Gran Turismo 5 has been out for a while now for the PS3. I picked it up on launch day but then sold it on Amazon's used list only two weeks later. Why?
A number of reasons. I've been a big fan of Gran Turismo on the Playstation since I first played GT2. It was an awesome racing game at the time. Unfortunately, successive versions have simply added more eye candy and nothing else. GT5 is almost stunning to look at - if you can overlook the hideous jagged shadows and the pop-up (where things just blink into existence as you're driving). Certain screenshots and replays could easily be mistaken for real photos or videos. The problem is that the developers spent 6 years working on how the game looks, without altering the mechanic of how the game plays. Polyphony Digital have spent tens of thousands of hours concentrating on every last detail of the interior and exterior of 200 of the available 1000 cars, which makes for amazing static photos, but at the expense of fixing the two biggest problems with the whole GT franchise.
First - the AI. The computer-controlled drivers are dumber than a box of rocks. They drive on rails, following the identical line around the track line a train. If you're in their way, they simply crash into you. They have no concept that you even exist and when coupled with the second big problem - lack of crash damage - it makes the game essentially no fun. They're not penalised for touching the cones on the test tracks, and they never spin out when you touch them. However, when they drive into you, you spin, flip, crash and lose control.
So yes - the second big issue is crash damage, or lack of it. Polyphony made a great deal of noise about their all-new crash damage model but in reality, it's pointless and useless. In career mode, it comes on in stages, and you don't really get their "full" crash damage until your driver level reaches 40 (although you can get at it straight away in Arcade mode). At this point, it's still a total joke - you can't ever damage a car to the point where it becomes undriveable. The radiator never overheats, the steering never pulls to one side or the other, the windscreen never gets smashed, you can't rip off wheels or blow tyres. In essence, you can ram your car into the wall at 160mph, bounce off and then go on to win the race. This has always been a problem with the Gran Turismo games and it's not improved in GT5. The apologists will tell you that a real driving simulator is about driving, not crashing, which is absolutely true. But if you get too close to the car in front, or lose the back end in a turn, then the simulation ought to penalise you for it in the form of realistic mechanical and visible damage to the vehicle. Without this, there's no incentive to learn to master the game's different cars and tracks.
The screenshot accompanying this blog entry shows just how appalling the problem is. This is the result of slamming an Audi R8 into a wall at 160mph with the "full" damage enabled. Needless to say, I bounced off and drove on to win the race.
Multiple updates have not addressed these two core issues and I think Polyphony really don't understand how to fix either problem. After all, it's been this way since Gran Turismo 2, and THAT is the problem for me. The game looks stunning for the most part, but it simply isn't any fun to play. Need For Speed:Shift, or Forza 3, or GRiD or DiRT - all undoubtedly more arcade racers than simulation, but all infinitely more FUN to play.