In a word: unfinished.
Compared to GT3 - which I consider the pinnacle of the series - there are so many graphical issues, slow loading times, poor models and frustrating game-play mechanics.
- Some of the models are really bad - almost certainly direct PSP imports. If as reported they spent 6 months on modelling each of the 200 'premium' cars then it was mostly a waste of time - you can barely see much of the interior if you do drive from inside, and there's little reason to anyway. The sounds are pretty weak too.
- 1080p@ under 50 fps
- The sharpness and crispness only shows up how plain some of the models and race-tracks are. I'd rather 2x AA on 720p, so at least the frame-rate could keep up and you could improve the textures (also allow simpler models). It makes the screenshots look bare, and the moving game less than impressive.
- Screen tearing
- Tearing tearing everywhere. Trying to do too much AA or too high a resolution is all lost as soon as tearing rips the screen in two. I've definitely seen worse tearing ... but that was in games that weren't gran turismo.
- Pop in
- There's just too much pop in. Occasionally a whole road's worth of shadows pops in while you're driving on it too.
- Shadow mask is way too low a resolution, as are the environmental maps used for reflections (additionally they have low temporal resolution). Again this looks particularly bad at 1080p.
- Volumetric mist/dust
- I think the dust and mist actually looks quite nice - at least you can't see it as a bunch of layered animated sprites. Except at the edges that is - where it looks like total shit. Nice algorithm, simply unfinished or simply unsuitable for such a high screen resolution.
- Slow/inconsistent menus
- Obviously different teams/individuals work on every separate menu system in isolation as they still have the problem where they all look and work differently.
- OK pox
- Way too many 'are you sure' 'ok?' boxes and so on. Win some money - click ok. Win a car - click ok. Then go to the ticket, click on it, click ok to get it added to your garage. Click ok after it shows it driving up in the dark. Click ok/cancel to 'use it now'. I mean ... really? Its even worse when one considers this is the only game these guys have been working on for well over a decade, and yet the basic navigation mechanics haven't progressed at all - or gotten worse!
- Loading slog
- This is supposed to be a `next gen' console, why does it still have so much loading delay? Loading a track is one thing but almost every action from going to the car settings to the options to changing menu's triggers another load. I don't consider a 10G `install' a viable option to mitigate this poor design and reportedly it's hardly greased lightning with it anyway. These sort of delays had a reason on the PS2 with it's tiny RAM but there's no such reason on the PS3 - only excuses.
I really can't see where all the time went to come up with this result. Although the modelling and engine coding no doubt took a long time, all of these things can be done in parallel and they would have been playing with the PS3 as early as Evolution Studios anyway (Motorstorm devs who are now polishing their 3rd game), so it can't be the coding. There doesn't seem to be any obvious delay on the 'critical path' that could have caused such a long release cycle for such an unfinished game. Apart that is from poor management. Sony for letting them get away with it and Polyphony for fucking around too much. I'm not counting the over-detailed modelling here either, i'm talking about the engine and menu systems.
It just looks like Sony demanded that they stop fucking around and release it by xmas 2010, perhaps because the PS4 is coming up, or simply to ensure the PS3 hadn't hit it's inevitable decline.
It's only beta quality - a decent beta, but still lacking all the polish we should all expect from such a triple-a game. If I were to review it I wouldn't give it more than 60% given all of the above (a low 'C'/'Pass' grade), and the fact the game itself isn't much other than `GT4-HD'.
If it was a launch title then there would be good excuses for all of these problems, but it isn't.