It’s been a while since I posted, the Christmas break got a bit longer for me and time ran away. Regardless, the time off did give me some chance to get behind the virtual wheel a few times, and GT5 got some online action.
Having run through Gran Turismo’s 1, 2 and 3 I found the whole grind aspect of GT5 a little too much to bear. After recognising the inherent flaws in the physics modelling that were largely brought across from previous titles in the series, I opted to take the whole thing a little less seriously.
The physics modelling in this sim is carefully designed for the casual simmer. In many ways it is genius, it is close enough to being accurate to keep 90% of players happy and the remaining 10% won’t even buy it! What the vehicle dynamics model does, very effectively, is to make the driver feel like a hero. This is what Gran Turismo should be about, I suppose. It’s not about finding the optimum damper setup or perfectly crisping every apex, it’s about feeling good and having fun. Compared to more serious sims this means a bit of a brain reset is necessary, I tend to find a couple of pints of lager helps!
However, when it comes down to it, I have no interest in racing a Mazda MX5 against mediocre AI for 4 hours (Yes, this time around the AI is mediocre and not awful!) so why bother? The concept of seeing this game through to completion strikes me as madness, but where it does offer the chance for some good fun is racing online.
Having got together with some of the guys at work recently for a couple of sessions I can happily report that the online experience is very good indeed. Over a good few hours I saw no real instances of lag and generally superb prediction code. It is made quite easy to setup a private room via the “My Lounge” functionality (Though the poor interface and lack of documentation makes finding this out rather tricky), and setting up a car and track combination is done in a trice. From the potentially huge list of cars available in the game online players are given a selection to race with, and restrictions can be placed on horsepower, drivetrain, weight, country and year of manufacture. Players can bring in “favourite” cars from their own garages too, though as I have made little progress in single player this option is rather pointless for me!
One of the problems, however, is no solid designation of an “admin” in the private room. This opens up the options to any player in the room, so if you want to restrict driver aids or other settings you are reliant on people “behaving themselves”. It can also be troublesome to find people of equivalent skill levels, looking at the levels people reach in single player can be a misnomer as it seems that being able to drive properly in traffic or know your way around the circuits is not a requirement of reaching high levels in the main game.
This, for the serious simmer, involves another round of “Don’t take it too seriously” as all too often I was finding the first corner of every race featured a couple of cannonball cars flying past the braking zone and taking out most of the field. Of course, once one susses this out it’s just a matter of braking early and hanging back to find oneself last into the first corner and first coming out of it.
However, if you do find people capable of the simple process of remembering where the corners go you can have some very fun racing in this game, as the netcode allows close racing across a wide variety of cars.
Quite frankly, I think the single player game is over for me now, even though it barely started. The “work” the game makes you put in for relatively little return is of no interest to me when compared to more serious sims. Online, however, is different as, unlike more serious sims I can merrily keep pace in GT5 after a few beers and the ease of setup along with full voice comms makes for some gut busting laughter moments. Which is quite some contrast to the over excitable hissy fits you can sometimes see in iRacing.