After what’s seemed like years in the making, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue has finally screeched onto the Playstation 3. So, do good things come to those who wait?

First of all, Gran Turismo 5 Prologue is unlike previous releases on the PS3 because it isn’t a full version of the game. “What?” We hear you say. It is, in fact, a glorified demo version of what’s to come in this highly esteemed series.

Now that might seem like the biggest load of nonsense ever. And some might ask what makes Polyphony Digital so special that they can make consumers part with almost 20 quid for something that is essentially unfinished? The reason for doing it is clear – to build up the hype and excitement normally reserved for blockbuster games such as, well, Gran Turismo. It seems to have worked, too, because GT 5 prologue has been as eagerly anticipated as the best of ’em. Not bad going for a demo, so far.

Before you can delve straight into the game, it’s worth noting that you’ll have to wait around 30 minutes for it to install on the PS3’s hard drive. This, of course, is not unexpected since games for the PS3 such as Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction and Everybody’s Golf also have install times, though admittedly not as long as GT 5 Prologue’s. You only have to go through it once, but it’s still annoying.

When that was over with it was time to get our race on. Upon starting the game up (finally) it’s clear from the stunning intro that this is a Gran Turismo game. To our eyes, it features some of the best graphics ever seen on a console. The cars look so life-like it’s amazing!

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Those accustomed to the franchise will know what to expect from this driving simulator series. It’s entirely different from the like of Ridge Racer and Motorstorm; whose arcade style controls were built for accessibility and the instant pick up and play factor.

GT 5 Prologue, like other GT games, is more for the connoisseur or racing enthusiast. Players are expected to understand the finer points of racing such as knowing when to brake, when to slow down and how to approach corners.

This is an important point to make because GT 5 Prologue is at times one of the best ‘proper’ racing games on the PS3, but only if you’re willing to put in the time. If you’re not, be warned, this is an extremely limited package.

For a start there only six tracks. And throughout the course of the game you’ll find yourself playing four of those over and over again, which is what you’re left to do in Arcade Mode.

Unfortunately, the tracks are largely uninspiring, and even a little boring. At times you feel like every track is the same apart from a few minor adjustments. And in many cases this is the truth because in order to provide a little more ‘variety’ some of the tracks are reversed.

This impacts hugely on the game as a whole. As usual, players are expected to work their way through events in the game, starting with the C Class race tournament up to A Class. But to complete the whole of the last set of races requires quite a bit of time investment, which would be OK if it wasn’t so repetitive.

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Winning races earns credits, and to earn enough credits to buy some of the game’s faster cars means having to race some of the same events over and over again, even if they have already been completed. At this point things start to feel like a chore.

It has to be said though; the exception to all of this is the London track. While the others are based on racing circuits such as Daytona, the London track beautifully recreates the West End of central London and gives us a glimpse of what we can expect from the full game.

Uninspiring tracks aside, there is still a lot to be enthused about in Gran Turismo Prologue 5. As ever, gameplay is as slick as one would expect. Cars handle as you’d expect them to, and even some of the more powerful models require some caution so as not to oversteer and spin out of control. On some of the high-speed tracks even a slight nudge from another car can cause you to lose control.

Speaking of nudges, there is still no car damage, something which has been a big issue for fans of the Gran Turismo series. Apparently, this has more to do with the car manufacturers not wanting their cars to look damaged than out of spite from Polyphony Digital. It still seems a little weird that cars seem to literally bounce off each other when they collide, however.

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The cars’ engines sound sweet, though, and differ according to models – with the more powerful cars having that grunt you’d expect. Bar Lamborghini, McClaren and perhaps, er, Skoda all the major car manufacturers are here. 

And there is of course online play allowing you to play against up to 15 other racers around the world. From our experience, online play does have some issues with jerkiness during races but since we were eager to give you our thoughts we have yet to test it extensively.

So, to get this review past the finish line: if you’re a die-hard racing fan eager to get your fix on some next-gen Gran Turismo goodness, then this is worth your cash. If not, you’d be better of waiting for the full version to arrive when there will be more tracks, cars, events and more customisation and options to satisfy the most needy of racers.

Rating: 6/10

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