Feature: Gran Turismo 5

Gamers will be used to the Sony Playstation3 console blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, but the launch of the latest generation of the globally acclaimed Gran Turismo driving simulator series took things even further.

In central Madrid, one of several cities now boasting a racing circuit in the new Gran Turismo 5 game that faithfully recreates its historic streets, the sound of high performance engines bounced off town halls and office blocks for real, just as it did in a virtual sense in the living rooms of hundreds of thousands the games fans around the world.

So pleased was the city of Madrid to be included in the gaming series widely considered to be the most accurate and comprehensive driving simulator available, that it donated its dramatic town hall as the venue for the world’s computer game press to sample what GT5’s software had to offer while surrounded by examples of the vintage, contemporary and racing hardware recreated in the game.

It speaks volumes of the game’s realism that, as well as gaming experts, car journalists were also present to sample the GT5’s ultra-realistic simulation experience.

With wet weather now an option on many of the game’s 70 circuits, 1000 painstakingly evaluated and recreated vehicles on offer and the choice of an internal cockpit view for many of the vehicles, GT5 proves to be the next best thing to getting behind the wheel for real.

Add the 3D technology on offer from the Playstation’s creators, Sony, to the equation, and the game is only a G-force simulator away from offering a reality-nudging experience.

Citizens of and visitors to Madrid may have been shocked by the roar of V8’s as a lucky few were given passenger laps around the new circuit, but for everyone else vehicles such as Peugeot’s Le Mans winning 908 HDi FAP were placed at various locations around the city.

Many were keen to have a go behind the wheel at the gaming stations alongside the exhibits; complete with racing seats, steering wheels and pedals for the full experience.

Of course, this being virtual reality, it’s perfectly possible to tone down the difficulty so that even a complete novice can get behind the wheel and negotiate some of the world’s most challenging racing circuits in some of the planet’s fastest cars.

But if it’s a real challenge gamers seek, GT5 is more than capable of offering it with startlingly accurate driving physics, dynamics and variables.

Kissing the grass at the edge of the track can be enough to kick a thoroughbred racer into a violent spin. Just as in real life, a fraction too much speed into a corner will see competitors fly past as you try to build speed on the way out. Don’t expect to overrule physics and add or detract momentum on the apex, either – in full simulator mode such errors can be dramatically punished.

This is the vision that the Gran Turismo series’ creator Kazunori Yamauchi – a man idolised by what he himself refers to as the Gran Turismo “movement” – had in mind when development of the first game began a computing eternity ago in 1992.

Since then, technology and the power of machines such as the Paystation3 to process information has led to pin-sharp graphics, driving dynamics that hover between the actual and virtual worlds and online communities that mean drivers from different hemispheres can battle it out on track in continents foreign to both parties.

And the really exciting news: the online element means that constant updates make GT5 an evolving experience. Just as in real life, the aim is not to ‘complete’, but to sample as much as is possible.

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