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Previews

Gran Turismo 5 gameplay preview

Cut and compromised, but tangible and beautiful

At the E3 expo in June, Kaz Yamauchi drove Gran Turismo 5 headlong into reality. After five
years of seemingly endless development and an estimated 70 million dollars being poured into the project, Polyphony Digital's president had finally accepted that some concessions would have to be made if PlayStation fans were ever going to see the game.

Of Gran Turismo 5's 1000 cars, only 200 are new models built specifi cally for PS3. Four-fi fths of the genre-defining catalogue are HD-updated models pulled from the past Gran Turismos on PS2 (and the terminally delayed PSP port). They have no specifi c in-cockpit view and no dedicated undersides, and many still sport GT4 liveries on their bodywork.

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As for the beautifully detailed new cars, each one has an intricate cockpit, high and low-beam headlights, a sophisticated damage model and high-definition textures. You'd hope so after five years.

The recycled cars don't look bad, of course - Gran Turismo's models have always been a cut above others - but they stick out like old bangers alongside their insane current-generation counterparts.

Kaz himself admits that 1000 new vehicles was too high a benchmark for the team to hit, and compromises have been made to meet the game's release date - an actual, definite, final, guaranteed birthday of November 2010.

The My Lounge online mode was also proudly unveiled at the show. In it, you can view your stats, host 32-player lobbies and take part in 16-player races as either a competitor or spectator. You can even hang out and chat while watching your buddies race. It's a mode that Kaz tells us is "innovative", but that's a stretch. It's certainly in keeping with most current racers, but far less ambitious than some of the community features planned by Polyphony's rivals at Criterion, Codemasters and Bizarre Creations.

STIGGY STARDUST
But there's that number - 1000 cars. Sure, only 200 are new models, but that's already four times the number of HD vehicles in Race Driver:Grid, with 800 not-quite-as-HD ones thrown in just for fun. Even if Gran Turismo 5 shipped without this enormous catalogue of extras, it would still be the biggest racer on PS3.

And then there are the licences - GT5 is the first car game to secure NASCAR's redneck racing licence and squeeze it into the same game as the World Rally Championship and Michael Schumacher's Ferrari F1 car from GT5 Prologue. Every car you've unlocked in that taster game will be available in GT5 from day one, and a quick link-up with your PSP will start-up the vehicles in your handheld garage too.

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Here's another number - 16. Only Bizarre's pseudo kart-racer Blur can top Gran Turismo for the sheer number of racers on the online tracks; 16 players is double the number you'd find on the circuit in GRID, DiRT or Xbox's Forza.

In GT5, up to 16 racers can hit 70 loops in 20 different locations. Rome returns with a very different layout, and the classic Tokyo Route 246 makes a comeback from GT4. Meanwhile, the Nürburgring is replicated with an obsessive detail only Kaz can bring to the table, with a full day/night cycle and every squirt of spray-paint mapped onto the track surfaces. Polyphony have admitted that some of the circuits, like Rome and Tuscany, took them over two years to build.

E3 also marked the début of the long-promised Top Gear Test Track, a circuit Kaz admits was tough to recreate. In reality, the Dunsfold Aerodrome loop, designed by Lotus, is a wide circuit loaded with long straights and little roadside scenery. That all conspires to make The Stig's testing ground a tough area to replicate without making it impossible to drive. As such, braking distances are tough to gauge and seem to appear from nowhere on the turns. Of all the game's new routes, Dunsfold's 3D space mapped onto a 2D screen proves to be the greatest challenge.

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