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It’s been an agonising test of endurance for Gran Turismo fans, but after years of delays the wait is almost over and the game will finally be in your hands in less than a month’s time.

Or at least it would have been if it hadn’t been delayed yet again. Yes, the widely publicised November release date is sadly no more – Mr. Pedantic Yamauchi must have spotted some stitching that was out of line on the leather upholstery in one of the car models, halting production immediately. Fortunately, Gran Turismo 5 was proudly on display flexing its polygonal muscles at this year’s Eurogamer Expo, so I gladly took it for a spin with the knowledge that it may still be a while before we are united again.

GT5 was certainly one of the leading attractions of the Expo, attracting quite a crowd whose expectations have now spanned over six years. I too will admit that it was one of the highest priorities on my checklist of games to play, as I scurried along to the inviting stand as soon as I entered the showroom.

GT5 was one of the most widely accessible games of the expo too, available in a number of varieties. For the premiere racing experience, some lovingly crafted circular racing pods were scattered around the show floor which cocooned you inside with a Logitech GT Force racing wheel and a PS3 that had been smartly dressed up with a fake engine grill for comfort. The package can even be yours, providing you have a modest $9,529.24 to spend. For the less adventurous, the game was also on display with the traditional TV and controller setup in both 2D and 3D, complete with diminutive stools positioned too close to the screen.

Playing on both setups reaffirmed my beliefs: playing a Gran Turismo game with a wheel has no equal, giving you much finer control than a controller can offer for a racing simulator. Frustratingly, the races were cut short by an infuriating time limit meaning I couldn’t complete a full lap, which made it harder to get a feel for the demo’s numerous vehicles in such short bursts, but from what I could tell the handling (with the option of arcade or professional physics) was as responsive as ever, favouring GT’s usual penchant for realism. Players who relish taking corners at preposterously high speeds need not apply.

There were five tracks to try out offering a valiant mix of circuit, street and off-road racing, including the familiar Tokyo R246 stage, a new variant of the classic Rome circuit and an off-road course for WRC events which also notably featured a visually impressive day and night cycle. The downside, however, was that the loading times felt significantly lengthy: whether or not the optional data install will help this matter remains to be seen.

Predictably, the graphics were stunning to behold…mostly. I say that because, while the car models were supremely detailed, there were a number of unwanted jagged edges, blurry textures and scenery pop-up evident, but the game was said to be running on an E3 build so this can hopefully be rectified for the final release. There are some obvious tweaks from GT5 Prologue, such as advanced lighting and more substantial tyre smoke, but it didn’t quite feel like the graphical evolution from the aforementioned game that is now nearly three years old that I had envisioned.

While the current flaws faltered the photo-realistic illusion that Polyphony want to achieve somewhat, the graphics were still of a very high standard overall. So far, so very Gran Turismo, right down to the pompous menu music.

GT5 is notable for being the first game in the series to finally introduce damage modelling to its roster of previously pristine cars, so I was keen to test it out. To the amusement of onlookers, I purposefully drove my Ferrari Enzo as if I was currently experiencing a seizure, using the walls and AI opponents as cushions and ignoring corners altogether, slamming head-on into walls.

The results were initially anticlimactic: the collision physics seemed just as underwhelming as before, with the car abruptly coming to a stop on impact with little flamboyance. It wasn’t until I looked behind my car that I could see the damage of my deed – “that’s a few quid’s worth,” someone politely noted.

Indeed, the damage was very apparent as the front of the car was a mangled mess, and yet to me it didn’t look that realistic. If anything, the caved bumper and rippled bodywork looked too exaggerated, and I didn’t notice any scattering debris on impact. I’m therefore still not entirely convinced by GT5’s damage system yet, but we shall have to see if the final game offers any improvements. Let’s also not forget that damage was never a primary aim of Gran Turismo, so as far as Mr. Yamauchi is concerned we should probably be grateful it’s included in the first place.

Also new to the series is he inclusion of a new technology known as 3D. Whereas MotorStorm Apocalypse looked positively delicious in this new dimension, GT5 felt severely understated in 3D. I noticed the odd road sign standing out in the foreground a bit more and the interior designs were more realised with the added depth, but I can honestly say that it did absolutely nothing to enhance the experience. If anything, the noticeable decrease in resolution made it a detriment considering one of the game’s selling points is its photo-realistic visuals. Just please promise me you won’t shell out for an astronomically priced 3DTV solely for this.

I may not have been overly impressed by the lacklustre damage modelling and needless 3D, but GT5 is still shaping up to be a solid instalment that lives up to its “real driving simulator” tag line if the test drive I had is anything to go by. We can only hope with bated breath that Polyphony’s efforts stack up against the current competition however, as the racing market has changed significantly since GT4 was released with little in the way of opposition all those years ago.

Will it be the definitive driving experience as persistently promised? We shall have to wait and see when Gran Turismo 5 is released November 2nd eventually.

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