By Neil Schneider
Since the pioneering days of Atari’s Pole Position, racing has been a staple in video games. What started as a simple track has since grown to games that include venues all over the world and can feature several classes of speedway, environment, and ultimate driving machine!
One of Sony’s most popular racing franchises for the PlayStation 3 is Gran Turismo, and it made big news with its implementation of stereoscopic 3D support in Gran Turismo 5 (GT5). Today, we sit in the driver’s seat and tell you what this game has under the hood!
While GT5 has both traditional 2D and stereoscopic 3D modes, this entire game review is based on the 3D mode. This means that if there are visual effects or additions that are excluded in the 3D mode to compensate for additional 3D performance requirements, they are not acknowledged here. I would also like to point that that while these pictures give a good indicator of the 3D settings experience, they were shot through 3D glasses and are darker and grainier than that actual image provided by the Panasonic Viera VT25 3D HDTV used for testing.
General Game Review
When I ran Gran Turismo 5 for the first time, I was overwhelmed. I’ve never played Gran Turismo before, and right from the opening screen, there are several options and playing modes to choose from. It’s clear that this franchise has been aggressively grown and enhanced since its first release.
There are four major playing modes to choose from. “Arcade” mode is for players that just want to jump in a car and drive. GT5 boasts 26 different locations, 71 tracks, and well over a thousand cars.
“GT Mode” is the campaign that lets you choose your character and participate in two classes of game play. The “A-Spec” races are direct involvement where you drive the cars personally, while “B-Spec” races let you pass on instructions to the remote drivers which are controlled by the game’s AI.
The last mode is multiplayer, and I will go into that a bit later.
In GT Mode, you race and advance so you can buy and sell cars, unlock special events, and build driving characters and profiles. It makes the game more fun because instead of just racing around a track, you have skill based goals to complete that get rewarded with new tracks, events, cars, and money to spend on enhancements.
What makes GT5 work is they really went over the top to give a professional feel to the game and covered nearly all racing styles. For example, after you game for several hours, your car’s efficiency diminishes. You need to take care of that baby! Remember to take it to the shop for regular oil changes, paint jobs, parts, and more. You might think you bought a cool hotrod, but I assure you, everyone else has extra stuff powering their dream machine, and you need every advantage.
The graphics quality is excellent with well placed dynamic shadows, reflections, detailed environments, and in some cases, nasty weather! Each car has its own unique cockpit and style, and one can’t help but wonder the lengths Polyphony Digital went to get this level of authenticity. I’m not advanced enough yet, but drivers can go easy, or they can customize nearly every detail of their car to compensate for weather and special conditions.
“B-Spec” races are all about sitting in the stands and telling the driver what to do. Your first step is to set up driver profiles – people you can personally groom to be world class drivers. Once on the race track and with a birds-eye view, you strategize how your character should get to the finish line throughout the race. What pace do you maintain? When do you overtake? Has your competitor made a critical mistake that you can take advantage of? It’s all about strategy, and every decision can mean certain victory, or a humiliating failure.
The only disappointment I had with the game was multiplayer and I really walked into this with the wrong expectations. There is a two player split-screen mode in the “Arcade” section that is easy enough to play – no problem there. In the “Community Menu”, you can also share your driver profiles online, and race in “B-Spec” or remote-command mode. This is ok, I guess – but I expected to be able to go on the Internet and play against other PS3 owners in the actual drivers seat! That would have been really cool, and I think this was a missed opportunity for an otherwise flawless driving experience.
So how was the 3D you ask? Time to find out.
Stereoscopic 3D on PS3
GT5 got my thumbs up for including both a 3D depth setting (parallax) and a convergence setting. You need both of these adjustments to set how much depth the game will have, and how much of this depth will be inside and outside the screen.
I also commend GT5’s developers for maintaining fast performance with all aspects of the game. Anyone who says that modern consoles don’t have the horsepower to make stereoscopic 3D games work need to see Gran Turismo 5. While I would have liked to see a lot more destruction and cracked windshields, the game was super smooth and the graphics looked complex enough. The weather effects were really cool too, and it was good to see some out of screen elements with this stuff.
The in-cockpit view in stereoscopic 3D is fantastic. The moment you are in the car and in front of the steering wheel, the game is obviously in 3D. The developers also did a pretty good job with the menu cinematics which feature drivers and mechanics walking around the screen or different vehicle “glamour shots”. However, despite showing great promise, GT5 pulled its punches where it needed them most.
With the exception of a few camera angles, the external view, tire level view, hood view, and more are ridiculously flat. It was purely by accident that I discovered that the in-vehicle camera is the one most tied to the user settings. I was hoping I could find a way to adjust my screen size to somehow compensate for this, but no such luck.
Either Sony is purposely trying to keep things as modest as possible, or there is some kind of bug in the stereo implementation that is making the outcome very uneven. There are also sequences where some kind of auto-convergence technique is being used, and the screen can go crazy trying to find the right mix during race playbacks.
If you are looking for a great racing game for your Sony PlayStation 3, Gran Turismo 5 is a safe bet. It’s fun for both novice and advanced players, the graphics are top notch, and it will likely give you hours and hours of enjoyment.
Stereoscopic 3D gamers are also encouraged to give this title a try, though be prepared for its limitations. In some respects, Sony was too modest with the 3D settings, and gamers should be prepared to stick with the first person camera angle for maximum 3D effectiveness.
My number one recommendation to Sony would be to patch the game so that the settings or 3D experience in the cockpit is somehow equally reflected in the external views as well. It doesn’t make sense that in one scene, it’s a rock solid 3D experience, while in several others, the game is flat as a pancake.
How Memorable is This Game
Stereoscopic Effectiveness Sony PS3
7/10 (NOTE: This score is subjective and is not calibrated by M3GA)
Sony PS3 Overall Rating