Gran Turismo 5 Prologue – Everything You Need to Know

Thumb - Image 1Are you going to pay for a demo? You may not want to shell out bucks for a taste of an upcoming game, but Sony and Polyphony Digital may do the impossible and get you running/clicking towards a store to buy Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. Check out the full article to read about more reasons why you should give in.

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It’s finally here: The North American release of Sony and Polyphony Digital‘s tasty, tempting sampler, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, and it’s got enough action and content to make gamers forget that it’s just a slice of the actual game to be released sometime next year.

If you’re one of the “oh, I’m just going to wait for the actual game” camp, get ready to be persuaded otherwise: Online racing, up to 16 players at once, Ferrari F2007, get the drift? Here’s a hint: the game didn’t hit the top spot of the UK charts upon its release for nothing.

Fans of the series know that Gran Turismo, from the very start, has been touted as the Real Driving Simulator. Series producer Kazunori Yamauchi and the rest of the Polyphony Digital team made sure that the Gran Turismo name lived up to its hype (and what the very name  itself represented) from the moment the very first game was released way back in 1997, and followed through to the launch of Gran Turismo 4, the last numbered release produced for the PlayStation 2.

The series’ main strength, apart from the signature glossy, sleek, ultra-realistic details that it painstakingly applies to each and every car, came from the sheer size of the large selection of licensed cars available. But these expensive-looking beauties weren’t just for show, they also made sure that the in-game handling of every automobile, stock or otherwise, was faithful to their real-life counterparts.

But that’s just the beginning.

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Act like a driver, feel like a driver: the My Page interface

You will know that you’re already experiencing something different from the usual driving simulator once you’re greeted by Gran Turismo 5 Prologue‘s sleek My Page interface.

The screen looks like an image that is being displayed on a PC monitor hooked up to a souped up PC. Instead of the usual main menu, non-intrusive My Page icons are laid out across the screen, affording immediate access to GT5 Prologue‘s online and offline gameplay modes, Garage, GT-TV video on-demand service, among others.

The scenic, ultra-realistic shot of the currently-selected car displayed on-screen serves as the wallpaper, while various widget-like elements, integral to your new GT5 Prologue driving lifestyle, are tastefully laid out on the interface. There’s the calendar that informs you of upcoming racing events, a world map that marks your current location, weather and news reports for major tracks and of course, a world clock.

What could be the most noticeable addition to GT5 Prologue‘s main interface, however, is GT-TV. Being a video-on-demand service catering to car fanatics, GT-TV offers both free, unlockable videos as well as payable clips of auto show reports, as well as documentaries concerning some of the automobiles available in GT5 Prologue.

Some of the programs that can be downloaded through the GT-TV VOD service are Super GT, Best Motoring, and D1 Grand Prix, among others. BBC’s Top Gear can also be accessed through GT-TV, and its first episode can be downloaded, free of charge.

This is just the game’s My Page interface, we already know now, for sure, that Gran Turismo 5 Prologue doesn’t only aim to simulate the perfect driving experience, but also make you think, feel, and yes, breathe like a real driver.

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Choose your (usual) flavor: offline game modes

Like previous games of the same series, GT5 Prologue boasts top notch offline gameplay and content, which includes Arcade and Event racing modes. Offline gameplay includes the ubiquitous Arcade Mode, because a driving simulator is never without the arcade mode, of course. GT 5 Prologue‘s Arcade is everything you can expect from a straightforward single-player run, where you can choose which track you want to race in against AI drivers.

And then there’s the Event mode. Those who are acquainted with the franchise know that Event is GT5 Prologue‘s take on Career mode, where aspiring championship drivers compete in Time Trials, Mission, and Championship races in order to gain credits and advance in class. You’re going to see a lot of this mode with a lot of grinding required to unlock certain items in the game, especially the legendary Ferrari F2007.

But this is far from the vanilla career mode that you play just to fill awkward, boring moments with. With so many wheels that can be unlocked, Polyphony Digital proves that they can make a “demo” so good, it becomes a full-fledged game in its own right.

Another integral offline mode is 2P Battle. Like the Arcade mode, no console driving sim is without the offline splitscreen two-player mode. However, you can’t just settle down for mere two-player battles with a friend sitting beside you, not when one of the main points of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue‘s existence is to show off the series’ new online offerings.

Giving the much-needed twist to GT5 Prologue‘s offline gameplay modes are the Drift Trial and Free Run modes. These modes were included in the Spec II upgrade, along with other car and track additions, and gameplay tweaks.

