Gran Turismo has been Sony’s pride and joy racing title since the halcyon days of the PS1. Sony dubbed the series; The Real Driving Simulator, and it has always delivered on the promise of a being a deep racing experience with an unmatched single player experience. Fast forward to now and things are about to do a radical gear shift, handbrake 180 degree turn for Sony’s premier racer.
I want to start with the negatives, something I rarely do but unfortunately these are going frustrate fans of the series to no end. The biggest being the total removal of GT mode. This was Gran Turismo’s biggest and best asset, now it is completely gone. No longer can we partake in a ridiculous number of events, championships and the like that generally took over 50 hours to complete. Do I miss it? You bet I do. I would pour in excess of over 200 hours into each GT mode and not ever feel bored, having it no longer available was a shock to the system to say the least. So, what do we have now?
GT Sport is primarily an online racer. There is still a solo experience to be had, this solo experience is just a little bare boned. I was happy to find that the licence tests were still included, only this time they are more like challenges as you obviously don’t require your class licences for the GT mode as it is non-existent. As always, gold, silver and bronze trophies are up for grabs for each challenge, each trophy awarding different amounts of in game credits, used to purchase vehicles. These challenges are ample too, and range from simple acceleration and braking challenges to hot laps, races and even endurance events. It is like the licence test and GT mode had a baby, it is larger than the tests but much smaller than GT mode. Complete a series of events and a car is awarded via the GT rotisserie. In addition to trophies there are leader boards to top.
Another facet to GT Sports solo experience is the ability to try tracks and cars. This is handy to get to know the tracks on hand and coming to terms with each car’s handling aspects. It is not a mode that you will return to though and the track and car range is quite small in comparison to what we see and expect from racers. There are twenty-nine tracks, and eighty cars (most have multiple variants, making it look like over 150 cars) which is tiny compared to previous games in the series and other competitor’s releases. The tracks are made up of a mixture of real life circuits such as the Nürburgring and Suzuka and a range developer designed tracks.
Although the car selection is skinny, this time round there are less small under powered cars that nobody wants in a game, goodbye stock Toyota Corolla Ascent, hello Toyota FT-1. The reduction seems at first to make the selection bare, and it is, but what is missing from previous games are the cars you wished you never had to drive. I still have nightmares about my stock Civic from GT6, the car forced upon you from the beginning. Polyphony reportedly has a huge amount of downloadable content (DLC) planned for the future with track and car packs, yes it hurts but welcome to the sad world and times of micro transactions and incomplete game releases. In addition to the cars, each manufacturer has a museum where their history is explained and also various links to videos about their greatest triumphs. It is car porn for motoring enthusiasts.
The handling of the cars is what you have come to expect from the franchise. It is a simulation, there are no arcade type slides, no unrealistic characteristics to the vehicles. The weight shifting is not as pronounced as I have seen, it is not on the same level of realism as Project Cars 2, but it feels realistic all the same. The addition of a large amount of actual race set cars is the reasoning, stability is a must when you hurtle around tracks at close to 300kms and hour.
Graphics & Sound
Gran Turismo sport is the sharpest, best looking game I have played on a console, ever. The cars look simply sublime and the tracks and environments are stunning. Visually the game is a masterpiece. There is a lack however of real time weather effects which is disappointing. You do race in a range of differing weather situations but real-time weather is something we have grown accustomed to. The lighting is brilliant too, it looks glorious and is one of the few titles that makes me wish I had the pro to upscale to 4K.
The sound is fantastic too, with the cars sounding perfect. The sound track, as always with Gran Turismo, has been composed for the game. Most people will most likely play their own tunes but I quite enjoyed what was being delivered from Polyphony.
This is where we find the meat of Gran Turismo Sports game play. It seems that career mode is a thing of the past, multi-player with a ridiculously deep structure is the now. This is really hard to come to grips with as a fan of the series, my first reaction was horror, where is my GT mode! Polyphony has decided to depart old ways and convert a mode similar to GT mode to online multi-player, it’s a massive risk and the results are mixed.
Thinking back and looking at GT mode makes me realise it had limitations. Yes, there was a huge solo game to partake in but racing against AI opponents had its drawbacks. The cars all used a similar race line, the mistakes were few and far between and you could cheat by ramming opponents off the track and using them as a cornering tool. That is now a thing of the past, as human opponents make mistakes, don’t travel on rails and there is a penalty for unsociable driving.
Before you partake in multi-player racing you have to watch two videos regarding sportsman ship and rules of racing. You may laugh at these, be bored but there is no skipping and you are best to take heed. If you are breaking the rules of sportsmanship you will obtain penalties. These penalties are time based, the don’t give you auto slow down but will be reserved until the end of the race. This can make your podium finish an end result of mid field, it is a great idea but ideas and reality sometimes have a huge gap.
The big gripe is who is at fault, I have had many instances where I had simply used a racing line or slightly defended my position through corners, not moving off my racing line, contact is made by the over aggressive passer and I was slugged. I even had an instance of going wide in a turn too hot, losing traction, regaining it wide way off a racing line and a car hitting me. I again incurred penalty, I did not impede as I was way off the racing line. The reality is you will be penalised when you feel validated in your actions, there is no appeal, there is no leniency, just the controlling verdict of AI. If you are being a tool though, and trying to slam opponents the game can quickly make your car a ghost. This happens in extreme circumstances, and still gives a penalty but you don’t ruin someone else’s experience.
That aside the racing is super fun and there is a massive number of races to enter. Each race has an entry timer and qualification laps to partake in. These qualifiers are used to match opponents to similar skilled opposition. It mostly works, I have been in a race with one driver being a whole five seconds quicker than the rest of us, no surprise he won. Usually though a second or two splits the field making for great races. The racing is kept to specific vehicle classes and each car has its power and torque auto adjusted to be the same, the difference being handling and drive train. It makes less argument for being beaten by a faster car and making things totally equal.
If you are lacking cars for GR3 or GR4 events you can sign on with a dealership. So straight to Aston Martin I went, signed a contract which allowed me to (borrow) drive their 2012 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 and 2015 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Gr.4 in respective events for the season (a range of time, two weeks I think).
The online play never seems to falter in with no apparent lag issues, frame rate drops and latency issues witnessed, even on my horrible net speeds. It all runs super smoothly, possibly the smoothest online gaming I have played in quite some time. I guess having a game that depends on excellent servers and connectivity it is great news that I have seen no hiccup what so ever.
GT Sport has already been a roller coaster for me in the days since release. The lack of a large solo proportion was hard hitting and extremely worrying but the online component is super reliable and quite excellent apart from some unfair rulings and penalties. The lack of car range seemed horrible but the quality is there, the track range likewise. I am still like everyone else and struggling to come to terms with the idea of spending cash to extend a game with micro transactions, but sadly I guess I may as well get used to it. Overall GT Sport is still a great game, it is just a vastly different one than we are used too, but perhaps it is the first step in a radical new direction that others will follow.