How important to you are abstract indicators of a car’s performance? Sure, in a manufacturer’s brochure the number of whole and part seconds it takes a car’s power plant to propel it to 60mph gets some billing, if less than than it used to in these ever-greener times. Perhaps you might even boast to your friends about how quickly your own car can theoretically reach that arbitrary speed.
When it comes to racing though those abstract measures of performance become far less important than lap times. A stereotypical American muscle car might be capable of a staggeringly quick time for a standing quarter but may lose out to a slower, yet more nimble, European rival on a twisty street circuit.
Since its inception Gran Turismo has included a Machine Test feature that let you take your chosen car out onto a large high-speed oval to see just how quickly it could cover 400 or 1000m, or simply to establish what its maximum speed was.
Gran Turismo 5 arrived having been shorn of the Machine Test in all but one aspect. The Machine Test has always let you review the telemetry data from your drive and GT5 added that into its Practice mode the benefit being that you could now, if you were keen enough or simply after that particular trophy, view the data log for your drive around any track in the game not just a single simple flat-out oval.[drop]The recently released Speed Test Pack adds back to Gran Turismo a huge oval, almost 19 miles (30km or 30283.2m) around with 7.5 mile (12km) straights, the Special Stage Route X Oval, that you can drive around in any car with your (metaphorical, if you don’t own a wheel and pedals) foot planted firmly and continuously to the floor and gather your abstract numbers.
That gathering is done with the new Speed Test mode that gets its own button on the main GT Mode screen. Taking your currently selected vehicle out for a Speed Test allows you to measure six aspects of its straight-line performance which vary slightly depending on your in-game choice of units.
For those of us who prefer proper numbers you can find your car’s times to reach 60mph, 100mph, ¼ mile and 1 mile. For those who like to use the confusing new-fanggled metric system you can instead discover you car’s time to reach 100kph, 200kph, 400m and 1000m. Regardless of your preferred units you can also measure you cars maximum speed and Gs under acceleration.
Speed Test mode itself only actually uses, most of, one of the oval’s straights, giving you an uncurving 10,000 metres with which to attain as high a speed as you cars gearing and rev-limiter will let you. That’s right, unlike the previous Machine Tests, Speed Test does not even use the whole oval to give you a run at you maximum speed, you are constrained to a single straight.
To drive a full lap of Special Stage Route X you can use it for Arcade or Online races or in GT5’s Practice mode. You are unlikely to want to race around it though as doing so would be tedious in the extreme with top speed being the only arbiter. This is an oval that takes close to four minutes to lap flat out at 300mph in the Red Bull X2011 Prototype, currently the fastest car in GT5 (as rental cars aren’t yet available).[drop2]The track is not entirely without appeal though for those of you who like taking scenic in-game photos of your super-shiny or racing grime-covered cars. A variety of surrounding can be found as you cruise its 19 mile length. Along the speed test straight there is a wind farm, tunnel and radio telescope array, all with a mountainous backdrop.
The other, start-finish, straight adopts a working waterfront theme. Starting with the pit-complex and start-finish itself being homed within what seem to be converted World War II U-Boat pens, you then pass a docks before climbing over a long, tall bridge the descent of which delivers you into a container port.
The tracks additional feature that may appeal to in-game photo fans is that it has a full 24-hour day/night cycle. This gives the setting a wide variety of ambient light conditions complemented by the ‘artificial’ lighting that features on the course and its surroundings as ambient light levels diminish.
Depending upon whereabouts you call home in the SCEE region the Speed Test Pack will cost you £3.19/€3.99/A$5.60/NZ$7.90, while it’s $3.99 or ¥400 if SCEA or SCEJ, respectively, are the keepers of your PSN wallet.
- Gran Turismo 5 gets it’s new and extended Machine Test feature.
- Special Stage Route X offers some great photo opportunities.
- You are essentially paying extra for something that’s been in all previous GT games.
- Tuning for a particular track is more important than for speed or acceleration.
- Although you can, you probably won’t use the new track for racing.
Whether the features the Speed Pack delivers are worthy of your hard-earned cash is going to be a highly subjective decision only you can make. If you are really into tuning your cars in GT5 you most likely already tune them to specific tracks, especially since the addition of multiple setting sheets for each car, so tuning for all-out straight-line speed is probably only ever going to be a momentary diversion.
Having had the DLC a week now I am already about done with it. Having run a handful of cars through the acceleration tests and a selection from the fastest to the worst handling in my garage around the oval in Practice mode, just to check that you can indeed run them all flat-out, I’m not sure when I will return to the track. If I do it will only be to take advantage of the scenery and lighting to try and snap some artsy in-game photos. For me that’s simply not worth the price of admission.