Gran Turismo 5 online review
Here’s a shock: Gran Turismo 5 online is a mixture of confusion, frustration and occasional brilliance. At times, navigating its baroque menus and drumming your fingers raw waiting for races to start, you begin to think it couldn’t be less friendly without spraying petrol in your eyes.
And yet we stand by our original position that GT5 offers the best driving experience on PS3, so being able to test yourself against living, breathing, swearing opponents rather than the sexless challenge of the AI drones is something to be relished.
The suspicion remains, though, that Polyphony Digital, under the stewardship of GT5 overlord Kazunori Yamauchi, would rather not have to dirty its hands with networked racing at all. Like car damage, a feature only added after a decade of incessant moaning from fans and critics, the messiness of online play sits uneasily with GT’s rarefied (some would argue sterilised) approach to motorsports.
At launch, the servers quickly collapsed under the weight of so many people trying to play at once. But now capacity has been doubled from 500,000 simultaneous connections to a million, things ought to be a bit more stable. Right?
To be honest, I struggled to even find the online mode at first. Having dipped into the Community section, had a snoop around my friends’ stats and bespoke avatar icons, I wound up in My Lounge, from where I created a race around my beloved Eiger Nordwand Short Track. Ten minutes of desultory cruising around its alpine curves later, there was still no sign of Swiss girls in pigtails or other folk to race. Clearly I was doing something very wrong.
Back on the main GT5 menu screen, I spotted the button marked Open Lounge. The word ‘lounge’ didn’t exactly scream red-hot motorsport action, yet here it was: room after room, stuffed with eager Europeans waiting to race each other silly.
Having chosen one with a strong connection, I waited patiently for the current race to finish. Then I waited for a new track to be selected. Then the screen went black. I heard a distorted cough from one of my fellow PSN voyagers, after which nothing. It was a digital death rattle. The game had fatally crashed. Hmmmm.
Having bravely rebooted, and chewed my lip through a couple more disconnections, I finally managed to do some racing. Offline I’d got used to relentlessly bullying the AI with my expensively upgraded cars, so taking on skillful drivers in well-matched motors was an unsurpisingly bracing experience.