Fans of Japanese-style car racing will especially appreciate the addition of the Drift Trial mode, where aspiring drivers can practice burning rubber, while those who just want to coast along the roads to appreciate the insane amount of detail present in the tracks can pretty much just do a Free Run. Stress-free driving at its finest.

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Testing the waters: online gameplay modes and features

Then we go into the meat and potatoes of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue: the online gameplay modes. As those who were able to get their hands on Gran Turismo 4 Online Test Version know, GT5 Prologue is technically not  the series’ first foray into online gameplay. Prologue is mostly a result of the work and research that Polyphony Digital had accumulated from their Japan-only release of GT4 Online Test.

GT5 Prologue may give off the vibe that the team is still testing the waters with online game, but you can tell that they’re aiming for a full-blown online gaming experience by noticing how the entire game seems to revolve around this particular feature.

For instance, the My Page interface, aside from serving as a portal to GT5 Prologue‘s various game modes and features, also offers a real-time look at what’s happening in the online GT5 Prologue races with its ubiquitous Calendar. The News My Page icon provides a log of
newly-added content and online in-game events, as well as server maintenance schedules, informing the gamer about upcoming events and downtimes.

The actual online gameplay currently comes in two flavors: online time trials and worldwide multiplayer races, where all participants get to be sized up in the online ranking boards – with records all updated in real-time.

To spice things up, Polyphony Digital doles out online racing events by “days.” Some of the events for Day 1, for example, go like this:

  • Upper-level race event at Fuji: three laps, max eight players, using super car class
  • Upper-level race event at Fuji: three laps, max sixteen players, all using Elize 111R in professional mode with S1 tires.
  • Beginner’s time trial at Daytona: using middle car class

It should be noted that online events will be available for a limited time only, to be replaced with new ones.

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True to the gameplay mechanics of other games in the GT series, each of the online racing events have their own limitations and conditions that need to be fulfilled. There are also no set levels of penalty that applies to all tracks; each and every events have their own penalty levels, depending on shortcuts taken, etc.

One of the snags with online play that’s immediately noticeable is the lengthy load time, especially with online multiplayer. Loading in offline modes isn’t a problem at all, but when you’re presented with a two-minute wait time before you engage in online races, you know that you have a potential problem in your hands.

Don’t despair though, because the actual online races will make up for the lengthy load times, you’ll encounter little to no lag issues in the racing events that you participated, quite a feat, especially since each online multiplayer event can allow up to 16 players go head to head.

However, there are some issues when it comes to fully enjoying the online gameplay experience: first off, there’s currently no option to select your opponents from your friends list, you can’t even host your own racing events, and there’s also no support for voice or text chat.

That’s too bad. How can we indulge in our basic human need to give and receive trashtalk? No need to worry, young grasshopper: Yamauchi himself said that Polyphony Digital is currently working to implement interaction between players. “The major things that we’re planning for the update will be to add community building features such as communication between players,” his very words.

With the game being occasionally updated by Yamauchi-san and the rest of the Polyphony Digital team, you can bet that this won’t be the final list of modes and features available for GT5 Prologue. It’s going to get bigger.

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Pimp yo’ ride: selecting, tuning your cars

For the money, GT5 Prologue offers a lot of playable cars to unlock and tinker with. The usual automobile manufacturers that you’d expect in a driving simulator are there: Mitsubishi, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Subaru, among others.

Several tuned cars are present as well, including those from tuning experts Art Morrisson, Blitz, MINE’S and the most recently added RE Amemiya. Polyphony Digital couldn’t help but dabble at tuning as well, branding the cars that they have tuned with the “Concept by Gran Turismo” name.

Some of the cars that will make the GT5 Prologue experience shine are Kimi Raikonnen’s Ferrari F2007, Ferrari 599, BMW M3, Honda Integra Type R, and the Lotus Elise 111R. The North American version will have more or less 76 credited cars upon its release, and there’s a chance that the list will be expanded as more updates roll in.

Once you choose your car, you may find that it may not fit your driving quirks – especially if you’re an advanced player. After you finish and fulfill the events from C to A classes, you’ll be given the option to tweak your car via the Tuning option. You’ll be able to adjust the following to your liking:

Power, Weight, Tires, Aerodynamics: tweaking these options will affect the outcome of your performance points, which determines the overall speed and agility of your steed.

