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Friday, May 11, 2012

Gran Turismo 5 - A Second Opinion

John B. Marine | 1:56 PM | | |
On June 19, 2011; I reviewed Gran Turismo 5 exclusively here on John's Gran Turismo Space (JGTS). The time between that post and this one has left me with impressions of GT5. I began thinking about GT5 and began to develop second opinions about GT5. This blog post, then, is a look at GT5 based on the latest thoughts I've had about GT5.

About the Label: "Second Opinion"

While I may make my own initial reaction to things, I am entitled to make Second Opinions if I have to. This series of post features updated opinions on things as opposed to initial opinions on things.

I may make more Second Opinion posts on a number of related topics. These Second Opinions are their own blog posts devoted to certain topics I've previously covered.

--- Gran Turismo 5: A Second Opinion ---

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: If you haven't read my review of Gran Turismo 5, I want you to click on this link so you can know of my initial thoughts of GT5 prior to you reading my second opinions of GT5: "Gran Turismo 5 Review" - John's Gran Turismo Space.

Have you read my initial review of GT5? This was when I was first playing around with Gran Turismo 5. Why do I have these different thoughts now? It all began with me thinking long and hard about Gran Turismo 5 after I let my brother borrow GT5. Away from Gran Turismo 5 got me to think about GT5. So what do I take away from my new thoughts of GT5?

Even as I was still wanting to get my PlayStation 3 and GT5, I read a lot of reviews on GT5. Many of which claimed that GT5 seemed incomplete and a constant work-in-progress. This had me worried about the GT5 experience. In actuality, Gran Turismo 5 is a great game that can be better. The many strides towards a better car lineup, a damage model, impressive visuals, and more... still leaves me with somewhat of a feeling that Gran Turismo 5 could have equated to much more.

Second Opinion: Cars.

We all are enamored with the quality on Premium cars in Gran Turismo 5. They basically seemed to be the reason why you should enjoy racing in Gran Turismo 5. Each of the cars were amazingly detailed inside and out. You could tune them up in ways you couldn't with most other cars. Oh, and their damage was more brutal than their Standard counterparts. Oh, and what about the Standards? It used to be that the Standard cars were much less restricted in how you can really modify them. Recent updates have allowed you to equip Standard cars with wheels as well as have interior views for Standard cars, albeit silhouette views. Some open-top Standard cars have great in-car views while not as detailed as their Premium counterparts.

Gran Turismo 5 features the most glittering lineup of makers in series history. Constant complaining by some people have hinted that Polyphony Digital would never get Ferrari and Lamborghini. We got BOTH in the game. Maserati is even in GT5. NASCAR and WRC cars joined the car list as well. Sense a missing company? For many people, Porsche would only complete the cycle. If you've been on GTPlanet as I have been since 2003, I have remembered so much about how people criticize Polyphony Digital for not getting big-name manufacturers; and even more so when the "big-name manufacturers" are car companies other than Ferrari, Porsche, and Lamborghini. Almost as if those car companies are REQUIRED to make a racing game great. And of course, you'll have the ones who will complain about too many Skylines and Lancers than most cars that the average fan cares about. Ranting aside, GT5 has the best lineup of manufacturers and cars in series history.

Let's look at the other issues of cars. Standard cars can be bought at the Dealership. The Dealership allows for detailed and expressive views of the cars. You could even view the cars in four different light settings. Two jazzy songs play when you go to the Dealership. It is just a romantic experience to see the cars in such exquisite detail.

However, look at the Standard car shopping experience- you have to go to the "Used" car dealership. Rather than a lovely list of cars, you get this list of cars in two columns with a looping rock song in the background. Then try and view the cars- the Standard cars are apparently too ugly to be viewed as romantically as the Premium cars, so you have to make due with the view you're given of the Standard cars. And unlike the four different light settings of Premium cars, you are given only one light setting.

Some people talk about Premium vs. Standard on the basis of certain cars being made Premium or Standard. I disagree with anyone who thinks certain cars are Premium on choice alone. EVERY car would be Premium if it were up to PD. My problem, however, is the diversity of Premium cars. Let's look at this in deeper detail for a moment. The Audi R10 TDI is the only LMP that is Premium. Both of the Ferrari F1 cars are the only formula cars with detailed interiors. Before the Spec 2.0 updates, you had no detailed view of the Formula Gran Turismo cars. No trucks or SUVs are Premium. I just think there could be a bit more variety among Premium models.

