Rachel (Trance) is a long time gamer full time nerd without a plan... When she's not playing on some manner of console or handheld device she can be found enjoying popculture life to its fullest.
October 18, 2017
Sony Interactive Entertainment
Gran Turismo Sport has just been released making the franchises big return to console racing, but was it worth the wait? And does it make the grade in today’s racing game market? There was a time long ago when Gran Turismo was the gold standard in console racing simulators, but after being out of the game (so to speak) for so long you’d be forgiven for being a little hesitant to step back behind the wheel. Competitors like Forza Motorsport and Project CARS have since taken the spotlight from the franchise and although GT paved the way for many of the features we now take for granted in today’s modern racing games, with its return you have to wonder if it will seem like they’re playing catch up.
Right from the opening title credits the game is visually stunning which should come as no surprise to fans. If you’ve followed the Gran Turismo franchise at all then you’d be perfectly aware that developer Polyphony Digital has always strived to be the best when it comes to striking the balance of digital realism that makes their games pure joy in motion to play.
“GT Sport is more like an interactive car documentary than a racing simulator in some points…”
This beauty doesn’t just stop at the opening credits though, the in-game action is just as stunning and there is equal (if not more) emphasis on the visual aspect of the game as there is the racing. GT Sport is more like an interactive car documentary than a racing simulator in some points and honestly I have no issue with this.
You truly have to admire the way Kazunori Yamauchi and his team have spent hours tirelessly and meticulously constructing the environments and cars in Gran Turismo Sport. While it’s always been a step above, it’s even more beautiful and detailed than ever before. With all this in mind then its little wonder that the game encourages you to take photos of your car collection in some of the most stunning and beautiful locations from various countries around the world.
Once your pistons cool down you realise that this is more than just glorified carporn, but a great racing game as well. But what it’s not is a simple port or a real sort of sequel of the last GT game. GT Sport is something new; almost everything about it differs from its predecessors.
There are fewer tracks and cars to select from, sadly you’ll be unlikely to take your own car out for a drive in GT Sport (unless you’ve recently won a lottery and are driving the good life). There are also less simulator features to dive into for your cars and you simply won’t spend hours taking them apart or buying the right new parts for your cars anymore.
The games main campaign is like one long driving school. For fans of the franchise they’ll be familiar with the old tutorial mode where you’d obtain your licence grade before competing in cups or the Grand Prix. Here in GT Sport however it’s simply one long test that teaches you everything you might need and not need to know about racing and how to drive. In all its complexity it’s actually preparing you for competitive play, which is where GT Sport is primarily focused. You’ll start off by learning the bare basics; accelerate, shift, cornering, turning etc. Then if you’re an auto driver you’ll be thrown into mastering a manual transmission. Next is learning how to read other racers around you and to manage your tire wear and fuel during races.
Gran Turismo Sport was always pitched as an online-focused game and I feel like the decision to have an instructional style campaign is because of its integration with Federation Internationale De L’Automobile (FIA), the body that organises world motorsports and series like Formula 1. A nifty feature that sounds great for racing fans but will likely and largely go unused, it means you can earn an FIA recognised driving license in the game. This in turn means you can obtain a digital license which you can then use to drive race cars in real life at specific locations. To be clear whilst the game is primarily online focused you wont need a PlayStation Plus subscription to actually play, that’s just for online multiplayer, however you will need working internet access at all times should you want to access anything past GT Sport’s arcade mode.
When it comes down to the actual gameplay I’m always looking for what makes this racer different to the last, as all the bells and whistles mean nothing if they all play the same. Gran Turismo Sport certainly delivers on this front. It’s a sim racing game that gives players exactly what they want. You won’t be flying around drifting like in Forza Motorsport which bridges the simcade gap but you also wont be pulling out all your hair and rocking gently in a corner after every attempt to play like in Assetto Corsa.
When I wasn’t off making the grade in the campaign I was playing around in Arcade mode. This is where I got a good feel for the cars. They felt weighty and realistic which gives each their own sense of personality to drive. This is also a great place to learn more of the ins and outs of the game and become familiar with the tracks. You also wont find any rewind or forgiveness here in GT Sport. If you are looking to take a shortcut or you fail to make a turn the game will place you back on the track behind the point you made your deviation. This makes it all the more important to learn those lessons in the campaign mode, and again highlights just how much emphasis the game places on online play and driver etiquette.
Speaking of the online gameplay, Polyphony Digital was late to the whole idea of online multiplayer racing. It finally stepped into the realm of online multiplayer in 2008 with GT5: Prologue and in a lot of ways GT Sport appears to be over-compensating for that. I mentioned earlier that Gran Turismo had paired up with FIA; well Sport mode is the games officially sanctioned online racing location where a number of regular Daily Races take place at 20-minute intervals throughout the day. Also for those wanting more chances to earn themselves some racing stripes, coming in November will be two different FIA series and a Polyphony Digital Championship.
Gran Turismo teaming up with FIA is something special, and besides being the truly great privilege that it is it’s also a tremendous responsibility. Essentially this means more for us as players than you might think. FIA takes racing seriously, quite seriously as you’d assume, and you only have to look at the world of motorsport to see this represented in those racing. Sportsmanship is key and before you will even get to test out the world of online racing you’ll have to sit through a couple of short videos explaining the concept (Forza Drivatar system you wonderful hot mess I’m looking right at you).
The brand new Safety Rating system means you are given a score based on how safe of a driver you are. Drive like a you’re in a game of Mario Kart and your Safety Rating will drop matching you up with other irresponsible racers online. In theory this is a great idea and makes for some incredibly well mannered online racing, however your own personal Safety Rating will drop when another player collides with you so I feel the system needs a little fleshing out.
Driving aside it wouldn’t be a Gran Tursimo game if it didn’t contain a virtual library of racing knowledge and GT Sport has more than enough, Lewis Hamilton even has his own channel. You’ll get information on the past games in the franchise and although the drivable car and track library may currently be small for some players the virtual library is anything but.
If you’re looking for something in the way of new features Gran Turismo Sport has finally caught up to the competition by offering a livery editor. In the customisation menu you’re able to make car designs and custom driver outfits, all without having to resort to loot boxes. You will however have to use your mileage points to unlock or buy extra designs should you want to, but in this current age of the loot box its nice not to see them here. Even sharing your custom content is as seamless as its main livery competitor Forza, meaning there’s an abundance of designs available ready to go. The downside here is unlike previous GT games you wont have an abundance of cars on which to use them.
Gran Turismo Sport is a technical masterpiece. It perfectly showcases what the PlayStation 4 is capable of and is one of the most visually stunning racing games I’ve played. As a career racer, sadly it falls short. Although in spite of its online focused design, the game is still full of innovation which makes it all the more sad to see it cut down to such a small roster of tracks and cars.
The game will remain fun for dedicated simulation drivers, and I’m keen to keep racing as it definitely makes you a better driver across the board. As long as you have an internet connection or are looking to get into the world of competitive racing eSports, I would have no hesitation in recommending Gran Turismo Sport to those that own a PS4.