How often do we make a big deal out of a demo? Not very often, if you think about it. In fact, the demos that seem to get the most amount of attention are usually Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, and Gran Turismo. Gran Turismo 5 is no exception, as last year's Gran Turismo HD Concept demo was downloaded in such large numbers that it actually managed to bake Sony's servers very briefly. The hype around GT: HD Concept was pretty nutty. But unnerving anticipation for a demo…of a demo?! It's almost preposterous to think about it, but that's precisely what's going on with the Gran Turismo 5 Prologue demo.
We've had some tme with, what is actually our first proper look into Gran Turismo 5, and the results are nothing short of breathtaking. The demo consists of a total of five cars, the all new Nissan GT-R, the Lexus IS-F, the Mazda Atenza (Mazda 6), the Daihatsu OFC-1, and the BMW 135i. The Skyline GT-R was accessible at first with a black mask covering its rear and nose. The car has now been removed as Nissan will be revealing the final production car on Wednesday, so it will reappear in two days in its fully glory.
The Lexus IS-F and Mazda Atenza have been locked since the beginning, but they will, too, be unlocked in just two days as the Tokyo Motor Shows commences. There is also a secret car with a cover concealing it, and in case you're wondering what the car is, it's the all new Subaru WRX STi. It is possible that Polyphony will be adding a few extra cars to this demo, in addition to what's planned for this week, and possibly one track (we're speculating Daytona) — but all of that is just speculation.
Each car now has a nearly flawless in-dash camera view, where you're placed right into the cockpit of the vehicle. The attention to detail on the interiors is absolutely astonishing, by far better than what every other racing game has achieved. The gauges rev in perfect synchronization and accuracy with the game's on screen heads-up display. Each and every car on screen has a driver inside of it, who is fully mobile, steering the wheel, as his body leans with every corner the car approaches.
Moreover, the detail of each car's exterior is unreal. What we've seen in GT: HD Concept isn't exactly what you'll see in this demo of Prologue. There are more lighting effects being applied to the cars (and not in just the replays), and that continues to put Gran Turismo 5 in a league of its own. Polyphony has implemented such precision in how their lighting works that you'll even see the housing of a car's headlights reflect its environments – and doing it in a way that no other racer has properly done.
Car detail as a whole is downright flawless, and it's just very hard to imagine where visuals will go from here on. Compare a car in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue to its real life counterpart, and you likely won't spot a single error in its design. If this is what Polyphony is doing on the PlayStation 3 this early on, we really cannot imagine what else can be in store for us. Details also go beyond just flawless recreations of each car, but visual touches such a spoiler deploying from an Audi TT as it accelerates past 60MPH is another trait that sets Gran Turismo so far apart from everyone else.
And unlike many other racing games that use one generic spinning texture for a car's rims, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue doesn't do that. This demo of Prologue isn't completely optimized just yet, so there are some aliasing quirks to be found, but a lot of it does have to do with the kind of TV set you're running it on. With 16 cars on screen, this demo of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue still manages to run at 60 frames per second.
A very keen eye may notice some jittering during gameplay; it's one of two things: the car vibrating during a turn (if you're playing using the in-dash view) or a very slight framerate drop. The framerate doesn't seem to drop more than just a few frames (I'd say five or less), so you'd have to be extremely observant to notice it. Furthermore, it's not something that'll go unfixed for GT5 Prologue's final release, so don't worry.
As far as gameplay goes, the demo now offers two ways of playing the game – using the standard physics mode or the professional physics mode. Standard is more akin to what you had in Gran Turismo 3 or 4, where as professional is an all new physics code put together for GT5. Standard is still fairly realistic, especially if you turn off the driving aids, but professional pushes just that much more. I find it best to play on professional with no stability control, little-to-no traction control (depending on the car), and with normal or street tires. Race tires are extremely grippy, and so make controlling the cars a bit easier (as they would make driving on a track in real life).
You'll be able to guide your car around corners with the throttle more so than ever before. But be careful, because oversteer is a bitch. If you shoulder off too much and find yourself riding the sand with two wheels, or even one, apply extreme caution, as any sudden moves may send you into a spiral. Counter steering now becomes more pivotal, and control of it feels especially solid thanks to the in-dash view. Controlling the cars altogether feels a lot more connected when you're playing using the in-dash view as opposed to the rear-cam.
The weight of a car also comes off very precise, as the 3800lb AWD GT-R feels noticeably heavier and more reluctant to go into a corner as opposed to the smaller, shorter wheelbase, RWD 135i. Weight transfer clearly has a lot to do with that, in relation to how each car brakes going into a corner. What makes me uneasy is just how much fun I'm having with this slim pickings of stock cars, never mind how much time I'll end up sinking into both GT5 Prologue and Gran Turismo 5 itself.
Lastly, with 16 cars on the grid, Polyphony knew that they really had to step up with the A.I. and they did. Winning a race in the demo doesn't come that easily anymore (unless you drive using the standard physics and with driving aids). The A.I. knows how to run a clean line, but now has a more human characteristic in that they are susceptible to errors.
Additionally, their human traits also come into play when you're trying to overtake them. Instead of knocking into you as they robotically drive their pre-determined path, the A.I. will move out of your way if you're making a move on them. Don't get the wrong idea, though, because the A.I. isn't scared of giving you a little shove here and there. And best of all, if you do get into a pissing match with another car, you actually can force it to lose control – with minimal effort too. So not only is the A.I. far less robotic than in the past, but collisions can now result in consequences.
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is due out at the end of December in Japan, and mark my words, I'll be importing myself a copy, as should you. This demo, albeit showing some signs of being unoptimized, has proven to me once again that Polyphony Digital are the masters of their craft and it'll be a cold day in hell before their workmanship is toppled.