On the other hand, customizing the following options will affect car handling, and is recommended for advanced drivers:

Ride Height             Spring Rate
Damper                    Toe Angle
Camber Angle        Brake Balance
Traction Control      Max Turning Angle
ABS                           F/R Torque Distribution
Gear Ratio

If you’re new to the series or even the driving sim genre, you may feel wary about tuning your auto, don’t be: after going through the C, B, and A events in the game you should more or less know the physics of your car. But more importantly, it’s not bad to play around with your car’s specs. However, you may want to exercise caution when adjusting your car’s transmission settings, as tweaking them will give drastic results.

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Coasting along the High Speed Ring: tracks in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue

The game starts out with five tracks based on real-life locations: London, Eiger Norwand, Fuiji International Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, and the Suzuka Circuit. The implementation of Spec II (already included in the North American release) has also added Gran Turismo‘s fictional course, High Speed Ring.

Don’t let the small number of tracks available detract you from the game, however. All tracks are available in two layouts: London and Eiger Nordwand tracks are both available in forward/reverse or uphill/downhill; while the rest of the other tracks have their own alternative versions and layouts. All in all, aspiring racers will have a total of 12 tracks to race along in.

A nice bonus to the track selection is the Arcade Mode’s Course Guide – high definition video documentaries that give you a peek into the history and background of each track as you coast along. This is exclusive to the Blu-ray disc version of the game, however, so if you want to have some disembodied voice distracting you from your race, you might as well grab GT5 Prologue from your local brick-and-mortar store.

As always, Polyphony Digital pulled out all the stops, adding a painstaking amount of detail to each and every track. In fact, coupled with the photo-realistic car models, onlookers may think that they’re watching a footage of real-life racing. Indeed, the latest Gran Turismo iteration definitely ups the eye-candy ante; we’d be hard-pressed to think of any other game that pushes the boundaries of virtual realism.

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Moon Over The Castle: the soundtrack

Of course, another staple of the driving simulation genre is the fast-paced rock and techno soundtrack that assaults your ears in tune with the roaring of your engines. Aside from the cars and the speed and feel of prestige that the whole package gives off, the Gran Turismo series has historically prided itself on the top-notch soundtracks that accompanied each and every game in the series.

Masahiro Andoh’s famous and catchy Gran Turismo theme, Moon Over The Castle, is remixed and spruced up once again exclusively for GT5 Prologue. The theme remix was re-recorded by Vince DiCola and Doug Bossi in Los Angeles.

Speaking of exclusive tunes, the North American version of the game features prominent artists in its soundtrack, including Weezer, Mars Volta, DJ Shadow, Thin Lizzy, and many others. We can’t wait to burn rubber to the tunes of With a Heavy Heart (I Regret to Inform You) by Does It Offend You, Yeah? playing in the background.

Aside from the North American release-exclusive soundtrack, tracks from other regions will also make an appearance as well in the form of tunes by Nittoku Inoue, naomee, Daiki Kasho and other international luminaries. You can check out the full track list here.

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So what else can we expect from the game?

If you managed to grab the Japanese version of the game and played through it, you’d be surprised to find the sweeping difference between the original Japanese version and its North American counterpart. Right out of the box, the US version of GT5 Prologue is already in Spec II and an updated version at that.

Gamers clamoring for actual damage modeling on cars will eventually be placated with a future update to GT5 Prologue. Yes, after many sequels and prologues, we’re finally going to see some pretty cars getting smashed when you run them directly to the barrier, instead of miraculously bouncing off. “Maybe by Fall we’ll be able to implement it,” said Yamauchi in a London press event.

It’s just too bad that a game with the sheer graphical prowess of Prologue doesn’t have a Photo Mode to save some shots; some of the angles in Replay Mode just look so realistic, you could use the images to trick a few folks into thinking that they’re watching a video clip of a real racing event. We can only hope that it will be added sometime in the future.

It’s a great possibility; Yamauchi himself said that GT5 Prologue will “ultimately reach an equivalent level to GT5.” He also explained that the only difference between GT5 Prologue and GT5 is the number of cars and courses that can be accessed within the game.

Can we then expect that GT5 Prologue will have more features added to it in the future? We certainly can. In fact, judging by Yamauchi’s words, we can expect GT5 Prologue to eventually grow into a full-blown game in it’s own right. Demo? Nah.

And that’s it for this edition of QJ.NET’s “Everything You Need To Know” for Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. Keep it locked right here for more info about this phenomenal racing title as updates develop!

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