When you make a racing game, you celebrate all of the cars featured. You try to make every car as presentable and as vivid as possible. Don't make it seem like the Premium cars are the only cars worth featuring. If that was the case, this game would have significantly less cars and probably wouldn't be as fun to race.

Second Opinion: Tracks.

I began to think about the tracks to an extent. A lot of the past favorites of GT games were nowhere to be found. Two of the biggest misses were two that have been in every GT since GT2: Mid-Field Raceway and Apricot Hill. Then too, you could make the case for Seattle Circuit as well. I probably would argue that the older Rome Circuit should have been in the GT5 lineup of tracks as well. On the real track front, I've been surprised that not one Motegi course returned for GT5. NASCAR in GT5 could have benefited from Twin Ring Motegi Superspeedway. It would have given NASCAR that decent Intermediate oval to compliment Daytona and Indianapolis.

I was disappointed with some of the tracks in GT5. Take Clubman Stage Route 5 and Special Stage Route 5, for example. Can you tell where the Start/Finish line is? Where are the fans and the grand stands? The track just seemed extremely lifeless. Beautiful locale, but it severely lacked the character and charm of a real race day (or race night in this case). And of all the courses, only one original location debuted- Cape Ring. Another unique locale for GT5 is the non-practical Special Stage Route 7. This track was primarily designed for fans of Tokyo highway battle a la Wangan Midnight. It leads me to believe that the creative energy of Polyphony Digital is lacking. To make up for it, Polyphony Digital came along with Special Stage Route X, a very long oval course in an industrial setting that could be thought of as a replacement for Test Course.

Gran Turismo 5 is the first Gran Turismo is which NONE of the previous rally courses return. Yes, Chamonix is back, but it is not the same Chamonix from GT5. Tahiti Circuit has been gone since GT3. The Tahiti Maze course from GT2-GT4 is nowhere to be found. Swiss Alps? No- but you can race Eiger Nordwand and its courses. Smokey Mountain has been gone since GT3. Basically, the old rally favorites have gone AWOL in GT5.

While you can't make tracks from start to finish, you can generate them and edit their parameters. I generated a tarmac course to practice my tarmac rally skills. I probably generated a few more courses just to practice rallying. Other than that, the Course Maker could mean so much more i you could really refine and edit generated courses completely.

More tracks could have benefited from time and weather changes. I think Gran Turismo will eventually come to a point where any track can be raced in any time of day. Weather will be a different situation altogether. A fair assessment would indicate that if you could race the Nürburgring and Circuit de la Sarthe with time and weather changes, how come you can't race the Daytona Road Course with time and weather changes?

Downloadable content (DLC) helped generate some more tracks for GT5. However, the non-DLC material was sufficient enough to make GT5's lineup of tracks serviceable and fun. From the previous paragraph, you could also make the case for a model that would allow for Spa-Francorchamps to have time cycles in addition to weather.

Second Opinion: Racing.

I think the non-online racing aspect of Gran Turismo 5 is one of the biggest disappointments. My own theory is that Polyphony Digital wanted to make GT5 less about the offline racing and more about online racing. However, you should NEVER let your non-online racing suffer. The depth of racing in Gran Turismo 5 is one of the worst. Each of the series is a pack of nine races.

While online racing is much more open and free, it doesn't mean you have to let the single-player aspect not be as fun as online play. Compare GT4 to GT5 for a moment on the racing front. The One-Make races had a series of events. In GT5, the featured One-Make races are just one race around a certain track. Where's the fun in that? Why not make the races feel like a series or a championship instead of just one race?

There still is no real drag racing. People still use one of the backstretches of Special Stage Route 7 for drag racing. I see it as a missed opportunity to have true drag racing on a true drag strip rather than use some other track.

Again- it just feels like Gran Turismo 5 wanted to make the single player action to not be as exciting as online play. Then again, I feel the Seasonal events help save the racing variety in GT5. Otherwise, it would be completely stale to just have the lackluster single player racing and variably enjoyable online racing. Single player racing shouldn't have to suffer regardless of what the online experience provides.

Second Opinion: Music and Sound.

Gran Turismo 5 is the first GT to allow for custom soundtracks to be used. These soundtracks can play for some of the menu and race themes. It is the first Gran Turismo to allow for such full-length songs to be played for menus. Gran Turismo 5 features perhaps the BEST classy music.

