The Good: Lots of new features, hundreds of cars to choose from, first ever online mode, new clean and streamlined menus, seasonal and special events are a blast, excellent visuals, cockpit views with true 1080p support
The Bad: Only premium cars look good, some tracks look very outdated, you really need to focus and drive perfectly to win, tuning cars can be very difficult to troubleshoot, frequent and long load times, various issues that make playing the game difficult
Ever since GT4 the series has had a lot of problems with visuals, content, and just overall polish. GT4 was infamous for its high difficulty and questionable car selection. However, the series is known as the best looking racing simulator, and the one with the most realistic driving physics. GT5 has all of that, but problems lie in other areas, but more on those later.
The first things you will notice is the new menu which is laid out better instead of pins on a map. You will notice a used car menu (which tracks mileage now), a better maintenance shop, the ability to generate a unique user profile for online races, and now seasonal events. Seasonal events are updated quarterly and feature endless amounts of races so when you finish the disc content you don't get bored. Even tuning your vehicle is more user friendly thanks to better descriptions and better visual guides. Polyphony really polished up the menus so everything looks more streamlined and not so cluttered and confusing. You know right where something is and how to get to it without referring to guides or searching around.
Buying cars is really fun thanks to the huge selection and in depth descriptions and history of each car. There are hundreds of them so car afficiandos won't get bored or yawn at the selection. A few new car dealers are Maserati and Lamborghini to name a couple. There are a lot of selections that can cost millions, so you should stick to the used dealerships until your credits are in the millions. The car selection is varied and strong so I have no complaints here.
When you actually race the physics are excellent, and the new cockpit view is amazing. However, only premium vehicles have high resolution textures and a cockpit view. The rest of the cars look like complete crap and have no cockpit view. Why do this? I have no idea, but it looks tacky and unfinished and is a real blow to the game. The cars that do look good look photo realistic and the cockpit views are just amazing. Needles move on the dash, and even the rear window and seats are shown in the car. Driving the cars has a great feeling, but of course you will have to fine tune them to get some to drive properly. If you aren't a racing simulator fan you are going to hate this because it can take hours to get a single car to drive just right. Tuning the cars is very easy to do thanks to the clean menus, but if you add too much power to most cars they won't drive right anymore.
Slip streaming has been added to the game, and driving properly such as gas goosing, late braking, and everything else has never been more important thanks to the updated physics. Most of the races are just challenging enough that if you focus and drive right you will win. I rarely had races where I was blown off by the competition, but being able to see the PP (Performance Points) that the other cars have helps a lot too. If you feel you need to tune something on the fly you can now do so in the race menu instead of having to completely quit the race. If you race it for long enough you will need to do engine overhauls and chassis alignments now thanks to the new physics system.
While shopping for cars and racing them is fun, the first ever online mode, photo mode, and new community features are a plus as well. Museum cards can be acquired by logging in every day, new paint jobs can be acquired by winning vehicles, and there are just so many little things added that it all adds up to make a big difference in the overall experience. Winning licenses, however, is just as big of a pain as ever before, but the new special events are a nice touch such as NASCAR racing, go carts, and even Top Gear Rally events. Polyphony really tried adding variety to the game and it shows indefinitely.
There are a lot of little problems with the game that add up to really frustrate you. For example when I select a race that has requirements why can't it take me to the dealerships to buy that car if its country specific or a specific drive train. Why do I have to memorize the flag symbol in order to know which dealership belongs to which country? I've already mentioned the cockpit and low resolution standard cars issue. Why are there still loading times between every menu and how come they can be so long? Some tracks look really ugly and weren't updated at all with cardboard cutout buildings and flat grass textures. Why are the graphics all over the place? There are so many questions as to why these issues are present, but I guess we will never know.
With some other nice features like custom soundtracks, a huge selection of supported wheels, true 1080p visuals, 3D and Eye support. GT5 has so many options, features, and a huge car selection that will make any car fan drool. With exotics to classics you will find something to love about this game just remember to focus on driving and you will win that dream car.