My interest in racing games has always been confined to the arcade genre. It was Burnout or Need for Speed where things like cornering or braking are not restricted to the laws of physics. I always saw series like Forza or Gran Turismo as being far too realistic to the extent of taking the fun out of racing . I mean, I’m a fan of F1 but there’s only so much number crunching and car setup detail I can take! I played the original on PS1 and GT3 and GT4 on the PlayStation 2 but this is the first time that I picked it up on the PS3. I can’t remember exactly what put it back in my head but, truth be told, I’m glad it did.
So, my fear was driving a car that didn’t turn when you wanted it to and was completely unforgiving with speed if you went into a corner too fast. It was game over, you were lodged in the fence and any hope of making a top three finish was out of the window like a burglar having just woke the German Shepherd!!
This entry however seems to have captured my interest and the focus now is on minding tyres, watching the racing line, keeping the steering and braking steady and of course putting the foot to the floor on a long straight. After nearly 12 hours of an install (seriously!) I dived right into career mode with the Novice and National B License categories. The licenses are a series of six driving challenges to unlock the respective racing events from Novice to Super (and a Special Red Bull Racing section). I’m on International A at the moment and can see the difficulty rising in tandem with the speed. There is a constant, just niggling, urge to put the foot down and throw the cars around the corners. This is not the way to do it in these games however, a delayed push of the brakes or mistimed sharp turn will send your car into the wall or into a spin that will cost you dearly. I have actually managed to roll a Nissan GTR as well and not entirely sure how yet alone thought it was possible. It is, however, a beautiful looking game. My favourite track is the GT original, Matterhorn. You get to drive around a fictitious roadway taking in the sites of the mountain and countryside. Add to this, constantly changing weather conditions and transitions from day into night all while looking at a beautifully detailed interior, or exterior, of stunning vehicles.
For negatives, they are few and far between but nonetheless present and the usual suspects are here. A possible deal breaker was the massive initial load and install times (I had to download 22 updates and install the game taking up to 12 hours approximately). There is a PS Store section where real life money can become in-game credits to buy and upgrade cars. My feelings on these micro-transaction are common and should be stopped. The accumulation of credits is not as much of a grind as compared to modern gen games like Grand Theft Auto V or the impending Battlefront II. Also, they are tucked away in a sub-menu and you are not prompted to buy credits but it is a cheat/assist that is available if you want it. The more time consuming but ultimately rewarding option is the Daily Login Bonus which means that if you log in to PSN every day you will gain a percentage increase in the prize money awarded up to 200% for five days. I have always felt that leveling up should be enjoyable and not seem like a grind. I’ll save the micro transactions rant for another post!
I don’t have any particular gripe that makes the game completely unplayable but the soundtrack is nothing special and you do have the option to use a custom soundtrack. Also, the interiors of some cars are marked as “Simplified” which is code for “we couldn’t be arsed modelling the inside of all the cars” and comes across as lazy on the part of the developers. It is actually very irritating to think that you are expected to pay for an incomplete game. If you have are going to put effort into something, do it properly.
This too can be levied against the sound of the cars themselves which come across a bit flat and you struggle to hear the roar of an engine. It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between what cars you are driving from the engine sound. You should easily be able to differentiate between an Aston Martin or Ferrari engine but at times it sounds, to me at least, like a generic engine which is disappointing for this “Real Driving Simulator”.
Verdict: A good entry in the series but personally found it lacking. Ideal for somebody either new to the genre or looking for a break from the nonsensical arcade style racers and grounding you in simulation style but accessible racing. If you haven’t played it then I would recommend getting it on sale or pre-owned and enjoy driving beautiful cars around fantastic scenery. Shame about the music and car sounds which keeps it from being more fun but is still enjoyable and you should buy it!