Killzone 3 in 3D didn’t quite impressive as much as it perhaps should have done. Let down by some very fuzzy graphics, upscaled and artefact filled, much of the subtleties so obviously noticeable when viewing things in the third dimension were lost. Whilst depth perception still remained, its usage somewhat limited by your reduced line of sight, with enemies being made a little harder to pick out from a distance.
Thankfully Gran Turismo 5 doesn’t suffer from any of these problems; instead you could comfortably describe it as being Sony’s real flagship demonstration for the benefits of 3D gaming.
My first taste of GT5 came standing next to a player seated down next to me, right in the middle of a race. Putting on a second set of LCD shutter glasses provided for spectators to become acquainted with the 3D effect, I was initially a little disappointed. At an angle the 3D effect in GT5 looked rather strange. The car appeared to hover above the track whilst the scenery seemingly moved around it. However, when finally sitting down to go hands-on, positioned directly in front of the screen, things changed completely.
The 3D effect in GT5 is nothing short of superb. The vast levels of depth perception, and visual judgement of distance really come close to replicating the actual experiencre of being right there, hovering behind the car in the classic outside view, as I pelted around both the Tokyo and Rome circuits.
Not only can you accurately gauge distances between cars and the surrounding environment, you can also read with unparalleled precision the angle in which your car is situated in relation to others on the track in a real-world 3D space. Subtleties that previously had to be second-guessed from a 2D perspective in a 3D game are now opened right up allowing you to react and respond almost as you would in reality. I say almost, as the 3D version of the game was only controllable with a DS3 at the event. The 2D build was kitted out with a high-end Logitech GT Force wheel.
Also compared to seeing KZ3 in 3D, there is very little in the way of double image ghosting in GT5. The main reason for this is that Polyphony Digital’s driving sim runs mostly at a smooth 60 frame per-second, thus eliminating this unwanted effect. Some crosstalk was still present however. Although this is down to the nature of the LCD display it self not being able to provide a completely smear-free image, rather than the actual game, so it’s not really an issue.
Visually GT5 looked suitably stunning, in both 2D and 3D modes. The high levels of image quality gave way to a crisp and clean final image, both clinical in nature whilst appearing natural at the same time. Sharp, detailed textures are complemented with incredibly detailed car models, and lavish roadside scenery. A combination of real-time lighting, HDR, and pre-baked solutions also gave the game a bespoke sense of depth, whilst the overall quality of the rendering provides a photo realistic feel to the proceedings.
In terms of gameplay GT5 looks to have been given another massive change to its handling system. Compared to the Time Trial demo, the overall handling system feels far weightier, with under steer being as much of an issue as over steer. Not that this is a fault however, as you now have an even greater awareness of each vehicles weight and grip characteristics than before. In particular, racing at too high a speed can often lead to an excess of unwanted grip being produced, in which case careful braking and proper timing is required in order to quickly, but deliberately manuvere your way around sharp turns and constant changes around the track.
One thing I noticed is that it is actually a lot easier to not spin out of control this time around. More often than not going too fast leads you straight into a wall, or careering off the intended path, rather than having you car slide around in circles right in the middle of the road. Although that does happen when you try too hard to over compensate.
The balance is now even more determined by small incremental changes in weight, speed and grip than before, with much in the way to learn compared to GT5 Prologue – which now feels a little archaic in comparison. That said, I didn’t tinker too much with the few gameplay-based options that you have before each single race. And I believe that a variety of handling types may be available in what looked like an Arcade mode of sorts. I simply kept the ‘standard’ setting as that seemed like the most obvious choice in best representing the feel the developers had intended for the game.
Sadly I didn’t get a chance to sample all of the cars and tracks featured in the demo, and couldn’t compare how well the handling mechanics felt when using the GT Force wheel to the standard DS3 pad. However my short time with demo was more than enough to convince me that the game has gone through some serious upgrades over the last year or two alone, and that the 3D effect was one of the most promising I have ever seen.
Out of Sony’s line-up GT5 stood out by far as the most polished of all the first party games on display. It may not have delivered the high-level intensity of Killzone 3, or the same innovative talents as Little Big Planet 2, but it did provide a largely successful showcase for the 3D format, along with being one of the most accomplished driving games to be seen so far.
Update: looks like I should have switched to the 'professional' option for a more realistic, and less grounded approach to the games handling - the sources for the lack of oversteer almost certainly originates from this point. Although even the 'normal' option is considerably better than before. Going down the professional route will definitely be something I'll be doing in the final game. Shame I missed out on it at the Expo.