For as long as I can remember, I've been a complete car nut. So it's no wonder that I've been an enormous fan of the Gran Turismo series since its introduction in 1997 - as were over 11 million of my fellow earthlings who also purchased the game on the then new, highly expensive, highly advanced PlayStation console.

Needless to say, the series has developed from its infancy with a mere 150 cars and 11 courses, to a monster with 728 cars and 50 tracks available in Gran Turismo 4. Now it's time to throw the old game into the sock drawer, and bring out the shiny and new.

Following the formula set by Gran Turismo 4 Prologue of drip feeding the starving masses with a taste of things to come, Polyphony Digital has seen fit to release Gran Turismo 5 Prologue.

It contains 71 cars including models from Ferrari, Nissan, Honda, Dodge, BMW, Aston-Martin, Subaru, Lotus, and more.

Prologue also contains six courses with various different layouts. Six all new opportunities to thrash the living daylights out of a car that you'll never have to repair. Yes, car damage is still a myth in the Gran Turismo series, despite various rumours and speculation floating around the web.

Still it doesn't detract too much from what is an astonishing leap forward.

Having finally gotten my hands on GT5 Prologue, I eagerly slid it into my waiting PS3, and was rearing to get on with it. My PS3 however, was not. It seems that while still remaining simple enough to be operated by a chimpanzee, they now require that you actually install games. So it wasn't until after I'd twiddled my thumbs for a few minutes, then made a coffee, then drank the coffee, that the game was installed and I was ready to play!

Only... my console still wasn't. Gran Turismo 5 happily informed me that there was an update to install. OK, this probably won't take too long, I thought.

Three more coffees, and a game of internet RISK later and I was finally allowed to play. Funny, I always thought this was one of the main points of the argument that consoles were better than PC's. No installing things, no patching things, just put the disk in and it goes? Isn't that what it was all about?

Fortunately for the console world, my bad mood was quickly abandoned as the game launched into its stunning opening cinematic sequence, which fell away into the game's main menu.

The game works on a similar principle as all Gran Turismo games have in the past. You start with a small amout of cash to purchase a standard nana-spec car, which you use to race, and earn more money to purchase faster cars. While no car upgrades are available in Prologue, there are some “quick tune” options available once you've finished the main races. These allow you to do some basic tuning on the performance and handling of your vehicle and set it up appropriately for each circuit.

Moving with the times, Polyphony has introduced a drifting mode in the arcade section of the game. While it takes a bit to get used to, it certainly proved to be a remarkable success around here. An excellent opportunity to challenge your friends and whale on them for great justice.

Clearly the graphics engine has been vastly improved to provide up to 1920x1080 resolution for those with 1080p displays. The console's performance seems up to par with either single-player or split-screen modes. While the framerate does occasionally dip a little when there are excessive cars, smoke and dust to render, it does not affect the physics too much, allowing you to drive through it and continue unabated.

Continued on next page...