When it comes to racing games, the big player on the block has been for some time Gran Turismo. It took racing games to a different level than games before it. Back in the early days, racing games were strictly arcade: very little realism, but packed with a lot of speed. Yes, you had your realistic car models, based on the super-power cars none of us could afford, but there wasn't a game that really made you feel you were driving the exact specifications of the car in question.
The Gran Turismo series changed that. They took a vast array of different cars, from your basic stock Honda Civics to your super-charged Dodge Vipers, and everything in between. Every car handled differently, requiring the driver to adjust to the cars specifications. You could upgrade parts, adjust your settings and make the car yours. Not to mention, the early editions required you to earn a license to race in the bigger events.
Gran Turismo 5: Prologue continues the long-running and super successful series with it's '2nd' game for the PS3. Early when the PS3 was released, you could download the GT: HD Concept game that allowed you to sample one course and 10 cars (that you unlocked over time). It was fun and it was free. Now we're giving yet another sample. This time, more cars and more courses, but not for free.
From the start, you have to realize that while Gran Turismo 5: Prologue is a preview of the game, it does offer you a lot for a small price (varying between 30-40 dollars). You have 6 course with variations to all, making it feel like 12 courses. Thankfully the courses are incredible both in racing ability and look. The London course is authentic to the city and the Suzuki course(s) are precise to their specifications and makes you feel like your racing the real course that famous F1 drivers race on.
There are over 60 cars to choose from. While not as significant as the 200+ cars the full-edition will have and what other games offer, there is still plenty of variety in the car choices that you won't feel like you're racing the same car with a different name. Added to that is that each car not only look beautiful on the outside, the designers at Polyphony have even gone so far as making inside the car authentic. With every car so detailed, it really makes you wonder how much more more could be done to other cars in the full release.
Unlike previous GT games, there is no License learning and no customization of cars. You don't need to train, so that makes jumping in a breeze, but the fact that you really can't customize your car does make things a bit boring online when you're all racing in exactly the same car.
In terms of modes, you have your arcade mode, where you can race any of the courses (alone or with a friend locally) It's fun and a good way to test your cars and the courses before taking on the main mode.
The major mode is your Events mode. Here you must start in C Class and work your way up. Finish a Class and you unlock the next, until you reach S Class. The requirements for the races vary. For some, you simply have to win the race with a car from that class. Other races, might require you to race with a specific car or to win the race starting in last place. While the C and B class races should be a breeze to complete, winning your racing in A then S will take skill. You really have to race smart and you will more than likely be racing the same course a few times before you manage to reach the goal (finishing in the top 3). Also, like previous GT games, even cars have events that you go to through the dealership. Nothing different than previous editions, and is a great way of making more money to get the faster cars.
Online is finally available for the Gran Turismo series. Racers were supposed to have this in GT4, but it was dropped late in production. While it's there, it isn't anything spectacular. You have your choice of races (course) and that's pretty much it. If you have friends to race against, it might be enjoyable, but chances are you probably won't spend all day online. The only real saving grace for online is that the money you get from your online races can be used to buy cars offline, important since you can only race with cars you own both online and off.
Prologue does have some other bonus features. You can save your race replays and considering the absolutely stunning graphics of the cars and the courses, you might want to save a race just to show it off to your friends. Often, you might even just leave a replay running once you've finished a race just to admire your work and the work of the developers. The other add-on is GT:TV. It's exactly that, Gran Turismo 'television' programs that you can watch on your PS3. This is a great thing for racing fans as the videos show off the cars in the real world and their connection to the game (or how the game effected the cars). There are more than 6 videos currently available and more are promised in the future.
Yes, GT5: Prologue is technically a preview build that we, the gamers, are paying 40 dollars for, so be aware that a full title will be out, but not until early 2009. The developers and Sony have promised more content in the future, including at least one more course and a few cars and the addition of car damage, they are trying to give us more for our dollar. The only disapointment I had with the game is the difficulty of the later races. It can be extremely frustrating to have to start a race in 16th place and have to finish in the top 3 when your challenges are all reall powerful cars. This won't be something enjoyed by iregular racing players.
If you like or love racing games, than Prologue is an Incredible game that you need to play and have in your collection. There is enough here that will challenge you and the bonus content is incredible eye candy for car lovers.
If you like racing games, but might not be a fan of the series, than is is a Good game to rent first. Try it out, and see if you'd be actually willing to spend the money on a tech-demo. If you're going to be playing it alone, than this is probably the best course of action since the Online will not melt your heart.
If you're not into racing games, I doubt that this game will convert you. There is a bit of a learning curve and you really need to know your stuff otherwise you will only get frustrated. Also, at it's price-point, even at a saving (or even if you can find it at a discounted price), you will still probably feel like you've over-paid.
Fans of the Gran Turismo series have probably already picked this up and enjoying it. You might feel a bit upset that it's not a full game, but there is still enough to bide you over until then the full release.
Thankfully, Prologue is so good, we already know that when the regular edition comes out, racing fans are going to be extremely thrilled and won't be leaving their homes for a long time. But as I stated, if you're not a fan, you should still try it out, but think before spend the money. Either rent it or borrow from a friend and see what you think. I honestly believe you'll enjoy yourself, but we all need to think about saving before we spurlge, since we need to save up for our own Nissan GT-R that will be parked in front of our homes in the near future.