With what may go down as the greatest years in racing games history, Gran Turismo Sport has finally hit store shelves. It should be known that this is not Gran Turismo 7 as Sport is going in a different direction. Much like the trailers have shown, Kazunori Yamauchi didn’t want to create a new game, but rather a new sport. With the latest iteration, the focus is on eSports and online competition in an attempt to offer the best racing simulator possible to the masses. For all that it gets right, however, Gran Turismo Sport includes some nagging design flaws.
Sport comes roaring in with over 170 cars, various race tracks that feature different times of the day, a livery editor, and a photo mode known as Scapes. Players can choose from various automobile manufacturers from around the world with plenty of videos and story museums to sort through to learn some history about these manufacturers. While more cars are promised in the future for Sport, there is a solid amount of different car classes offered ranging from street cars to the GR.X class. The later mainly consists of Vision Gran Turismo prototypes. Cars can be quickly upgraded via the car settings menu, but ultimately lack the customization depth that previous games in the series have seen. Additionally, the cars will be down-tuned to meet specification in the GT Sport mode.
Circuit selection is another key component in racing titles. With the competition including a record number of real-world tracks, Gran Turismo Sport only offers a handful. What’s worse is that the game is missing some big tracks. While it’s nice to have the Nurburgring, Interlagos and Suzuka in the game, there’s no Monza, Daytona, Indianapolis or Spa. What is in the game are some elegantly designed fantasy tracks that do make for some amazing racing. Tracks with long, sweeping corners and tight chicanes that are blended together to breed competition. While the tracks do not feature a time transition, they can be played at different parts of the day. Wet weather racing was to be included, but I have yet to locate a track that has this available.
While the lack of an official single player career mode may turn some people off, there is plenty of single player content in this game. The Campaign Mode is truly a driving school and offers plenty of perks. The Driving School mode, itself, will teach players everything from launching off the line to completing tough corners. Much like the old license tests, different medals are awarded for completion. Players will find themselves going back in to try and beat their friend’s event times while at the same time improving their driving ability. There is also a Mission Challenge and Circuit Experience mode that both allow for mastering your craft. Credits are earned to buy cars while completing daily mileage and specific achievements can unlock more. Sport also uses a Mileage Points currency to get smaller livery items for driver outfits and cars. There’s plenty to do that doesn’t include online racing.
There is one major setback to Gran Turismo Sport and it’s the fact that the game basically has to always be online. While Arcade Mode exists for offline play, that’s literally it. Even worse, no progress is saved offline nor loaded. The game is basically useless with no internet connection and that’s a problem.
Sport Mode is where the bulk of the game takes place. There are daily events and championships to sign up for. The events are pre-determined, but there’s enough time to jump from one of the three events to the other. The championships have specific dates listed for enrollment. All of this will tie into a driver rating that has some issues. Eventually the system will get people sorted, but the scoring is inconsistent. There is a speed and safety rating, but it’s the safety rating that comes into question. Getting bashed or taken out by another driver should not lower my safety rating. While it’s good to see other players get penalized at the end of the race, I shouldn’t have to stay in a lower tier just because of some bad luck. The other aspect of online racing includes a public lobby for creating your own room. One thing players have been doing is inviting players to complete races that are simple and clean to raise their ratings. This is a good idea on paper, but has some flaws that need to be ironed out.
What always makes Gran Turismo shine is the racing on the track. While there may be flaws in the ranking system, this is genuinely the best online racing experience to date when it comes to public matchmaking. This game takes the racing seriously and the fans know this and it seems to transition over to the track for the most part. This experience will only get better with time. As for the A.I. in Arcade Mode, it isn’t spectacular but it also doesn’t ruin races like the A.I. in some other games. It does just enough to make things interesting.
Playing with a wheel is the way to go in Gran Turismo Sport. Using a Logitech G29 wheel, the force-feedback transitioned extremely well with the handling of the cars. Each car feels unique in how it turns, transitions weight and power, and even launches. Launching seems to be the biggest change to the series this year as it seems to be overwhelming difficult. Players will need to find that RPM sweet spot to eliminate lag from going from first to second gear. The physics for each individual car feels accurate whether it be a McLaren 650 hugging a sharp corner or a Mustang GT getting loose going around a bend. One flaw for the wheels are the lack of customization. There are preset wheel choices in the game but there is no way to change any type of calibration or sensitivity (outside of force feedback in the pause menu). This may bother some hardcore simulation fans, but on the other side of the spectrum is that the steering is sufficient out of the box.
Visually, Gran Turismo Sport is stunning and truly showcases what the PS4 Pro can do. While the game maintains 60FPS, players can choose at the start to focus on quality rather than a smooth frame rate, but there really isn’t a difference. If you have a HDR-capable television, you’re in for a treat. The car models are represented immaculately, while the tracks and scenery draw you into the realism. The cars still lack heavy damage modeling. Then there are the replays that begin to question reality. This leads me to Scapes, the photo mode. It features over 1000 real world locales to use as a backdrop to your car. These pics can be heavily edited but even with no edits, the pictures come off as jaw-dropping. These pics, along with liveries, can be shared for others to see as the game features its own social media network.
Polyphony Digital also opened the doors to PlayStation VR support with a specific mode that allows any car to race on any track in a single-player arcade race. There’s one opponent on the track and the visuals do take a steep degrade, but the functionality is amazing and the car interiors stand out. Your driver will feature the racing suit you have selected and will even shift gears. A virtual showroom of cars to look around at is also included, but other than that, there’s no compatibility for online racing in VR and it’s fairly limited. It’s still nice that it was included, though.
The Gran Turismo series has long had an issue with the sound of its cars, especially the V8s. Sport does offer an improvement and some engine sounds will blow you away. Ultimately, some of the cars still sound bland and the Audi TT almost put me to sleep. The sound really stands out when playing from an outside view, but the cockpit engine noises is where the it lacks. Making collisions still sound like a thud, but there are sparks involved now when colliding with metal. Lastly, the soundtrack fits the menus well to help capture the essence of racing.
Gran Turismo Sport boasts the best realistic online racing experience, but those looking for something offline with a career will want to look elsewhere. This game is Kazunori Yamauchi’s vision of e-sports racing as it includes the ability to achieve a real FIA license. He truly provides the tools to turn players into literal racing drivers. There is enough content for driving mastery in the game, but the lack of real-world tracks and the need to always be online ultimately hurt the experience. With that being said, the most important aspect is how the cars are on the track, and the racing is excellent.