Anyone who has been paying attention to the ongoing saga of Gran Turismo 5 knows that the game didn't take as long as it did to be released for no reason. Polyphony Digital has made it clear that they have spent years working on the game to make sure that it reaches brand new heights for the series, and the genre. While the game is busting at the seems where content is concerned, heads of both EA and Codemasters, the makers of Shift 2 Unleashed and F1 2010 respectively, believe that GT5 will still not be for everybody.
While Gran Turismo divided cars and races into different classes and groupings, GT5 is including entirely different forms of motorsport. It would have come as a surprise to fans of the early series to hear that the franchise would one day include NASCAR as a playable game type. With kart racing and even a brand new soundtrack, it seems that Sony and Polyphony are set on pushing GT5 into every media market available.
Expansion of this size doesn't come without a cost, and Patrick Soderlund, Senior VP at EA believes that their upcoming cross between simulation and arcade racer Shift 2 Unleashed doesn't have to compete with that aspect of their competition's product. Soderlund admits that their other title, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit and Gran Turismo 5 will likely attract very different audiences, he sees Shift 2 as a definite competitor to GT5. Is he scared? Far from it:
"Honestly, my take on this. Would I want to compete with Gran Turismo on sheer scale - meaning number of cars and the depth that they have in the game? Probably not.
"What does make sense to me... I think they have a very sterile, almost car collecting type of product where that's mainly what we do and I think we can offer something different," he continued.
"Our idea is that if we can offer the most authentic driving experience and portray what it feels like being inside a race car, then I think that's where we can excel and where we absolutely will beat them. That I know for sure."
From the first look at Shift 2 Unleashed, the game definitely seems to be concerned with communicating the action and intensity of full-contact racing, which traditionally has not been one of the distinguishing factors of Gran Turismo. The first installment of the series walked the line between realistic driving and the excitement of the Need For Speed series fairly well, so he may have a point.
Gran Turismo 5 is also featuring F1 cars as one of the numerous types of races in which to take part, which could mean bad news for developers who put out games that only include F1. Rod Cousens, CEO of Codemasters, makers of F1 2010 told CVG that he isn't worried one bit about GT5 moving into the formula one genre, since their game simply does it better. The amazing technology that GT5 is pushing doesn't intimidate Cousens, since he views it as their biggest weakness:
"GT5 is going to be a phenomenal product, with the time and investment Sony have made in it,...You can have a technically phenomenal game, but you can also have a game concept that doesn't really appeal [to some racing fans] and could be accused of - and you have to be careful how you write this - of being boring.
"We don't have that problem. We feel the adrenaline rush that we'll always provide in F1 will not be matched by anyone else. You're going to have all the cars, all the tracks and all the worldwide locations - not to mention the best strategy, and the best damage, as far as we can. If you're an F1 fan, you don't need to go anywhere else for that."
Only time will tell if their predictions are correct, and if the years of development spent crafting the masterpiece that is GT5 were well spent. They aren't exactly fighting words being thrown around, but if one thing is clear, it's that fans of racing games in general have a few very bright years ahead of them.
You can take a spin and see for yourself if Gran Turismo 5 is as good as it gets, or just good enough for now, by picking the game up today exclusively for the PlayStation 3.