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Gran Turismo 5 Prologue
Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Polyphony Digital
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2; 1 - 16 (Online)
Genre: Racing (Simulation)/ Racing (Arcade)/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
There are three aspects, really, to look at when it comes to racing game car models in racing games striving for realism. The first is realism, the appearance of the vehicle models in pristine condition. The second is deformation, or whether the cars can take damage and, if so, how realistically they portray that damage. The final aspect is customization, including custom paint jobs, vinyl, accessories and the like. Gran Turismo has never been a game aimed at tweakers who want to customize their cars a la "The Fast and the Furious." The philosophy behind Gran Turismo is steeped in appreciation for the machines as they are. Part of that appreciation, it seems (as well as part of the legal agreements that facilitate the licensing of a large number of cars and full cooperation with car manufacturers) results in the lack of vehicular damage. However, that leaves the appearance of the cars to be considered. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue addresses this excellently, with highly detailed and realistic models that feature the factory paint jobs and realistic shading, lighting and reflections. These cars look real.

One feature in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue that belongs under the heading of graphics and sound is the GT TV feature. This section houses a collection of HD video content that you can watch on your PS3. If you buy Gran Turismo 5 Prologue on Blu-ray Disc, then you get an exclusive video on the history of Gran Turismo, featuring Kazunori Yamauchi. This section is also where you can find the intro video, should you desire to watch it in its entirety. All of the other HD video content will show in the menu, and is free, but must be downloaded to your PS3's hard drive before you can watch them.

The music selection in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is a bit strange, ranging from pumping electronica during races to jazz in the menu screens, but it all seems to work well. The sound effects seem realistic sounding to me, although I haven't been in a lot of sports cars racing around tracks at upwards of a hundred miles per hour. The audio is done in surround sound, however, which comes across really well if you're playing over a surround sound system. Being able to hear cars as they overtake you and know what side they're passing you on adds a lot to the gameplay experience.

I had the pleasure of previewing Gran Turismo 5 Prologue before it was released. As I pointed out in that preview, there is a wide selection of races on beautiful, realistically detailed tracks. There's an Arcade mode for those who want to just jump in and play, a series of events to participate in Career mode, special manufacturer events specifically for certain make and models of cars and online races, although, at the time of the preview, I couldn't race in any online races... and now I have.

The online races in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue offer a stark contrast to the racing skills your A.I. opponents have, but, at the same time, offer a more human racing experience. There is the occasional hiccup, of course, where the network has a short issue here or there and a car may drive a little bit erratically. Truth told, however, this proved to be much less than I had feared; I've had some bad experiences with online racing games before, which led me to hope for the best and fear for the worst. Luckily, my fears were, largely, in vain.

Gran Turismo 5 Prologue gives you the opportunity to get behind the wheel in your choice of some of the hottest cars from 31 auto manufacturers and design houses (including a Gran Turismo Concepts design house). You will be able to experience racing around highly detailed virtual copies of real tracks. How real? So real that, in one of the HD video pieces, a professional race car driver claims that he can use the game to familiarize himself with tracks - even the familiar landmarks he uses to remember when to start decelerating for a turn are in the correct places.

Gran Turismo 5 Prologue can be quite difficult at times, so you'll want to practice and find a car that works well for you. Actually, watching the HD videos in the GT TV section can help, since they have videos highlighting some of the better cars and explaining what's good about them. As a tip, I'd suggest getting your hands on the Mitsubishi Evolution X and then taking your skills to the speed track if you're looking to build up some money while you get some practice. Actually, another good way to build funds quickly is playing online. I usually suggest that people practice a lot before they venture online, but in Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, it can actually be easier to get ahead while playing online races...

Before Gran Turismo 5 Prologue's launch, while I was previewing the game, I was unable to try out the online gameplay, due to network issues. Now that Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is officially launched, and I'm reviewing the game, these network issues seem to be resolved and, if you're looking to make some credits quickly, I highly suggest online races. Yes, the competition is human and, therefore, less predictable, but the rewards are higher, across the board. If you're going to come in 8th place, you want to do it online, where you'll get more credits for it. Or, at least, the extra rewards help to offset the embarrassment of a very public, less than stellar performance. It seems that you can subtract the position you place in from 13 and that's how much you will win (in thousands). That means that if you're in a 12 car race and you finish dead last, you would make (13-12=1). One thousand credits. If you come in third, you can make 10,000 credits. It gets better. If you start out in a 12 car race, come in last but, somewhere in the middle of the race, three of the cars drop their connection or otherwise bail, then you come in 9th and you get 4,000 credits. And, I should add, I have played an online game where I ended up in a four car race. That means I was guaranteed to win at least 9,000 credits! (I came in third and walked away with 10k.) The rate of return in the single player game can't touch this with a stick. If you need to make money, you need to be online.

Game Mechanics:
Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is, quite frankly, the next step in the Gran Turismo series' evolution towards automotive simulation perfection. The physics are amazingly real feeling, providing a realistic test-drive of a wide variety of sports cars.

As I mentioned above, there were some points during online play where some of the cars jumped around a little bit, but, overall, this was kept to a very reasonable minimum.

The Gran Turismo TV (GT TV) feature is an interesting feature, which helps to showcase the HD capabilities of the PS3 while serving more as a hype machine than anything else. However, if you're into sports cars and Gran Turismo, as I am, then you're likely to enjoy the videos. I did. The only thing I didn't like about the HD video content is that you have to download it (from inside of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue) and you can't have it download the content in the background. A ten minute clip can take a while to download when it's in HD.

In the end, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is an excellent game and, at the same time, a "vehicle" for advertising and hyping (and, I'm sure, monetizing) the upcoming Gran Turismo 5 game. If you're only going to get one or the other, you're going to want to wait. If you simply can't wait to get your hands on the latest Gran Turismo hot machine lovin', then you need to get this game.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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