Its music selection, however, is an example of what happens if you give certain people what they want- especially if what they want (or wouldn't mind) is vastly different from what you are accustomed to and love in a GT game. For one thing- My Chemical Romance to open a Gran Turismo game? Thank goodness the soundtrack changed to that one Daiki Kasho song (Soul on Display) when the 2.0 update came out! I think one of the most creative songs was "The Entertainer," which played when you visit GT Auto. I know most people are opposed to anything that isn't rock music, but I think that song perfectly fits the lighthearted tone of GT Auto.

Some of the looped songs in GT5 could have been better music choices. Places such as the Tune Shop, the Used Car Dealer, and the Online Car Dealer could have had better-sounding songs. I do like listening to the theme when you purchase/receive a Standard car. I wished being at home in GT Mode had that classic theme we've heard from GT2 through GT4. I would rather hear certain looped songs rather than full-length music for menus. On the other hand, I could listen to most of the songs from Yudai Sato or Satoshi Bando all day if I could. Some of my favorite lounge or jazz songs include "Farewell," "Current of the Times," "Like a Bird," all among others. I also love "Soul on Display" by Daiki Kasho as well as "You're On My Mind Baby." There are a good number of songs I like among the 190 or so available songs in GT5.

Again- it seemed like the classic formula of lounge and jazzy music for the menus were replaced just to make certain other people happy. If you don't like lounge music or jazz music, that's fine. It's still sad that you have to shy away from using looped lounge or jazz music just to appease to those who'd rather listen to whatever they want in the menus. That is one of the things that can happen when you try to please EVERYONE- not everyone can immediately love and cherish certain long-standing values and features. It ultimately leads to ticking certain people off and leaving them disappointed.

The sounds have become a huge improvement in GT5. However, more work can be found to make it better. I still cringe a bit at the in-car sounds. You hear a loud boom when you hit something hard in the in-car view. For a lot of in-car audio I've heard in races, I don't think I've EVER heard a loud boom sound whenever an in-car view has somebody getting hit or takes a hit.

One last note on music- "Moon Over the Castle" is and should always be the theme for Gran Turismo. You don't need to pander to certain international regions by putting a different song in place of GT's original theme.

Second Opinion: Interface.

GT Mode is a hot mess of scattered images to represent the world map in GT5. Every GT/Simulation mode since the first one was some sort of city map. Even Tourist Trophy had a stylish mode. What PD was thinking for GT5's GT Mode is beyond me. Did they listen/read the fans who thought the classic formula of GT Mode was to cumbersome and massive that it had to be simplified the way it was in GT5? Another disappointment as I make these second opinions of GT5.

If I think of any more, I will feature more second opinions in future edits. I didn't mention online gaming in this initial blog post because I don't really do online racing in GT5.

--- Gran Turismo 5: Second Opinion Final Thoughts ---

Some people complain that Polyphony Digital doesn't listen to people. Well, Gran Turismo 5 would make you think otherwise. I think a good deal of GT5 was created with various insight from many different fans of the series. Polyphony Digital even admitted that the push for damage was mostly generated in part by GT fans in North America. Many of the cars chosen for GT5 were a combination of what we'd want to see along with what certain manufacturers would want to be featured in GT5.

GT5, then, is an example that PD DOES listen to you and read your text online. I wish most people would stop complaining about how PD don't seem to listen to its fans. PD obviously listened to the fans who wanted to hear My Chemical Romance start a Gran Turismo game. They've listened since prognosticators believed Gran Turismo would NEVER receive Ferrari and Lamborghini as part of its car lineup.

Aside from fan reaction, I think Gran Turismo 5 seemed like it could be much more than what the retail version provided. I still think GT5 kind of seems like that butterfly still in its cocoon waiting to emerge and flutter away. While that may have seemed like a fruity expression of Gran Turismo 5 for some of my viewers, how else can you describe a game that can really be better than what its retail version ultimately ended up as?

So to me, Gran Turismo 5 seems like a method of giving certain disgruntled and discriminating GT fans what they want. GT5 was such an experience to them apart from what salty GT veterans (like myself) wanted in GT5. I think with the new Seasonal events, more life is added to GT5 for those looking for an experience other than what the single player experience offers. However, how much longer can most Gran Turismo fans enjoy GT5 before they feel like some drastic change is needed down the road to propel Gran Turismo further into the future? Just something to think about for my GT fans.

Now you know about some of my second opinions of Gran Turismo 5. I might make more second opinion posts on the other GT games (and maybe a second opinion on Tourist Trophy). I hope you've enjoyed this blog post. Remember that you are free to share and comment on my work here on "John's Gran Turismo Space." So please have a great day and take care! Thank you for reading!

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