT-R will always have a spot in the hearts of import tuners and fans of the Fast and the Furious movies. Although the GT-R has reached stratospheric levels of “street cred” among the import car tuning scene, the respect that the GT-R is assuredly deserved. Beyond the NSX, the Nissan GT-R was probably the first “real” supercar coming out of Japan. In the factory configuration, the GT-R was good, but the legendary RB26DETT which gave the GT-R it’s claim to fame was able to reach 1000hp levels of performance. The closest thing we ever saw to this kind of performance in the US was the Toyota Supra Turbo.
Nissan Fairlady Z (350Z)
The 350z in Gran Turismo 5: Prologue is the new ’07 model with the VQ35HR engine. The VQ engine from Nissan is the only engine to make the list of Ward’s Top 10 Best Engine’s 14 years consecutively. The VQ continues to set the standard for a performance V6 engine, offering superb torque and a smooth delivery. If not for BMW’s twin turbo 3.5L straight six, the VQ35 would have no peer. Stock VQ35 engines have seen 400+ hp, and built motors can easily exceed levels beyond 700hp. The look of the 350Z is starting to get old, although the recent NISMO edition looks nice.
Nissan Skyline 350GT Type SP
The V36-era Nissan Skyline (aka. 2007+ Infiniti G35) is the car I actually own. My Blue Slate G35x (Stratosphere Blue in Japan) is an amazing car, offering plenty of RWD performance with the practicality of all-wheel-drive that’s required for the bitter New England winters. The G35x is an export-only model (in Japan, AWD is only offered with a 2.5L engine).
Nissan Skyline Coupe Concept and Skyline 370GT Type SP.
Most people feel that the Coupe Concept had a more aggressive front fascia than the current G37. That said the side profile and rear of the G37 is very close to the original. As was the case with the first generation G35 (V35 Skyline), the coupe is heavier than the sedan. In the real-world, even though the G37 has more horsepower (thanks to a VQ37VHR engine), a firmer suspension, 4-piston 14" brakes on the front in comparison to the G35, the G37’s track performance is about on par with the G35 due to its extra weight. The extra horsepower makes only a small difference in 0-60 performance, really only pulling ahead once you get to “track-only” speeds and the added weight means that the braking performance isn’t significantly better.
Nissan GT-R Proto and GT-R
The Z06 and 911 Turbo beating Nissan GT-R is the new standard for Japanese supercar performance. Whether it’s Nurburgring, Tsukuba, or the daily commute, there isn’t a faster Japanese car. Officially, Nissan has called the GT-R’s ECU “hack proof” – part of Nissan’s commitment to the environment. That’s admittedly one of the coolest things about this generation’s sports car. Cars like the GT-R, BMW M3, and Audi S6 are all ULEV certified (The M5 and 911 are only LEV certified).
Subaru WRX STi and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Like the Lancer Evolution, the WRX STi is one of those cars that’s really fast but really ugly. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there’s no question that Subaru and Mitsubishi’s rice rockets have a purpose-built look to them. They’re beautiful in the perspective of fans of the cover of Import Tuner Magazine, but compared to something like the GT-R, NSX, Mercedes SLR, F430, or Ford GT, it’s not in the same class.