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Gran Turismo Sport – First Impressions
Gran Turismo Sport has a lot to live up to. The series, once the gold standard for console sim racers, has fallen out of favour during the PS3 era. And so its PS4 debut is taking the feedback from fans to heart, but it is also taking the series into a whole new direction. A leaner choice of cars and tracks, a focus on online racing, and bring more added some extra features.
I have played GT Sport for some time- I had access to the closed beta, and now after spending another 10 hours with the recently released demo, it is time to share some thoughts about what I’ve played before its full release next week.
It has its shortcomings, but it’s good. Really good. Just temper your expectations a bit.
First, the negative points. The car list is greatly reduced from the thousand count to around 160+, with most of these cars the same, but adjusted to join the main racing classes. The track list is also really small. You have some good picks like the whole Nurburgring, Brands Hatch, Suzuka and Interlagos but it’s missing a lot of notable tracks that were part of GT like Circuit de la Sarthe. The fantasy tracks are all new, and they are really good like the new Lake Maggiore Circuit, but GT veterans will miss the classic fantasy as well as real-life tracks not included in the launch window.
Another reduced feature is the campaign system of old GT games. The idea of collecting cars just to race in various specific cups, working your way from a Honda Fit to a GT1 car is gone. Now, the campaign mode condenses the licenses and the missions into one package.
If you think that’s a severe lack of content, you are not entirely wrong. Other recent racers like Forza Motorsport 7 and Project CARS 2 offers more cars, tracks, a familiar progression system/career mode (that GT first pioneered) and even have dynamic weather and time system.
Thankfully, everything else is a major step forward for the series. The cars all look oh-so beautifully rendered. The graphics of course is one heck of a looker. It sports more softer tones and some really convincing lighting- brake lights in a video game never look as good as this. The shadows are still the weakest part- there’s a bit of aliasing seen but at least it’s not constantly flickering this time. Some elements are rendered at 30fps, but the main racing is all solid 60fps (though the PS4 Pro is able to produce more features running in 60fps).
Car sounds have greatly improved. It doesn’t sound as raw as some other sim racing games, but at least I can assure you the same tyre screeching sound in the past 6 games are now gone, with more bearable audio should the tyres lose grip.
The new focus of the game, the Sport Mode, borrows the best ideas from hardcore racing simulator iRacing. You now have a sportsmanship rating which gauges how clean you race online as well as a driver rating. These ratings, as well as qualifying times, are used for matchmaking and I have to say they did a good job at it.
The grid was matching up races that are of your level of competitiveness- and sportsmanship- so there’s a good chance of some good, clean races. It was exhilarating when everyone is pushing hard but knows when to back off when it’s too dicey rather than just go all in and ram everyone with no care.
So far the connection is okay- the closed beta works perfectly despite having me matched up with players outside of Southeast Asia most of the time. The netcode won’t effect your control of the car, just the opponents, so sometimes you will see them move unnaturally before the game corrects itself back.
The recent demo has seen some issues most likely due to the influx of players stressing the servers, and racing was not as clean as I hoped, but that may be due to many inexperienced drivers are also playing for the first time. Give it some time and in theory, the ratings will work its magic to give you better races.
I can’t pinpoint on how the new tyre and suspension physics works, but I can tell that it is still fun to drive, even on a controller. There’s plenty of assist options for new players, and the new corner indicators which just highlights the three main points of the corner rather than a racing line, is pretty neat.
Also, the game can support endurance races, with full tyre wear, fuel consumption and mechanical damage options. One of the challenges in the campaign is a 30-lap endurance race with 30 cars on the grid and it’s amazing.
There’s still a lot of car collecting to do- you can still buy them with credits earned after finishing certain events- which includes Arcade Mode and Custom Races. There is now a another currency called Mileage points which is earned based on driving distance. Mileage points can be spent to upgrade your car to a wider performance range, or can be used to buy cosmetics- new rims, special colours and racing gear as well as special cars not available for purchase with credits like a safety car. Completing your daily marathon and you’ll get a free random car. Same goes for completing a set of challenges in the Campaign.
The livery editor, a new addition to the series, is a godsent. Now you can finally create your own custom wraps, with a robust system that supports it. It can now rival Forza as even in the demo, there has been a few Itasha (cars with anime liveries) publicly shared. The tools available are great, and with the ability to import your own SVG file to use within the game, it has the foundations to some great livery art being made. Especially ones with anime on them.
The photo mode is also worth mentioning. It’s a good distraction from all the racing, and it has a lot to offer for a casual shutterbug or even professional photographer. Many camera settings are based on real camera settings, and you could go even more in-depth with some colour-correcting sliders within the effects section. But it can still provide decent pics for those who just point and shoot.
Overall, GT Sport has a strong foundation to build on top of. The racing is great, the online Sport Mode has potential and is one heck of a looker. The question now comes whether Polyphony can support the game as a service. How many new cars and tracks will they give out? How fair is the pricing for DLC if any? What’s the long-term plan for Sport Mode with its esports angle? And of course, more importantly, will the servers be stable on launch day?
If you feel unsure about the reduced car and track list, plus the major change to the single-player campaign, I suggest to wait a bit. Other than that, GT Sport could be a winner.