There’s a reason why no-one has really seen me since Christmas, well… 2 reasons to be precise :)
I have been very fortunate to have suitably-coordinated loved ones who took me up on my very unsubtle hints as to what I’d like for Christmas The theme is of course Driving games. Whilst over the years I have purchased various gaming consoles ‘for the house’, I’ve never been much of a gamer. Many years ago (10+) I owned a Playstation 1 and the only game that was of any interest to me was ridge racer. I got pretty good at that even though it was played using the standard controller.
In the years between I have been blssfully ignorant of driving games and the degree of development that has been ongoing. I’m not exactly sure what it was that triggered me to look at them again in the autumn but I’m very glad that I did.
What is clear that thse presents won’t be left languishing in the corner, nor I suspect, will the games be completed and then consigned to the ‘done that’ pile.
I have two games now, Gran Turismo 5 and F1 2010. They are similar in terms of the basic objectives but very different games altogether and I suspect aimed at a very different kind of gamer with GT5 being more about fun and the experience of driving whereas F1 2010 being the official game of Formula One is much, much more serious. This difference also shows in the discussions and forums online although that is not to say that GT5 is not a serious bit of kit requiring significant skill because it is and it does!
Both games have a variety of ’assists’ available, features that make the vehicles more ‘idiot-proof’, features like automatic transmission, assisted-braking, traction control etc. I’m still using this baby-stage using all assists because it’s still fun and I’m not looking to be terribly competitive, just getting used to the feel of the cars and learning the tracks. It really makes a huge difference when you know what’s coming at you when you come out of a blind corner or crest a hill.
Lets look at the games.
Gran Turismo 5
This was released in November 2010, it was highly anticipated and something like 5 years after GT4. It would appear that I dropped into the scene just at the right time because an awful lot of people have been chomping at the bit for a long time…
GT5 has around 1000 various cars available and dozens of tracks, the selection is simply mind-boggling. For example I have been having tremendous fun racing Mini Coopers around Monaco, taking rally ‘drifting’ techniques to the tightest course on the F1 calendar. I could be doing that in a Subaru Impreza, a Lancia Delta Integrale or a Fiat 500.
One of the other tracks that becomes available when you reach a certain level of attainment is the Top Gear test track like we see on the TV. It is a lot of fun to drive and provides for lots of unexpected challenges. It took me 2 hours to win the VW camper van race which in turn unlocks the track for use in other modes. It’s amazing how the slowest vehicles make for the most difficult races to win – These races aren’t pretty, it’s almost impossible to avoid the bumper-car scenario but a lot of fun and very educational in terms of gaining driving skills. Here’s some HD video of someone winning that race
As part of the package, drivers are required to undergo license testing – basically a series of short tests starting from simple things like starting & stopping up to more complex driving techniques. The optimum is to achieve gold in each license, easier in the early tests but waaay hard as you progress through the licenses.
As you progress through the licenses and win races you will accumulate money and experience. As you gain more and more of these you will start to unlock further aspects of the game, faster cars, better tracks, vehicle tuning options etc etc. Now you can see how the game just gets deeper and deeper.
One of the cars that I unlocked very quickly was actually a car from the previous game the Nissan MM-r (yes it’s a Micra). This thing rocks! it’s really fast when compared to the standard vehicles and it has tremendous handling on corners. With this I managed to win every race – take this puppy onto the full Cape Ring track for a lot of fun.
There’s a bunch of stuff that I’m not even anywhere near yet but I’m in no hurry, I’m just enjoying the sensation of driving these cars and these tracks
Whilst there are many tracks, I’m a little disappointed that the full range of F1 circuits aren’t available in GT5. Of all the tracks, these f1 circuits are the most familiar to me and the ones that I have been watching for the past 20+ years with F1.
Of course all of that is put right with the F1 2010 game which contains all 19 tracks from the 2010 grand prix calendar in very-accurate architectural detail. If the tracks are all of the correct length and I’m driving the cars to within 5 seconds of the proper F1 car times then I’m pretty much matching the experience of a proper F1 driver. There is only one word that springs to mind – Terrifying!
Now I’ve watched hundreds of races and seen many onboard videos, I supposed I became somewhat blasé about the incredible speed, acceleration and braking but to drive the tracks in these cars and to have walls come at you at such speed is, well…terrifying. But what fun.
The F1 game has several modes. There’s a career mode that sees you undertake a number of F1 seasons with each race being run with 1 practise (60 mins), short qualifying (20 mins)and then the race itself (20% of full distance). This is where I’ll be spending my time shortly but for now I’m mostly in either time trials – how fast can you do a lap - or grands prix, 3 lap races with 24 cars.
I’m driving currently with all assists on, traction control, auto-braking, throttle control & visible driving line. Purists will say that it’s cheating, and yes it is of sorts, but for now I’m really enjoying the sensations of driving these cars at this speed in these hallowed places. Some of the tracks I don’t know so well like Bahrain or Malaysia and this mode really helps to get the track layout and racing line into the mind.
All of this is so much fun although I do find that I am struggling with driving cleanly, i.e. not taking people off at corners. Part of the problem is that the view from the cockpit is dead-ahead and there’s no peripheral vision. So whilst you think that you have the racing line, Alonso, Vettel or Kubica can be alongside and you end up cutting them up, sometimes you know because you get a bump or you spin out, but other times you’re unaware of the carnage you leave behind. I’ll have to watch for that when I start to play online.
What I have noticed (and maybe I’m just being paranoid) is that when you do pull an aggressive move that is more ‘cheeky’ than ‘legal’, the system seems to have a ‘retaliation’ feature; in that a corner or two later someone will bump you and cause a spin. When 1/10 second is a big difference, a spin on track adds 10 or more seconds to your time and your race is over – so the lesson is to drive assertively but cleanly.
These are simply my thought of both games after 3-4 days of playing (I spent 12+ hrs on each game the first day I had it!) I’m still familiarising myself with everything and feel like I’m just scratching the surface, especially with the F1 game. In the next day or so, I’m going to be taking off the throttle & braking assists & shifting to manual gearbox. I fully expect my lap times to become much slower – Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about blowing engines & gearboxes for real!
Initial impressions of both games are WOW! A big part of that has to be put down to my simply catching up with the current state of simulator racing but part of that has to be the games themselves. I think also that using the driving wheel and pedals makes the game interface & control so much easier, given that I’ve been driving for 25 years.
Just for comparison here’s someone driving a Honda Civic around Monaco – (I’m 15 seconds faster in my mini!)
And here’s the same track in F1 2010 – My best time so far is 1:18.60 – the good drivers are doing it in 1:13 which is around the speed of the real F1 cars – here’s a comparison video of real & the F1 game – as I said, terrifying!
Oh yeah, how did the F1 coffee table work out? well, it’s still largely the same design but for now is heavily padded. I wonder if Jenson Button suffers from ‘numb bum’
If you are a fan of driving or car racing and you have a PS3 then I’d say to run as fast as you can to your local game shop and get these two games – amazingly you can get the F1 2010 game pre-owned – I suspect that there are a number of people who just couldn’t handle it or don’t get it. I find that with F1 generally, people either totally get it or don’t get it at all.
I’m totally got!