Developer: Polyphony Digital
[Update: After spending much more time with the online features, a grade has been assigned]
First of all, I?m absolutely thrilled that fellow PlayStation 4 owners and Gran Turismo fans can finally get their hands on a brand new title in the long running driving franchise. Honestly, it?s about time. Right out of the gate though, I?m not totally sure I agree with naming this new installment ?Gran Turismo Sport”. ?Sport? as a suffix usually invokes (to me at least) a more casual/less serious implementation of whatever the root word it follows is. Gran Turismo Sport is anything but a casual Gran Turismo experience though, which I guess can be a positive or a negative depending on your expectations. Regardless, GT Sport easily lives up to the ?The real driving simulator? tagline the series has had since its inception.
Let get this out of the way, Gran Turismo Sport is an always connected online game first and foremost, and if you lose connection to the servers or don?t have a somewhat reliable internet connection, don’t bother. You?ll be stuck with the fairly simple Arcade mode only and be literally locked out of every single other feature and mode in the game. All your game progress is tracked and saved online and without a connection there will be very limited opportunities to do much of anything — so keep that in mind. Mostly due to this fact, this review is a work-in-progress until we can spend a little more time with the proper online GT Sport community in a production environment. Also, due to this fact, a more fitting title may have been “Gran Turismo Online”, but hey, what do I know.
With that being said, like other previous Gran Turismo titles, GT Sport is Polyphony Digital?s latest love letter to driving simulators and cars. The amount of detail present in the vehicles, both inside and out, is astounding and borderline ridiculous. From a fairly average 2015 Ford Focus ST to the extraordinary 2017 McLaren Ultimate Vision Gran Turismo, there?s more than 150 vehicles available to earn or purchase in the game and every single one is exquisitely modeled and rendered to an almost photorealistic degree. It doesn’t hurt that the vehicle roster is more compact than previous numbered Gran Turismo releases, and many plain jane consumer vehicles didn’t make the cut at all. I?m not one for collecting hundreds of cars and variations, so that decision is perfectly fine by me. The full featured livery editor certainly makes up for that anyway.
A majority of our time was spent playing Gran Turismo Sport on a 4K HDR enabled display on a PS4 Pro, and wow, GT Sport is one stunning looking driving game. Really, the only peer that Gran Turismo Sport has is Forza Motorsport 7, and that franchise is definitely inching closer to visual parity with every new release. As mentioned earlier, the vehicle models, textures, materials and lighting are unmatched, and when staging a photo shoot in the robust Scapes photo mode, the end result might as well be a photograph of an actual car in a real setting. The 17 courses included in the game are similarly beautiful with quite a lot of variation which includes Blue Moon Speedway?s high speed tri-oval, to the very technical Nurburgring or Interlagos, and many others based on both real life locations and fantasy designs. There are a handful of tracks that support offroad racing too, like the new Sardegna Windmills.
If we had to nitpick, there are still some slightly unnatural looking roadside elements (some of the tree models for example) though the perfectly tuned lighting and overall attention to detail really make the small blemishes easier to ignore. There?s also something about the web browser-like front end that I?m not particularly fond of, but with all the options and settings contained within the game, there?s only so many ways you can present them I suppose. The instrument cluster at the bottom of the screen (depending on which camera view you?re in), is also a little bit too difficult to read at times, even on a 65? 4K set.
So let?s get to the nitty gritty and unpack a little of what makes Gran Turismo Sport run. Wrapped up in every aspect of the game are a host of experience/currency/achievement systems which serve as a way to unlock new vehicles, courses, options, upgrades and more. Essentially anything you do within the game, from racing to taking photos, can award players Credits (currency), Mileage, Experience and/or progress towards achievements which puts you on the path to earn more and more content. Just simply choosing a mode and a vehicle and driving for a few minutes accumulates Miles which can be redeemed for an assortment of special rewards or upgrades. There?s also the lure of Daily Workout challenges which provides bonus experience and credits. Since Gran Turismo Sport is designed as a very social game, there?s a whole activity feed and leaderboard system which tracks everything you and your friends are doing, and does a nice job in presenting that information when you want to see it. You can even share your in-game achievements, livery customizations, photos and race results with the community at any time.
