Editor's Note: This review was published earlier, before the reviewer completed all the license tests. We pulled the review, acknowledging it was an inaccurate representation of the game. The reviewer has completed all the license tests and has provided a new, edited review.
Before gamers ever really got to play it, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue was already slapped in the face with accusations of being nothing more than a glorified demo. Branded with such a stigma, many gamers had turned away from Prologue and decided to wait out until next year when the "real" GT5 races out. Are these people vindicated in their racing abstinence? Or are they missing out?
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue does continue the tradition of maintaining the most realistic driving sim out on the market. It does this with stunningly gorgeous visuals while at the same time playing like a charm. A rigid online mode does drag the title down a bit, but overall, Prologue will leave you well satisfied. This is one PS3 exclusive that'll definitely make you proud to be a PS3 owner.
The first thing gamers will notice after having popped in their disc (or installed their download) is the radiant attention to detail on cars and environments. The cars are so sleek and flawlessly designed that there are no visible jaggies ever to be found on any model. The race courses are also well-detailed, but will not stun gamers as much as the drool-worthy automobiles. The most stand out race course (as far as looks go) would definitely be the London stage. It's so accurately depicted, right down to street signs, corners, and the famous Piccadilly Circus -- a place which anyone who's been there would instantly recognize.
Pretty pixels aside, what about the gameplay? In short, it's solid. DualShock 3 and SIXAXIS controllers all work great. The DS3's rumble feedback is a nice addition, though it's rarely felt unless you're crashing into a wall -- something you should not be doing. The officially supported racing wheels each have their own menu, so you can customize your racing wheels with ease. As far as actual driving goes, the learning curve bends with each car. Each of the 67 cars available from the start have a unique feel when driving them; well, at least the ones we've bought certainly do.
While being in the driver's seat of each car exudes a unique feel, the ability to fine tune cars to one's liking makes things even more personal. Making its way into Prologue through the Quick Tuning option, players will be able to customize their car's specs and save up to three different versions of their pimped out rides. This feature is only unlocked once all A class events are completed, which means you need to be a pretty good driver to attain it. Considering that Quick Tuning is rather a complex system, placing it after A class completion is actually a choice. Gamers who can't reach that far don't really have the need for the option because they probably haven't gained enough experience to understand what all the customizable parts will do. Meanwhile, GT experts who would know exactly what to do, would easily get to this point and will have the option ready for them to abuse.
To find the Quick Tuning menu, you need to have already chosen your course and car, then you'll see the option added to your before-race menu. The tuning options are usually regulated by "Performance Points" which gauge how powerful your custom beast is. The rating you receive will then be used to check if you qualify for specific races. For example, the tuned online time trials have both 600 PP and below races as well as 700 PP and below races. What's good about this is that cars can be tweaked while fairness is held intact.
The online mode tends to do a good job in sorting out the colloquial noob from the rally champions. For the online mode, there's a set number of races with preset conditions and rules. Most of the intermediate and expert levels are locked until the player clears all ten "A class" events. This is nice as it ensures that gamers with similar expertise are playing one another, but it also means that if one does not earn an A class license, then the majority of online play with be inexcusably restricted.
More on the online mode, the game auto-matches you to opponents looking to enter the same race type as you. Finding racers doesn't take long -- not more than three minutes. Races are usually capped at 12 to 16 racers, but if there's not enough people wanting to play, the match will automatically start with whoever is around.
Gran Turismo experts and novices alike can find a challenge with each of the six race courses in the game. Each course has their own varying difficulty which focuses on drawing out different driving expertise from the player. Each one also has a variant which ultimately adds another six tracks to race on. With 30 dealerships and over 70 cars to collect, car enthusiast will no doubt enjoy filling up their virtual garage with a new beauty every time they win a few races.
About events, each one has ten races to complete. The difficulty level between A through C classes has an excellent curve and adds a balanced progression from each one. When a class is cleared, you'll earn yourself a gift vehicle. When an A class license is earned, you'll unlock not only the previously mentioned Quick Tuning mode, but also the ultra difficult bonus S class events. This is where the bulk of your Quick Tuning will be used. Elsewhere, the two-player split screen is also a great feature. In this mode, two players can race each other. Both players can only choose cars that are currently available in the garage.
Arcade mode lets gamers play any course and take a time or drift trial. The fastest laps on the time trials and drift trials can be recorded for online ranking. Online ranking can be sorted out by car, course, or driving physics. Meanwhile, GT TV is a feature that is hard to review so early in its life cycle. GT TV is a feature that allows gamers to download exclusive racing-related videos; it only received its first update last week. Hopefully it can maintain regular updates.
One thing that may seem unimportant is the lack of BGM selection. Songs play randomly and don't even display information on the playing track. It's strange that Prologue would tout the inclusion of Weezer and Mars Volta songs with TV spots and press releases, but then ultimately not make mention of them at all in the game. If you license music for a game, there needs to be supporting options -- how and when to play them. It's sad to say this, but this is a tip of the hat to how EA does things. Also, a lot of the time, music won't even play while racing. Again, the option for this needs to be given.
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is, overall, a great game. It is a complete game -- not a demo. There are a few nitpicky areas that we've mentioned, but in general, most of these complaints can be easily fixed in future patches. Given how Prologue will be supported up until GT5's eventual release, those desired changes have a good chance of becoming reality. At a discounted $40 price, Prologue is a good deal. You're getting a great driving sim and one of the most realistic looking games ever.
PS3 Fanboy review score: 8.5