Outside of the GT Life mode, where you can participate only in events that both you and at least one of your cars are eligible for, you can set up custom events in Arcade mode that include both solo and two-player (with no AI opponents) split-screen races, time trials, and drift trials. There are more than 75 different tracks to choose from if you include those that can be raced at different times of day or in wet weather, though for some reason wet conditions are unavailable if you're playing split-screen. Regardless, it's a great selection, and after you've decided where you want to race, you're presented with an equally impressive array of vehicles to choose from. More than 50 premium cars spanning the game's entire garage are available for use in Arcade mode. In addition to those, you can nominate up to 100 of your GT Life cars as favorites so that they appear here, and you can import up to 50 cars from your Gran Turismo PSP garage as well. When racing in Arcade mode, you can set the difficulty level of your AI opponents to beginner, intermediate, or professional, though as in career events, tougher opponents don't necessarily equal smarter opponents; they're just faster.
6284499NoneIf you're a fan of Top Gear it's fun to drive any vehicle around the show's test track.
To find smarter opponents, at least in theory, you need to head online. Gran Turismo 5 supports up to 16 players simultaneously without any noticeable lag, and it smartly deals with those who think it's hilarious to drive backward or to park their cars across the track by making them translucent and possible for others to pass through unscathed. Furthermore, as the host of an online session, you have numerous options with which to customize your races, including one that temporarily reduces power to the engines of anyone who collides with other racers or ends up riding rails around corners rather than slowing down for them. It's true that you might occasionally be penalized for minor and accidental collisions, but that's a small price to pay for encouraging everybody to race clean. As the host, you also get to decide which cars are permitted in races, and although you're free to let players use cars from their own garages, the more interesting option is to have everyone be allocated comparable cars at random, with an additional option to make sure that the winner of the previous race gets the slowest car.
It's a lot of fun to race online in Gran Turismo 5, and provided the host of the session you're playing in allows the use of driving aids, there's no reason you can't enjoy close contests with players of very different skill levels. You don't even need to race if you don't want to; in the online free run mode, a group of you can just drive laps of your chosen circuit as if you're at a track day, while the game keeps a note of who has recorded the fastest times. The only major weakness of GT5's online suite is that it's not nearly as easy as it should be to find sessions that you want to join.
Cockpit views are great, but they're only available on premium cars.
There's no automatic matchmaking in GT5 whatsoever, so the only way to find a game assuming none of your friends are already playing is to pull up a list of lobbies that aren't already full, determine which of them offer the best connection speeds for you, and then hope that the lobby names typed in by the hosts give you a clear indication of what sorts of races they're running. Sadly, there's no good way to filter your search by, for example, the maximum power or level of the cars being used. The only search filters you get are the course being raced (which is likely to change after a race or two anyway), the region that the host is playing in (which defaults to your own), and whether the host has disallowed the use of the skid recovery force option (though not whether the host has chosen to allow it since your search options are "off" or "all"). Furthermore, there's no easy way to invite friends into sessions that you're playing in or even hosting. Friends can join the game you're playing in by visiting your in-game profile, but there's no quick way for you to send them an invite that they can simply choose to accept. Each room is also assigned a unique 20-digit code that you can distribute to anyone who isn't on your friends list via forums and such, which is a functional if inelegant way to get people into your room, and a necessary evil given the lack of matchmaking.
When you're not behind the wheel or looking for online races, you might find that you spend a lot of time checking the used-car lot for rare or favorite vehicles. Among the 1,000-plus vehicles on GT5's roster are some real gems: one-of-a-kind prototypes, classic racecars, modern supercars, and all manner of historically relevant models from mainstream manufacturers. There are also an awful lot of vehicles that bring very little of worth to the game; for every car you ever contemplated putting a poster of on your wall as a kid, there are several that look more like something you were probably dropped off at school in. There's something to be said for the novelty of racing in a station wagon, or for trying to score points drifting in an underpowered antique, but there are a large number of cars in GT5 that aren't useful for a single event. And even if you get a kick out of trying to collect as many of the game's cars as possible, do you really want more than 25 variants of either Honda's S2000 or Mazda's MX-5?
You never know what you might find when you visit the used-car lot.
You can try to ignore cars that you have no interest in, of course, just as you can do your best to drive only premium vehicles, but less desirable and standard rides are everywhere. Even if you avoid buying them when there's nothing else at the used-car lot, you end up racing against them. It's not just the standard cars that disappoint visually; many of the tracks in the game are also recognizable from earlier games, and while they clearly look a lot better in GT5, they're still not up to the standards being set elsewhere in the genre. Taking advantage of GT5's 3D functionality doesn't help matters either; not only does it add little to the experience and occasionally cause noticeable drops in the frame rate, but it's tricky to calibrate correctly because you don't get to see what effect your changes are having as you mess with the parallax and convergence settings. Just as they don't look as impressive as premium cars, many of the standard cars don't sound great, and when the soundtrack jarringly switches between forgettable rock and forgettable jazz, it's hard not to wonder if so much attention was paid to the premium cars during development that other aspects of the game were neglected.
Regardless, if you've ever fantasized about a Ferrari or dreamed of driving at Daytona, Gran Turismo 5 is a game that you're sure to get a lot out of. This is simultaneously the most accessible GT game yet and the most uncompromisingly realistic driving game on a console to date. It's unfortunate that much of what makes Gran Turismo 5 so great is under the hood rather than on display for everyone to see, but a powerful engine trumps a perfect paintjob every time.