Out of the box, GT Sport has a host of aggressive auto drive and driving assists enabled which are designed to keep your vehicle on the track and to be relatively competitive regardless of skill level. After spending a few minutes with the game, most players should turn them down, or off, since it?s fairly obvious that you are giving up a good portion of your vehicle?s control to the game?s A.I. I would actually suggest leaving on driving line markers however, since they do teach players the ideal racing line around each course. On the flip side, there?s an obscene amount of car tuning options and game settings which are available for players to customize (depending on the mode). I?m not one that needs to adjust braking balance on the fly, calculate gear ratios and custom tune every aspect of my vehicle to shave another tenth of a second off of a time trial, so some of the possibilities are lost on me. Gearheads may appreciate it though.
Depending on how much of a completionist you are Gran Turismo Sport could literally have hundreds of hours of content, and that?s not including the proper Sport online mode either. Arcade mode is essentially what it sounds like, a pretty straightforward way to choose a car and a course, define a set of race parameters and race against the CPU, in split screen with another player, or against others racers online. There?s also time trials and drift trials to play around with. There?s no real progression in the Arcade mode other than earning Miles, Credits and Experience.
For those who crave progression in their driving games, there?s the more traditional Campaign mode, which is broken into a few sub-modes: Driving School, Mission Challenge and Circuit Experience, all of which reward gamers throughout the process while improving their skills. There?s also a fourth Racing Etiquette sub-mode, which is actually just a couple of videos that are required to watch before racing online.
Like any real Gran Turismo title, gamers will probably begin with the Driving School. While it?s a little different than the License Tests in previous GT games, these hands-on tutorials are designed to teach racers the ins and outs of the game?s controls — and driving/racing in general. Progressing through the lessons and earning medals unlocks gift cars, so as boring as some of the topics may be, it?s definitely worth spending time with.
Mission Challenges are also fairly similar to past campaign modes found in previous GT titles, and is probably the meat of the Campaign Mode overall. You are placed into a racing situation, on a set track and sometimes with a specific vehicle or vehicle requirement, and you attempt to pass the trial, earn a medal, and move onto the next challenge. Challenges range from hitting a certain top speed before crossing the finish line, to winning a full race with certain conditions enabled, and some are much more difficult than others. The leaderboards definitely play a factor in the replayability of these challenges even if you achieve gold, because? who doesn’t want to be at the top of their leaderboard friend?s list? Again, this mode is chock full of opportunities to earn currency, experience and vehicles, so it?s a must play.
Circuit Experience is probably the most hardcore of all, since your progress in the mode is tied to how well you perform on each part of each circuit in the game. The in-game description is literally “Learn about braking points and driving lines in more detail, track-by-track!”. Needless to say perfecting and being scored on your driving line on every course in the game is going to be pretty time consuming.
Which brings us to the namesake Sport mode, which is probably more accurately labeled the Online mode. In a pre-release game environment, Sport mode is the most difficult to assess due to the fact that it requires the participation of a community of other players to properly get a feel for. In my limited exposure to the Sport mode, there?s definitely a significant amount of depth and a constant stream of events on the calendar to participate in, including eventually an officially sanctioned FIA online championship. As such, Polyphony Digital built out an advanced matchmaking system that takes into account not only a driver?s experience level but also what they dub their ?Sportsmanship Rating? which tracks how cleanly that each driver plays online. Clean, courteous racers will be more highly rated than those which initiate collisions, frequently drive off track or are dangerously aggressive — so there?s an incentive to make an effort. On top of that is a Driver Rating which will ultimately help group up drivers of like mind and ability together into races and events, and filter out those who haven?t been following the rules (or who are not yet ready for the big times).
Before assigning a grade to Gran Turismo Sport we’ll as a whole, we certainly need to see how the Sport mode holds up for sure. It?s off to a promising start, but we?ll see in a week or so.
Outside of the various hands-on racing modes, Gran Turismo Sport also offers a whole host of interesting, interactive resources in the Brand Central hub. Here, not only can you purchase new cars to add to your garage, it also does double duty as a digital museum of cars and racing. Brand Central is stocked with timelines, vintage video, photo archives and information for manufacturers and car brands, and while it won?t keep players super busy for long, it is definitely an educational diversion.
Even though this is a work-in-progress review which will be updated during the week, we were able to touch on pretty much every aspect of Gran Turismo Sport that was worth digging into… and we’re enjoying it. Make sure to stop by shortly for a final grade and additional impressions of the experience.
Our final assessment is in — and with servers that seem to have held up nicely and a lively community so far, Gran Turismo Sport is a well-rounded new Gran Turismo installment that should keep casual and hardcore fans happy for a while. The daily/weekly grind for vehicles, ranking and miles appear to do a good job in attracting players to revisit the game regularly, which is certainly important for a social gaming experience such as Gran Turismo Sport.