As a kid, I was never a huge fan of the Gran Turismo games. At the time the cars and tracks looked awesome and realistic but I was never a fan of realistic driving so most of my time was spent trying to wall ride and cut shortcuts across the grass to win races. I didn’t do well. It’s fair to say that in the time since then, the franchise has come a long way – spanning multiple console generations and fighting off competitors in the same space. But Polyphony Digital’s latest offering is a strange beast, and a huge step in a different direction for the tried and true series with Gran Turismo Sport.
Stepping back into the world of Gran Turismo, the biggest and most alienating thing for some will be the always-online connection. Yes, we’ve raved on in the past about the need for games to be always connected online, but a sizeable chunk of the game is not available unless you’re connected; which can be a very annoying thing, especially if the network goes down or your internet is out.
This is a big thing – you can still perform custom races, drift trials and even use the virtual reality mode, but for everything else it is practically an online-only game. This even includes the driving school mode, which for new players is probably detrimental to understanding the physics of the game and the cars you will be racing. Jumping straight into a custom race, as I did upon first booting the game, meant that I spent most of my time in walls or gravel traps and not actually on the track.
GT Sport’s approach by suggesting you step into driver training makes a lot of sense, and while I was initially frustrated with having to do it, it helped me understand the controls and the physics of the cars better. Within a short amount of time I went from wall-hugging crash test dummy to having a basic understanding of the track and turns. The rhythm of the game and the training modes also pushes you to try better until you’re achieving gold in each option, which is pretty good motivation considering you work your way towards newer cars each time.
The training modes tend to take a fair bit of time to load however; while it is understandable considering the quality content of the game and car models that have to be rendered to play through.
Having said that, the remainder of the single-player campaign is a let down. There’s a whole lot to do with challenges and missions which just feel like extended versions of the driving school tests, and nothing more to them. Compared with the extensive history of the games, the fact that it feels like significant chunks of the game are either missing or just ‘not there’ is quite disappointing and is only expected to be padded out by the online race community.
The game itself is a stunning work however, with extensive detail put into both the car models and some of the tracks. There’s also a new Scapes mode, which is the most interesting and awesome feature within the game – you can take a car, any car, and park it somewhere around the world in the list of locations. Some serious work has gone into this – lights from the photo sources even reflect on the vehicle’s paintjob even when they’re a stationary image. You can fill a scene with four or five of your cars and take a picture, replicating any potential dreams you may had of seeing these cars in a public space from somewhere around the world.
The sound design of the game is also quite remarkable – not only is the specific track list for the game quite well suited to the menu and tracks that you race, but each car’s exhaust note and engine sound is crisp and clean, which is definitely the kind of thing you want. When you run a Bugatti Veyron around a corner I can guarantee you’ll like what you hear.
Make no mistake – Gran Turismo Sport is fun to play and is a surprisingly fresh step (in a different direction) for the developers, but it feels like it comes at a cost for many reasons – the lack of variation in cars and manufacturers, the shallow depth in single-player (and even offline mode) campaigns, and even a lot of the tuning and adjustment features are missing from the game. Newer players will love the fact that there’s now a dedicated and easy-to-pass driving school, but will find themselves stuck and ubalbe to progress through the ranks without a stable connection (which is something of a rarity in this nation). Gran Turismo Sport is a worthy addition to your collection regardless of your experience with racing games, but seasoned fans will potentially be disappointed with how the way the game has pivoted.