On May 12th, 1998, Polyphony Digital and Sony Interactive Entertainment released a brand new racing game in North America titled Gran Turismo. Since then, this critically-acclaimed series has continued to captivate the hearts of racing genre fans everywhere while also honoring the impressive body of work by popular game designer and professional race car driver Kazunori Yamauchi.
With the release of Gran Turismo Sport, Polyphony Digital has started a new generation in the current iteration of Gran Turismo titles and are aiming to elevate the series to new heights. Here are more of my in-depth thoughts on what this game includes and why it may or may not be worth your time and money.
Gran Turismo Sport is considered the thirteenth game in the franchise and the first Gran Turismo made exclusively for the PlayStation 4. This title consists of three main game modes which are referred to as Campaign, Sports Mode, and Arcade Mode. Arcade Mode is the only mode that can be played entirely offline while both Campaign and Sports Mode require an internet connection at all times. The other two key options that appear on the main menu screen are Brand Central and Scapes. Brand Central acts as your one-stop shop for buying vehicles while Scapes is GT Sport‘s unique photo mode feature.
Diving further into the Campaign, there are four specific categories which include Driving School, Mission Challenge, Circuit Experience, and Racing Etiquettes. Driving School teaches players beginner, intermediate and advanced driving lessons across the span of 64 activities that they can earn bronze, silver or gold medals in based on performance. Players also receive a free random car as a gift for every 8 lessons that they successfully complete. Mission Challenge and Circuit Experience are designed to test players skills in various racing situations and on some of the world’s greatest race tracks. Racing Etiquettes familiarizes players with the proper signals, flags, and safety car protocols for every given racing condition. Campaign mode in its entirety is an online-only experience because there are YouTube tutorial videos tied to each activity in order to help players who may be struggling to complete objectives.
Of all the categories described above, Driving School is without a doubt the best and most intuitive feature because it’s easily accessible to every type of player regardless of skill level. This is a perfect example of how a proper tutorial mode should be handled in most racing games today. The only problem is that Campaign’s online-only implementation applies to save progress too and anyone who doesn’t have PlayStation Plus won’t be able to experience what the full product has to offer.
Moving on from Campaign, Sports Mode is the PVP online racing experience that the developers are hoping players keep coming back to. This advanced matchmaking system was built with the intent of pairing up players of the same skill and sportsmanship level to ensure fair matchups across the board. There are also three main racing events every day that players can gain entry to by signing up and qualifying. The concept as a whole is clever, but the execution can be problematic at times if you don’t have a stable online connection. Polyphony will obviously continue to refine this mode even further over time, but so far the idea is working to a certain degree.
For offline players, Arcade mode offers a few options including single race, time trial, drift trial, custom race, 2 player battle and VR Tour. VR Tour will appeal most to players who own a PSVR headset, but it does have a major setback that I’ll elaborate on later. Brand Central grants players access to various purchasable cars from notable manufacturers like Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ashton Martin, Volkswagon, Toyota, Nissan, Honda and more. Lastly, Scapes uses HDR and physics-based rendering technology to make your cars look realistic in any and every environment. However, if your TV doesn’t have HDR support, then it may be hard to truly see how breathtaking each photo can be.
Gameplay in Gran Turismo Sport is very straightforward and gives players options on different ways to play. Assist presets, steering controls and pedal controls can all be adjusted before you begin your first race and changed accordingly after every race. You can win prize credits to buy cars, mileage points, daily workout distance points that grant you free cars after completing driving marathons and earn experience points to increase your level and unlock new tracks in Arcade Mode. Each and every car feels different on the course, ensuring that players will have to hone their skills accordingly in order to achieve the most success.
Graphically, Gran Turismo Sport looks great on the standard PlayStation 4 console but your opinion may vary based on a few key things. First off, this title makes use of full HDR support and just like with the Scapes option, if your TV doesn’t have that support then the visuals might not be quite as sharp as you’d like. Furthermore, this game was designed in mind for PS4 Pro and thus that version of the game feels like a slightly more impressive effort thanks to the resolution and performance boosts.
When considering the overall value of GT Sport, I would say that the game has its fair share of pros and cons. There are no microtransactions and mostly everything can be earned over time, but there are currently only 160+ cars with 40 tracks spread out across roughly 17 locations. While there are a majority of fans out there that feel less is best, the fact of the matter is that there is less content here than Gran Turismo 6 and several other racers out right now. Polyphony can always add more to the game through updates if fans demand it but I’m not sure if that is something people may request due to the always-online nature of this title.
GT Sport is an enjoyable game at most times but there are a few significant issues that I feel keep it from reaching its full potential. For starters, when the game is played offline there are very limited options for players. The VR Tour feature is a great bonus for those who own a PSVR headset but can only be used in that mode. This much like the lack of offline features feels like a half step by the developers especially when their initial goal was to make PSVR compatible across all modes including campaign. This is something that they should consider doing for the next game as it will only strengthen their message of VR support even further.
The other gripe that I have with GT Sport lies within the fact that a dynamic weather system wasn’t included in this game. Players have the option of choosing racing conditions like time of day before every race, but this doesn’t amount to much when you consider that other competitors currently on the market have dynamic weather as a standard feature. Hopefully. the goal is to bring this option back in future titles as it can truly go a long way towards making the overall racing experience even more challenging and engaging.
As a complete package, Gran Turismo Sport is a promising start for the new direction of the series and will undoubtedly get even better over time. While the lack of features in offline mode and the omission of a dynamic weather system will annoy many fans, the core components are enjoyable enough to warrant a recommendation for both diehard and new racing game enthusiasts. Gran Turismo may not be the best racing game currently on the market but it is definitely one franchise that you should keep an eye on.
This review was based on a digital review copy of Gran Turismo Sport for the PlayStation 4 provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment.