Gran Turismo 5
The Gran Turismo series has a reputation for delivering high-end, sim-style racing to PlayStation owners since its debut in 1997. It’s also known for being a little tough for novices to crack and for giving players stop-gap releases between major versions. That last bit hasn’t changed – PlayStation 3 owners already have played around with the Gran Turismo HD demo and Gran Turismo 5: Prologue before the 2010 release of the latest full version. When it comes to accessibility, however, Gran Turismo 5 looks like it could be the entry point casual players have been waiting for.
According to series producer Kazunori Yamauchi, the way that people play games has shifted in the past decade. Rather than devote a dozen undivided hours to a game in one sitting, he says players today now have text messaging and e-mail to distract them. With Gran Turismo 5, Yamauchi says he and his team are setting out to create a game that players can enjoy even if they have a limited amount of time to do so.
Cars have always been a huge part of the game, obviously, and Gran Turismo 5 has one of the most impressive garages we’ve seen. There are 950 cars in the game, covering everything from classics to cutting-edge race cars, with plenty of entries in the middle. Perhaps one of the most interesting additions comes in the form of hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs), including the Tesla Roadster. “It’s an eco friendly game,” Yamauchi joked when we interviewed him in Polyphony Digital’s Tokyo offices.
Polyphony’s painstaking attention to detail is demonstrated by how much work his team has spent making sure EVs were accurately translated to the gaming world – from the way they sound to the way they handle. “You just hear road noise and the sound of the wind, really,” starts Yamauchi. “One thing about it is that Sony is one of the major producers of lithium ion batteries. We were in close contact with a team that develops those batteries, and we’ve taken in their knowledge and information, and that’s how we went forward with development. One of the most difficult things about the EV cars is the battery. Regarding the Toyota’s hybrid system, we’ve been in contact with them regarding their system for over five years now, so we have accumulated a good amount of knowledge from their side as well.”
Acquiring new vehicles has always been a huge part of Gran Turismo’s career mode, and we don’t expect to see many changes with that structure. What’s certain is that players who also play the PlayStation Portable version of the game will be able to fill their garages faster – up to 10 times faster, according to Yamauchi (those players won’t be able to access quite everything, however; 150 cars are exclusive to the PS3 version).
One of the few criticisms that people have had about Gran Turismo games is the lack of damage to the vehicle models. The cars are certainly gorgeous, but having them bounce around impervious to physical deformation was a blow to the realism that Polyphony so heavily invests in. That’s changed with the fifth major installment. Cars will take damage ranging from minor scuffs and dings to more drastic deformation such as doors and other major body parts being torn off completely. Such damage is more than cosmetic, too.
“The damage physics are going to be applied to things like a bent suspension arm, tires hitting the wheel wells of a car, deformation of the body affecting alignment, the loss of power to the engine,” says Yamauchi. “We’re actually still working on setting the sensitivity level of the damage. You can have it so if you have a single hit your car isn’t going to be able to be driven anymore. It’s a matter of adjustment.”
Gran Turismo 5 also marks the introduction of NASCAR and World Rally Championship racing to the series. Yamauchi says adding those popular forms of motor racing has been challenging. “The most difficult part is actually NASCAR,” he says. “Their rules are really, really complex. It’s almost the difference between soccer and American football. I’m not quite sure of just how much of NASCAR’s rules we’ll be able to implement into the game, but we’re going to try.”
As with Gran Turismo 4, you’re free to ogle your cars in photo mode. This time around, though, players will see their vehicles as never before. “In GT5, the level of detail on the tracks and the scenery – and also on the cars themselves – has just exponentially increased,” says Yamauchi. “I think the quality of the image that you can get is going to be not even comparable. We’re trying to make it so that at a minimum you’ll be able to take 8 megapixel pictures. We might be able to raise it up to about 20 megapixels, but I can’t promise anything.”
After seeing and playing the game at racing rigs scattered throughout Polyphony’s offices, we’re confident that Yamauchi and his team are at least going to be able to promise one thing: PlayStation owners are going to have a beautiful game on their hands when it ships in early 2010.